Do you smell it? Spring is in the air! The earth is waking up and returning to life, the grassy hills of the San Francisco Bay are a brilliant green color, and the region’s top chefs and bartenders are hurrying to the farmers markets to snap up the first bounty of the season. What are they scooping up? Juicy Meyer lemons, plump strawberries, and fragrant herbs. Just as many restaurant chefs alter their menu to reflect the change in the season, so do the best mixologists. New spring cocktail menus are popping up all over the city and the surrounding area. Wondering where to sip spring in a glass? Here are five not to be missed fresh new libations. Cheers to the warmer months to come!
1 Comal’s Green Mind
Want your spring cocktail with Mexican food? Head to Comal in Berkeley. This large restaurant, in the heart of Berkeley’s downtown arts district, offers up authentic and interesting Mexican food inspired by the state of Oaxaca and its neighboring coastal areas. While chef Matt Gandin is a master of masa and wood-fired hearth cooking, bar manager Matthew Campbell is a tequila and mezcal expert. He has come up with a new menu that includes three delightfully refreshing concoctions. The SPF 2020 has dark rum, strawberries, blood orange, lime, and house-made spiced dram. The cocktail al pastor has the flavors of the classic pork dish of the same name: lime, guajillo and ancho chiles, and caramelized pineapple expertly blended with Calle 23 Reposado tequila. If you’re in a green state of mind, order the Green Mind, pictured above, an interesting and delicious sour made with smoky mezcal, St. George green chile vodka, poblano chile, lime, avocado, and egg white.
2020 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA 94704
2 Foreign Cinema’s Fraise Des Bois
Foreign Cinema is one of San Francisco’s institutional restaurants. Since 1999, the Mission district eatery — that shows black and white movies in its courtyard patio — has been serving delicious seasonal California cuisine in a sensual environment. Foreign Cinema is like the old friend you can always count on: Even if you haven’t talked in awhile, you know the second you get together you’ll be up to your usual antics. Walk down the long hallway and into the expansive bustling and welcome restaurant and you’ll instantly feel at home. Foreign Cinema’s bar team have come up with three new spring libations. The Eurydice has mezcal, lemon juice, English mead, and a spun rose sugar rim, while the Hibiscus Swizzle is a mixture of hibiscus liqueur, sweet vermouth, fresh grapefruit juice, and bitters. However, my personal favorite is the Fraise Des Bois. Named after the delicate French strawberries that grow wild in the woods, this drink features vodka, Lo-Fi gentian aperitif, lemon juice, and artisanal grenadine.
2534 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94110
3 Blackbird’s The Shining
Located on upper Market Street on the border of the Lower Haight, Mission, and Castro districts, Blackbird is both a neighborhood watering hole and craft cocktail bar. Bar manager Matt Grippo is man of many talents — he’s a world traveler and writer who is known for coming up with wildly inventive drinks. All of Grippo’s Blackbird menus are themed and the current menu was inspired by the hip hop music of the 80s and 90s. The not-to-be-missed drink is a potent concoction called The Shining. The martini-like cocktail is a well-balance mixture of gin, Aylesbury Duck vodka, and vermouth that has been infused with fresh dill.
2124 Market Street San Francisco, CA 94114
4 Brasserie S&P’s Strawberry Fields
Brasserie S&P is the bar at the Loews Regency in downtown San Francisco. The hotel lobby lounge is intimate and inviting — the perfect spot for a relaxing cocktail after a long day at work. The beverage menu is carefully crafted with housemade tonic infusions, liquor that’s enhanced with nuts and aromatics, and glass rims dusted in fruit and flowers. While S&P is known for their superb gin and tonics, the drink to order now is the Strawberry Fields. Fresh berries are muddled with fragrant basil before being topped with gin, lemon juice, and club soda. The resulting libation is fruity, bubbly, and so easy to drink you may end up having three!
222 Sansome Street San Francisco, CA 94104
5 The Farm’s Lavender and Lemon
Up in Napa at the Carneros Inn, the Farm’s bar team is combing two flavors — lemon and lavender — to make one amazing cocktail. Lavender that grows on the property is used to make a syrup that’s then incorporated into the simple, but elegant cocktail. It’s just three ingredients: the lavender syrup, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and Uncle Val’s botanical gin. However sometimes the most basic concoctions are the best and the Farm’s Lavender and Lemon cocktail proves that upon first sip.
4048 Sonoma Highway Napa, CA 94559