SF's Most Exotic Cocktails

Bartenders can do a lot with spirits, fresh produce, and the standard mixers, but many are pushing the envelope with culinary techniques and nontraditional flavors--and getting great results. From Camper English, brainy boozehound and cocktail expert, here's a look at the more exotic cocktails found around the city, with ingredients like vinegar, smoke, and bacon, though thankfully not all in the same drink. (Photo: The Castillian Cup at Gitane)

Updated: October 20, 2009


Gitane Restaurant & Bar

6 Claude Ln, San Francisco, CA 94108

The Castillian Cup: This unlikely cocktail, invented by Gitane's award-winning bartender Carlos Splendorini, combines Red wine, Pimm's No. 1, fresh strawberry, cucumber, mint and ginger beer for a sparkly, sangria-esque cocktail that's surprisingly tasty and perfect for summer.

15 Romolo

15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

The Spaghetti Western: Many of the ingredients in drinks at 15 Romolo don't sound like they're going to work together, but after you've had one or two you learn to trust the bartenders here. Take a leap of faith on the Spaghetti Western, made with rye, Campari, lemon juice, tomatoes, beer, and salt.


560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

The Sherry Shrub: This drink was the winner of a national cocktail contest and has become the bar (and head bartender Neyah White)'s signature cocktail. The shrub is an American Colonial-era drinkable berry-and-vinegar syrup that White helped repopularize in San Francisco and beyond.

Fish & Farm

339 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94102

The Bacon-Drop: Matching the local, seasonal, sustainable ethos of the food program, the bar at Fish & Farm makes all its own flavored liquors, syrups and mixers in-house, allowing for gastro-cocktails like this: apple-bacon vodka, sweet potato-molasses bourbon, hickory bitters, and orange extract, with a strip of bacon as garnish. However strange, this savory drink tastes shockingly familiar--it tastes just like bacon.


5800 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

The Tomato: All the creative drinks at Moroccan restaurant Aziza are named after one flavor like praline, jimaca, and almond. The Tomato cocktail also contains harissa (the North African hot sauce), balsamic vinegar, and tequila.