Ridiculously expensive drinks, barrel aged cocktails, cocktail tasting menus, and ‘molecular mixology’ are all well and good, but to me the most exciting recent development in American cocktail culture is the neighborhood bar with decent, and usually relatively reasonably priced, cocktails.
We are lucky to have at least two such establishments within slightly aerobic, (our neighborhood is called Bernal HEIGHTS,) walking distance of our house. The first to open was Royal Cuckoo near Mission and Valencia. A fun establishment, they have many of the trendy accoutrements of craft cocktail bars: Curated LP selection, taxidermy, and an organ built into the bar.
The second to open in our neighborhood opened a little less than a year ago across the street from the established Southern American Comfort Food restaurant, Front Porch at 29th Street & Tiffany. Opened by the same partners that opened Front Porch, Rock Bar moved into the space that housed the dubious International Club and is rather interestingly Geologically, Minerally, and Mining themed.
They also have a jukebox curated by the nearby Aquarius Records staff, a pool table, and several exciting theme nights including Football on Sunday, Ping Pong on Monday, Teacher Tuesday, and Films Played Silently on Wednesday. The night I stopped by they were playing Buster Keaton shorts.
I did mention it was Minerally themed?
Anyway, two of the best things about Rock Bar, are first, that you can put your name in at Front Porch, and then retire to Rock Bar, while you wait for your table. Front Porch, being a small and rather popular restaurant, is often busy, so a place to retire and chat is always nice. However, secondly, waiting an extended period with only drinks and no nutrients can be dangerous, so you are allowed to call over to Front Porch for take out, and they will deliver it to Rock Bar, such as this Big Bucket of Mixed Fry Up, including Chicken Wings, Okra, Pickles, and Potatoes.
I recently stopped in to try some of their new fall cocktails and chat with the staff. Bar manager Brion Rosch started me off with a story.
“When I opened the bar, I told our co-owner Kevin Cline that I wanted to have Cocchi Americano. He kind of freaked out. He had previously worked at Bix, where someone had briefly had an infatuation with Cocchi Americano. Every month Kevin had to do an inventory and count the many bottles of Cocchi Americano, some still old enough to have tax stamps, and could never figure out a way to sell it. So I’m going to start you out with a drink a created as a tribute to Kevin and his time at Bix, on Gold Street, in San Francisco. It’s called the Gold Street Cocktail and is Plymouth Gin, Cocchi Americano, and Angostura Bitters.”
Dry and delicious, this is a Martini on steroids.
The second drink we tried was his Fall Pisco Punch. The traditional Pisco Punch’s most basic elements are Pisco, Citrus, and Pineapple. He’s keeping the Pisco and Lime, but has made a sort of custom sweetener by combining Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum, Allspice Dram, and other secret ingredients. Definitely has that fall, Christmas spice feel.
“Kevin was giving me a hard time about how many fall drinks we’re using Allspice Dram in.”
I told Brion, I actually think it is a requirement for all fall drinks.
Lastly, we tried Brion’s most recent concoction, The Old Sage. This drink started as a variation on an Old Fashioned, using St George Spirits Dry Rye Gin as a base. A couple iterations later, and somehow egg white ended up in the drink. That day, they had gotten in some awesome new organic Sage over at Front Porch. When co-owner Josey White tried the drink, she suggested Brion include some sage with the Dry Rye in the drink. I was pretty impressed by how well the flavor of pungent sage combined with the St George Dry Rye. Sweet and savory at the same time, this would be a fun after dinner drink.
If you find yourself in the outer Mission/Bernal Heights area, do stop by Rock Bar. Good drinks, good beer, friendly folks, and more Minerals & Crystals than you are likely to find in any other bar in the world.