Tag Archives: Cocktails


5 Cocktails That Will Wow Your Guests This Holiday Season

Hosting a cocktail party this season and want to show off your serious cocktail chops? Here’s the article that I promised would follow up my recent “Stocking Your Home Bar For The Holidays”: Five drinks I love right now. And, in case you’re wondering, almost all of the spirits mentioned can be found at our Bank Of Wine & Spirits.

1. The Boothby

This has been one of the best selling drinks at Wingtip since the day we opened the doors at 550 Montgomery, and when I was home last to the great state of Wisconsin, I served it up to all my relatives and they loved it! It was born here in SF over a century ago at the Palace hotel, the same place that brought us Green Goddess dressing (nerd fact!). This drink is equal parts sophistication and celebration. In a mixing glass place 1.5 oz good bourbon (Elijah Craig 12-year is my go to), 1.5 oz Carpano Antica (Don’t be cheap here. Get this and only this.), and a dash of Ango bitters and a dash of orange bitters. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass, top with 1 oz of good California sparkling wine, (I like Roederer Estates for this one), and garnish with a lemon twist.

2. Jack Rose

This is a great NYC classic and one of my all time favorites. We do ours a bit differently here at Wingtip. Instead of using Apple Jack, we use Clear Creek two-year-old apple brandy, distilled from 100% Golden Delicious apples. It makes all the difference in the world. It makes this drink taste like you are walking in an apple orchard on a crisp fall day. In a mixing tin place 2 oz of said apple brandy, .5 oz of Small Hands Food grenadine, and half a squeeze of lime. Add ice and shake for 20 seconds. Double-strain into a cocktail glass.

3. The Kentucky Two Step

This little ditty harkens back to my days at Jasper’s (May it rest in peace). It is an old fashioned style cocktail designed for the winter months. In a mixing glass, place equal parts (1 oz. each) good bourbon (see Boothby cocktail), good rye (High West double rye works), .5 oz Snap liqueur, and two dashes St Elizabeth all spice dram. Stir and strain into a rocks glass with a large chunk of ice. Garnish with an orange twist. If you have too many of these, you may be doing the two-step shuffle on your walk home.

4. The Irish Goodbye

The boys (Brandon Bigalke and Jayson Wild) at Wingtip came up with this one a few weeks back, and we have been loving it. It is rich. It is mildly spicy. It is bad ass. In a mixing glass, place 1.5 oz Teeling’s Irish Whisky, .5 oz Ancho Reyes, .5 oz Honey Syrup, and .75 oz Lemon. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon peel.

5. Ants in the Pants

So this one may not be a holiday drink, but we just discovered it, and I love it, and have to share it with the world. It took us a while to nail it down, but once we did, we were stoked. It is bright and refreshing, and who doesn’t want to serve ants in the pants at a party? In a mixing glass, place 1.5 oz Tanqueray 10, .75 oz Ambre vermouth (No substitutions. All other vermouths failed in our attempts to make this classic cocktail.), .5 oz Grand Marnier, and .75 oz of lemon. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon peel and cherry on a pick.


Stocking Your Home Bar For The Holidays

So you’ve got your man cave turned into a turn-of-the-century saloon, replete with spittoons and period-specific American flags. But the only booze in the place is drips and dregs of parties bygone, you know, some oxidized vermouth, triple sec, and a full-bottle of grenadine. Well, have no fear, I am here to lend a hand in the stocking of your liquor cabinet–before your holiday guests arrive. And, yes, any of these spirits can be picked up at Wingtip’s Bank Of Wine & Spirits.

These are the basics of stocking a bar with spirits only (we’ll have to deal with tools and accoutrements another time). These are the essentials in each category:


One bottle. I feel as if you should alway drink local when you drink vodka, to help reduce that carbon footprint a little. Just choose one local vodka from whichever region you live in. With the massive amount of micro-distilleries that exist out there this should not prove to be very challenging. For San Francisco, our current fix is Spirit Works ($29.99).


