Thursday, July 22, 2010

Falling in Love with Fog City - part the first

I'm currently en route to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans - perhaps the largest gathering of bar-bores the world has ever seen. My travels thus far have brought me to Fog City - San Francisco for those unfamiliar with the term.

You'd expect most tourists - as in this fine city I indeed am - to make tracks for the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the famous Fisherman's Wharf. My site-seeing has been of a different ilk. I've embarked on a tippling tour of the city's finest though possibly less salubrious landmarks - bars.

The barkeep at Goldust (near Union Square) pouring a pint of the local Speakeasy Prohibition Ale
San Francisco has a number of venues with a grand reputation, and whilst those have been visited and well documented, what has really left an impression and kindled the flames of love I have for this town are the myriad beer and shot bars, the dives, and the local eating dens. These basic, 'entry level' joints are the real life blood of the imbibing city denizens - some are a little grimy, others a tad sticky, they're all good value and they're characterful. They're covered with the detritus that accumulates from being the living rooms of good hard working folk for decades - the places where the city unwinds with a pint of the locally brewed Prohibition Ale - a fantastically hoppy, US Pale Ale - its bitterness balance by a sweet malt body.

But back to the junk. So many bars here have refused to fall into the refurbishment trap - where photos of famous patrons and owners are packed in box and forgotten. The past breathes through these bars - the surroundings are meaningful and memorable.

It isn't just the venues themselves that refuse to 'refurb' but the people that run them. Forget trilby hats, waistcoats and sleeve garters sported by a bartender with a chip on his shoulder that is larger that the aforementioned hat - instead these venues are a family affair. The owners are as colorful as the venues themselves, amazingly hospitable and easily a good enough reason to return again and again.

Julio Beremejo - there ain't a finer host around
 Perhaps one of the greatest host I've encountered is Julio Bermejo from Tommy's Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar. The venue is touted as the world's best Tequila bar. I'm usually skeptical of such claims but after the experience I've recently had I wouldn't be inclined to argue. Despite world class status Tommy's isn't what you'd expect - it is simply a rather homely family owned and run Mexican cantina in San Francisco's suburbs. It is the people here (and yes the incredible range of 100% agave Tequilas) that make the place so special - Tommy Beremejo - Julio's dad - who opened the joint in 1965 is still there to play host with his son and greet the guests that pack out the place almost any night of the week.

My recommendation is to get there early and grab a seat at the bar so that you can experience the Tequila. On my vist I was treated to a flight of Tommy's Margaritas - 100% agave Tequila, lime and agave nectar. I got to try nine in total (they were mini ones) and was amazed by the different nuances found in each - it really is a great showcase for this spirit. The recently rebranded Espolon - a highland Tequila owned by Gruppo Campari - was a revelation as too was the Amate reposado that followed - a lowland displaying beautiful caramel and vanilla notes in the Margarita.

In short, Tommy's is deservedly a Mecca for agave spirit fanatics - if you're a visiting bartender you'll get treated like royalty too - I even got taken out to lunch by Julio the following day - but that's another post in itself.

1 comment:

  1. Oh photos on the way folks. Blogspot won't support me posting photos from my iPad!