Thursday, December 09, 2010

Smuggler’s Cove Bar in San Francisco

Tropical Past in a Cocktail Glass
650 Gough St. (at McAllister), San Francisco
Hayes Valley
PH: 415.869.1900
Open daily from 5 p.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

Because my friend Ken and I had an early dinner Saturday trying to beat the rush at Una Pizza Napoletana, the night was still young when we were done with our pizzas. So I suggested getting some after-dinner drinks. A bar I’ve been meaning to try for the past year is Smuggler’s Cove, which coincidentally celebrates its one-year anniversary this week.

The tiki-kitsch bar is the brainchild of mixologist/owner Martin Cate, who created a Prohibition-era rum lover’s paradise. It’s a little bit of Trader’s Vic meets Pirates of the Caribbean. When it first opened, the tiny three-story bar had people lining up out the door behind the velvet ropes wanting to get a peek at the tropical décor and a sip of one of the 70 specialty cocktail drinks.

Ken and I got a spot on the second-floor lounge area that overlooks the tiny bar. (The basement was closed for a private show.) We were surrounded by tiki statues, blowfish lanterns and colored glass balls in netting. It’s the kind of kitsch reserved for the tourists when I was growing up in Honolulu, but on this night it felt a bit nostalgic for me.

After flipping through all the options, I decided to order something that sounded like Hawaii, so I got the Kona Cocktail ($9), a never-used recipe from the Don the Beachcomber cocktail book. I guess Ken wanted to get something that reminded of his hometown of Fresno because he ordered something called the Fogcutter.

Memo to self: Don’t let Ken get the drinks. What happened was Ken went to the bar to order the drinks, but he totally didn’t ask the bartender which drink was which.

So when he returned, we pretty much spent the next half hour trying each other drinks to figure out which was which. We finally settled on the fact that this is the Fogcutter because it had a lot of the citrus taste that makes the base of the drink.

This was my Kona Cocktail, made with muddled pineapple, passion fruit, and dark Jamaican rum. Ken and I both liked this cocktail the best, which also had some honey that we didn’t initially taste because it all sunk to the bottom of the glass.

I decided to try one more cocktail, this time the Straits Sling ($9) because it’s based on the Singapore Sling and I remember that drink from this year’s Top Chef finale when they were in Singapore. It’s a refreshing blend of gin, cherry liqueur, Benedictine, lemon and two kinds of bitters. The seltzer water makes the drink feel light too.

Smuggler’s Cove definitely has a lot of kitschy fun to it, and the umbrella-accented drinks are all perfectly blended. (Although the over use of pineapple definitely attracted the fruit flies in the place.) The upper floor lounge is a nice respite from the packed bar below. It’s definitely a little bit of paradise, which is especially nice during these cold winter days.

Single guy rating: 4 stars (Aloha Rum)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Let it pour:
Pisco Latin Lounge: “Trying to Shake Up the Neighborhood”
Clock Bar: “Time Stands Still at this Hotel Bar”
Kingman’s Lucky Lounge: “A SOMA Lounge in Oakland”


julieako said...

Ken is from Fresno? My dad grew up in Reedley and my mom grew up in Dinuba! Nice review and makes me want a cocktail. Too bad it's only 1pm...

Kim said...

That place should be goofy, but it's not. Somehow it retains a sense of class.