Unless you live in the great state of Wisconsin and drink Death’s Door Gin, which only contains ingredients from Washington Island, you’ll be emitting a few more carbon particles in this category. The gin will likely come from the UK, and, in my opinion you need three or four. Before I continue, I have to say I am a classicist; I was raised in a house hold that drank Tanqueray and that is still my gin of choice. I think every home bar should have a bottle of Tanqueray, at least Tanqueray 10 ($25), if not also the London Dry. You have to have Plymouth gin ($34.99), no question about it. I have been to the distillery, met Sean Harrington (the man who makes it), and drank from their water source, the town’s reservoir, which lends the gin a unique minerality. Third: Beefeater ($18.99). In all of our blind taste tests we have done here at Wingtip, Beefeater comes out ahead more often than not.


Rum is a conundrum of spirits, a real noodler. Do you want rum just to make cocktails with? If so, what kind of cocktails? If you want to make tiki drinks, you’ll need a few just to get started, as most tiki drinks call for at least two types of rum, and are so nuanced that there is no a blanket combination that works across the board. We’re going to call in the master of all things tiki, Martin Cate, creator of Smuggler’s Cove, for a further exploration of this topic. For now, keep these three on hand for a mixture of styles that will start to line up your coverage: Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum ($34.99), Diplomatico Exclusiva ($38.99), Barbancourt 8 Year Rum ($27.99). And for a rum that you can sip neat and smoke a cigar with, I love Brugal 1888 ($55.99); it’s aged in bourbon cask and sherry casks, a real stunner.


Ah, my not-so-secret lover. Where do we start? You need one bourbon for cocktails: Elijah Craig 12 ($27.99) is a no brainer. It makes great Manhattans and boothbys, makes great sour drinks, and it won’t break the bank. You need one bourbon for sipping. Four Roses Single barrel ($38.99) is the way to go. If you can find the 2014 Limited Edition ($99.99), even better. You need one rye for cocktails, and for this I love the High West Double Rye ($36.99), a blend of 2 year old and 6 year old rye. It makes for great sazeracs and old fashioneds. For a sipping rye, check out Whistle Pig ($65.99). It is a 10 year old rye that has 100 percent rye mashbill and comes in at 100 proof. It’s worth every penny.


For every whisky and soda you will ever make for the rest of your life, get Hibiki 12 ($69.99) blended whisky. You will never need another whisky ever for this drink, that is it. As far as the rest of the category goes, everything from the two major distillers, Nikka and Suntory, is spectacular. But if you have to choose one, I have to give it up to Yamazaki 12 ($66.99). Easy on the pocket-book, but highly complex, with notes of sandalwood and incense.


Redbreast 15 ($79.99) takes the cake for the storied Emerald Isle. It is a single malt whisky that comes off of a pot still and is bold yet refined at the same time. If you want to make Irish Coffees for people this winter, trust the source, the Buena Vista here in SF. They use Tullamore Dew ($24.99), and so do we.


I have a special place in my heart for brandy, being from the great state of Wisconsin and all. [Editor’s Note: There is actually something to this dubious-sounding statement.] I must say there are two that stand out to me for two different reasons. The Lepanto brandy line is amazing and is some of the best price-performing brandy out there. I am especially partial to the PX line ($64.99). It is aged 10 years in used bourbon casks, and then finished in Pedro Jimenez casks. It is dry and dusty with a touch of fruit. Love this bottling. For making cocktails, like the sidecar or vieux carre, reach for Marie Duffau Napoleon ($34.99).


For your everyday margarita, do as Julio does at Tommy’s and go with Arette Blanco [Editor’s Note: Currently out-of-stock, but on order]. I know this may be a cop-out, but, hey, the man is an icon and knows more about tequila than anyone I have ever met, so I think we can all trust him on this.


I’m saving the best for last here. The problem I encounter is that I want to grab them all, like a kid in the Video Power velcro-suit maze. But if you want a well-rounded collection for your home you should look to buy one bottle from each region. It can get pricy, not going to lie, but here are the ones I have to have around.

