H. Joseph Ehrmann: On San Francisco's Cocktail Culture Past and Present

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Courtesy of H. Joseph Ehrmann
H. Joseph Ehrmann
Erik Adkins was doing great stuff at Slanted Door, Dave Nepove at Enricos, Duggan McDonnell at Frisson, Jonny Raglin, Jeff Hollinger, Marco Dionysos and so many more. We started San Francisco Cocktail Week in 2007. These were the bars I sat at and the new friends I made. Then I started traveling and meeting Dushan Zaric, Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders, Naren Young, and lots of New York bartenders doing cool stuff. And then it exploded. I can barely keep up with it now. Just three years ago I would have never thought Arizona would have a Cocktail Week and here we are.

Name the trends you're seeing in SF: There is certainly a lot of innovation here, as there is in food. The majority of American trends start in the West and head east; however, the cocktail boom has evolved quite a bit since the early 2000s. What my friends and I were doing in 2005 was considered avant-garde but soon became de rigueur. We went from three United States Bartenders Guild chapters in 2005 (and 12 or so members in San Francisco) to 37 chapters now. We have bartenders in suburban markets researching their asses off and innovating things. So new trends can come from anywhere.

We've seen molecular mixology come and go (sort of; it still lingers in some spots) and are now seeing barrel-aged cocktails and carbonation as things that are really popular, but really being mostly innovated out of the Northwest (Portland and Seattle, respectively). Ice programs are big and house-made bitters are even somewhat trite. I believe that our use of produce is still market-leading, though San Francisco went through a period of shunning it in favor of East Coast style classic cocktails. The fact of the matter is that we have the best access to the widest variety of produce and most innovative kitchens in the country, and that inspires an amazing culinary cocktail culture. That's where we are most innovative and where we still lead.

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Hotel Valley Ho

6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale, AZ

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Mich Hernandez
Mich Hernandez

I am on my way into work in downtown SF right now (as opposed to my usual working from home in AZ.) SF is my home. Thanks for the link!

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