Meet Your Mixologist: Local Edition

Local Edition For its latest trick, Future Bars — the crew behind the trend-setting San Francisco cocktail staples Bourbon and Branch, Rickhouse and the upcoming Tradition — has turned black and white, as in newsprint. In the subterranean downtown Market Street space that once housed The San Francisco Examiner’s printing press, marble once intended for newspaper magnate and Examiner owner William Randolph Hearst’s castle in San Simeon tops the tables in a cavernous high-ceilinged space. Old printing press equipment decorates the dark hardwood floors, vintage typewriters festoon the curtained walls and ancient newspapers from the heyday of the print era sit under glass. “I don’t know of anywhere else in the country that offers legit cocktails, great shows and such a swanky space,” says general manager Joe Alessandroni.

What sort of people drink here?

We see a lot of the same people we already see at Bourbon and Branch and Rickhouse. And that works: We wanted to take the seven years of lessons we’ve learned and apply them here, where there’s more space and

Why a newspaper-themed bar?

It grew organically out of the space. When the space became available, the owners took it and then figured out what to do with it later. We wanted to move away from the Prohibition aesthetic at Bourbon and Branch, and the newspaper idea fit the space and filled the sophisticated, adult kind of feel we were looking for. Hearst [which still owns the building] opened up their newspaper archives to us, so we have the entire history of the paper here. We have more artifacts waiting to roll out, too.

Many San Francisco bars claim to serve classic cocktails, and many do. But tell us about some of the drinks that set you guys apart.

The Gibson … is a great example. It’s a respectable cocktail alternative to a dirty martini, which is a train wreck most of the time: well gin, olive brine that’s had dozens of people’s fingers in it. It tastes like a dishrag. But this has that savory flavor and it’s light, easy to drink. Simple.

What was the inspiration behind the cocktail menu?

The 1950s and 1960s was the last era of classic cocktail knowledge before it got lost. We’re trying to take that idea forward with a lot of simple, elegant, spirit-forward cocktails. We also have the culinary highballs that start from one of our intricate syrups — like The Chief [named for Hearst himself], which is vanilla sasparilla syrup with bourbon, soda and an orange twist.

Mixologist bars, sophisticated bars and classic cocktails are sprouting up more and more in San Francisco. Has the audience adapted?

How do you keep them happy and not jaded? At first, when this kind of cocktail-making was revolutionary, you had to do a lot of education about the drinks. Over the last five years, people have become much more sophisticated. Ingredients that were once esoteric, like rye whiskey or Maraschino [liqueur], are well-known. But nobody wants to wait 20 minutes for a drink, either. So you need a bar that’s fast, friendly and makes great cocktails. Doing it with an attitude won’t cut it anymore.

Chris Roberts / SF Examiner

The Gibson

  • 2 oz. 209 gin

  • ¾ oz. Cocchi Americano

  • ½ oz. Vya dry vermouth

  • 2 dashes Bitter Truth celery bitters

  • One cocktail onion (red onion, with in-house secret brine)

Mix ingredients together in glass or mixer. Add ice and stir. Strain into glass. Garnish with an onion.

Doug Dalton