Speyside: Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask ($69.99). Highlands: Glenmorangie Lasanta ($49.99), finished off in both PX and Olorosso sherry. At first I was bummed that they were changing the process on this, but after trying out, I love it. The Island: Highland Park 18 ($104.99), or anything they make, they can do no wrong in my book. Lowlands: Auchentoshan Three Wood ($73.99), one of the most diverse single malts out there and on of the most unique in that every drop of the whisky is distilled three times. Campbeltown: Springbank 15 ($119.99), a perfect blend of peat and malt. Isay: All of them. Or if that’s not an option, and this is really like choosing your favorite Star Wars Toy, there are so many that I love and keep near and dear to my heart, but if I could only have just one readily-available Islay single malt whisky, it would have to be Laphraoig 10 ($49.99). The peaty green pepper and spice of this malt is emblematic of the region. Takes me back every time.

Now that the bar’s stocked, we need to talk more about what to do with these fine elixirs. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on a few easy-to-make holiday drinks.


Rum Event No. 1 [Members Only]

Our first ever rum event is approaching. Come join Willie Shine, overall good guy, funny bar man with funny stories, and national brand ambassador for Appleton Rum. Willie will be discussing the history of this amazing category while our Bar Director, Brian MacGregor, will be whipping up some classic and not so classic Rum Cocktails for you to enjoy. Snacks will be served. Space is limited, email brian@wingtip.com.


Pouring Cachaça in the World Cup

To celebrate the World Cup this month, we will be pouring $10 caipirinhas at the club for the duration of the tournament. The caipirinha is Brazil’s national drink, and while we never exactly forgot about it, we want to shift focus to it–at least until the World Cup is claimed.

The caipirinha is known from SF to Rio and beyond–it was even popular where I worked in Minneapolis. Every bartender worth their salt knows it; and it has been named by the IBA (the International Bartenders Asscoiation) as one of the official cocktails. At one time it had cache and panache, as popular as any thing around, yet as cocktails grew more popular and the obsession with whisky grew (yes, I am guilty of the love of the brown spirit), the Caipirinha went by the wayside.

That’s a shame, because it’s beautifully simple. The only trick is figuring out this SAT question:

_______ : CAIPIRINHA

The answer is “cachaça.” You have to find a great cachaça. It’s a sugarcane-derived spirit, and we’re fond of Avua. It is available at Wingtip (10% Off during the World Cup) in an unoaked bottling that we prefer for our caipirinhas ($35 $31.50), as well as a bottling that was aged in Brazilian amburhana wood ($45 $40.50), which has a distinct flavor that tastes superb on its own, but that I actually like to mess with in some sherry cocktails. (Ask me more about that when you visit the bar!)

Besides the cachaça, all you really need is a handful of limes and a muddler. Just shake up a few slices of muddled lime with a bar spoon of sugar, 2 oz of Cachaça, and a heap of ice. Dump the lot into a double rocks glass and you’ve got one hell of a drink, both refreshing and complex. It’ll keep you watching soccer long after the US has been eliminated.

The World Cup kicks off this Thursday with a 12:30PM (PST) match between Brazil and Croatia. It runs through July 13. For a complete schedule, in Eastern Standard Time, check ESPN here


A Citrus Trek to UC Riverside

Recently I went on the coolest educational trip–it knocked the socks off any school field trip I remember. Givaudan, the world’s largest flavor and fragrance company, who enjoy a partnership with UC Riverside that grants them unrestricted access to their world-class citrus groves, invited five bartenders, including myself, to explore rare citruses and learn how natural flavors are made. The bar talent invited were all super-heavyweights: Eric Alperin (The Varnish, LA), Dominic Venegas (of The Winslow, NYC), Josh Durr (of Hawthorn Beverage Group), Adam Seger (of hum Spirits Company, Chicago), and Philip Duff (of everywhere). It was amazing and humbling to be on the same trip as them. [Pictured above: A lemon-colored Citroen. Although it would have been ideal, we didn’t actually drive that car on this trip.]

Anyway, one night we’re having a relaxed meet-n-greet, the next morning we’re blazing through 23 different varieties of oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. Thankfully some one gave me an Alka Seltzer before we set off, otherwise I fear there may have been a hole burned in my stomach from all the citric acid. We tried citruses that don’t grow anywhere else in the world.

The stand out, for sure, was the Valentine Pomelo. It was as big as a bowling bowl. When you cut into it, it was a bright red and yellow flesh surround by white pith. The taste was citrus-meets-pomegranate-meets-cranberry. At the other end of the size spectrum were the lilliputian Meiwa Kumquats [pictured at left], where you just popped the entire thing in your mouth, and chewed on the rind and fruit all at once. It was pithy, sweet, and tart, and, dare I say, joyous.

After ambling through the groves in 90-degree heat and branding my poor SF skin with a farmer’s tan, we retired to the lovely Mission Inn, where we learned about citrus oil extraction. This may seem like a mundane subject, but the chemistry behind it was fascinating–and way over my head. But I can say this: We nosed six different compounds out of 200 that make up citrus oil, and it was amazing to see how specific each one is. For example, the Expressed Lime Oil (lime oil pressed from lime peels) jumped out as an ingredient in daily products like cleaning solution and Coca-Cola.

The following morning we all put our skills to the test and made original cocktails out of the citruses. We were paired up with one another for four cocktail challenges: a nonalcoholic beverage; a low octane cocktail using beer, wine, or vermouth for the base spirit; a white spirit cocktail; and a brown spirit cocktail. Working with the four esteemed gentlemen create cocktails and getting insight into their crafts was the most inspiring trip. I did what I could with the Valentine Pomelo, but the standout cocktails were Eric Alperin’s nonalcoholic aqua fresca, Josh Durr’s low-octane collins with sherry, and Dom Venegas’ whisky concoction.

Given the fact that it’s difficult enough to find a decent lime these days, it was a real treat to dive so deep into the world of citrus. I can’t promise a Valentine Pomelo Paloma anytime soon, but we’ll see.


Derby Day Recap

Thanks to everyone who came out for our Kentucky Derby Party two Saturdays ago. We donned our finest seersucker clothing and ostentatious hats, and sipped mint juleps from Match Pewter julep cups that were laser-etched at 1000 dots-per-inch, right here in the basement of 550 Montgomery St. The job was performed by Reclamation Etchworks, who are now offering metal engraving and leather debossing, as well as their signature etched-glass carafes and decanters.

As for the race, at first we weren’t sure if we were rooting for a horse or a search engine, but morning-line favorite and eventual winner California Chrome instilled a lot of Golden State pride in everyone.

We’ll keep cheering on the three-year-old colt especially since, if Cali Chrome fights his way to the front of the pack in the next two outings (the Preakness Stakes on May 17th and the Belmont Stakes on June 7th), he’ll be the first Cali-bred horse to win the Triple Crown. Regardless, throughout the season, we’ll remain refreshed and hydrated, slurping down icy juleps each weekend.

To that end, we’re now offering Match Pewter, non-etched, mint julep cups for just $60 each (regularly $85). We’ll drop the price further to just $40 if you buy them in a set of four or more. These are, as mentioned, non-etched, but we’re happy to create a custom-etched set of julep cups if you are interested (Contact us for options at service@wingtip.com).



Kentucky Derby Party [Sold Out]

The club’s 3rd Annual Kentucky Derby Party will feature southern fare, race day programs, and, of course, the most exciting two minutes of sports all year long.

Michters is sponsoring the event, and has offered to buy everyone their first drink. Furthermore, each ticketed guest will receive an engraved Mint Julep cup, which entitles you to unlimited juleps for the duration of the event.


Kosher Spirits for Passover

This year, local distillers No. 209 set out to become the first to offer a certified Kosher-For-Passover gin and vodka. Both are on offer at Wingtip now, and, though Passover ends Tuesday, these spirits will continue to anchor delicious cocktails long after. So, how do you create a grain-free, Kosher-certified gin and vodka? Here’s their description of how they did it:

A new chapter in Kosher for Passover Spirits

“In order for observant Jews to have cocktails they could enjoy over Passover, founder Leslie Rudd asked No. 209 Ginerator, Arne Hillesland, and associate winemaker Jonathan Hadju from Kosher Covenant Wines to develop a vodka that was the same superior quality as our gins and strictly adhered to Kosher-for- Passover standards.

Kosher for Passover Gin

“We knew that it was not a simple feat since Kosher standards preclude using any grain based spirit, and additionally, several key botanicals are not Passover approved. But we love a challenge…so Arne fired up the still and his creativity during “the gin trials” to discover innovative Passover approved herbs and spices, and under the supervision of the Orthodox Union, created a new gin recipe that has a remarkable modern taste profile using a sugar cane base spirit. It debuted for Passover 2010 and was very well received. In fact, we have several restaurants who stock it year round because their customers drink it, not for religious reasons, but because they love the taste.

Juniper, which by law is required to be the dominant flavor in any gin, is only one of dozens of different spices, roots, herbs and berries that can be used to flavor gin. Each combination creates a unique flavor. In addition to juniper (Tuscany), the recipe for No. 209 Kosher-for-Passover Gin includes somewhere between eight and eleven different botanicals that all adhere strictly to Kosher dietary law. The complexity of this Passover in- spired gin is primarily the result of bergamot orange (Calabria), California bay leaf (Napa Valley), lemon peel (Spain), cassia bark (Indonesia), angelica root (United Kingdom) and coriander seeds (Romania). California Bay leaf and a variety of other botanicals were used in lieu of cardomom to recreate the flavor profile of the standard No. 209 Gin, while still adhering to Kosher dietary law.

Kosher for Passover Vodka

“Kosher dietary law prohibits the consumption of leavened grains, and spirits fermented from grains, during Passover. Thus, master distiller Arne Hillesland crafts No. 209 Kosher-for-Passover Vodka using a sugarcane base spirit. The four times, column-distilled base spirit is filtered through activated charcoal specifically formulated for the production of the purest vodka, and combined with snowmelt from Sierra Nevada Mountains to create a vodka with a surprising sweetness across the palate and a dry, clean finish. In order to receive the loftier “Kosher-for-Passover” designation, Distillery No. 209 enlists its rabbinical friends at the Orthodox Union to supervise and certify the vodka’s production at the Pier 50 facility in San Francisco.”


Below The Deck and Off The Menu

One of my favorite parts of cocktail culture is writing and creating the cocktail menu; that is why I am in this business and love this job. That being said, I find myself increasingly making drinks that are not on our menu.

Now there is only one person to blame for this, and that is myself. When we have a member/guest ask for a cocktail menu, I shake my head and say, “You don’t need it. Let’s talk about what you like to drink,” and I proceed to serve them something else based upon how they answer a few questions, such as, “What do you normally drink?”, “Are there any spirits you do not particularly enjoy?” From there, I can do my best to recommend something they will enjoy. I love that; it gives me a chance to shine as a bartender, and share my favorite drinks with people (it is also a chance to try out new drinks on unsuspecting guinea pigs).

Restaurants around the city, and, I imagine, around the country, have secret menus. If you know to ask for something that is not on the menu, then you are in the know, and you get something special. I guess, as bartenders, we all keep “secret cocktail menus” in the Rolodexes of our minds.

Here at Wingtip, we have one particular drink that a very select few even know about, and I am hesitant to even mention it for fear of letting the cat out of the proverbial bag–but it’s too much fun to keep a secret. It is what we call the “Tiki Special.”

I might not be card-carrying member of the Cult of Tiki, but it is, by far, my favorite style of drink. And my favorite bar in the city is the great Smuggler’s Cove, the Tiki Mecca of SF. So we present the Tiki Special in a vintage tiki mug, from a collection I have amassed from antique stores and tiki bars in the area. I keep a stash of them behind the bar, part-decoration, part-offering to the Tiki gods.

As far as the drink goes, it is tiki-inspired, but is rarely filled with the same thing twice. So if you want to hold your glass–err, mug–high and pay libation to the Tiki gods, you’ll want to remember to order the Tiki Special off the menu.


Gentleman’s Itinerary: 11/14–11/20

Culture: Sunken Ships, Shanties & Shucks:
Sordid Stories of Seaward San Francisco & The Barbary Coast

Tonight at the Old Mint

Come to the Old Mint and discover the seedy underbelly of boomtown San Francisco. Shuck an oyster, sip a Pisco Punch, and hear historical tales of how our waterfront came to be (Did you know that we are walking on sunken ships?). Evening will include a live Sea Shanty Band and exclusive Barbary Coast exhibits as you tour the Old Mint. It was gold, ambition, and opportunity that created our great city! All proceeds from this non-profit event, hosted by FlipSide, benefit the San Francisco Museum at the Mint project and the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society.sfhistory.org

Special Events: “Bat Kid” Miles Fights Crime on the Barbary Coast
San Francisco Plays Gotham, including stop at Wingtip’s “Bank of Italy” vaults

November 15th, the Greater Bay Area chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation will be turning much of San Francisco into Gotham for Miles, a 5 year old battling leukemia, whose wish is to be Batman.

After already having rescued a damsel in distress on a Nob Hill cable car line, Miles and his adult Batman companion, will take the Batmobile down to Wingtip at 550 Montgomery. While we normally use our 100+ year-old safe deposit vault for custom clothing, on this day, the Riddler will be down there robbing us of diamonds and cash. Batman will catch him red-handed, perp walk him up to the police waiting outside (we’re hoping there’s a paddywagon!), and then head off on more crime-fighting adventures, at least one of which involves the Giants’ mascot being kidnapped. More at wingtip.com

In Conversation: Graham Nash
at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco

One quarter of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Graham Nash is hitting the road to stump for his book, “Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life.” We’re excited about this event after hearing a fascinating interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” last month (archived here).

Per the CC, it won’t be all sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll: “Join us for an exclusive peek into the wild tales and issues facing today’s environmental movement with one of the greats of rock and roll, art and social activism.” Get tix while you still can. Friday, 11/15. commonwealthclub.org

Returning to Oakland Sunday night for a command showing of this highly-demanded event

“Cataclysmic destruction. Surprising survival. In this new live stage performance, Radiolab turns its gaze to the topic of endings, both blazingly fast and agonizingly slow. With their signature blend of storytelling, science, and music, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich romp through hundreds of millions of years of history to arrive at the end, again and again. We’ve got a raucous bunch of comedians joining the party, with a different one for each show, including: Reggie Watts, Patton Oswalt, Simon Amstell, Ophira Eisenberg and Kurt Braunohler. With a cinematic live score created before your eyes by On Fillmore and Noveller, the evening will be a thought- provoking and laughter-inducing dance on the grave of our inevitable demise.” More info and tix at www.radiolab.org

Cocktails: Superfriends
One Night Pop-Up at Alchemist

Wingtip bar maestro Brian MacGregor will be one of the super-slingers on hand for this thirst-quenching good cause. Bring two cans of food for the SF Food Bank or dress up as a superhero for your free super-cocktail, like the Kryptonite Punch, a gin punch poured over a Midori ice cube and topped with a sparkling wine floater. Monday, 11/18, 8-11pm. alchemistsf.com

Music: Jorge Ben Jor
Two nights, Four shows at Yoshi’s San Francisco

Jorge Ben Jor is one of a handful of innovative musicians who oversaw Brazilian music’s late 60s transition from samba and bossa nova to rock and Tropicalia. As one of the fathers of MPB (Musica Populaire Brasil), Ben’s biggest hit is “Mas Que Nada,” a tune that was written by Ben, covered by Sergio Mendes (twice!) and remains the highest-charting Portuguese song ever released in America. Don’t miss this chance to see his immense back-catalog performed live. Tuesday, 11/19, 8pm and 10pm; and Wednesday, 11/20, 8pm and 10pm. Advance tix at yoshis.com