Tag Archives: Cocktails

Ms Barstool: Spirits aplenty at Longbranch Saloon

Longbranch Saloon. Photo: Risa Nye
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While the décor at Longbranch Saloon may be minimal, the bar menu is not. If you’re looking for a staggering array of whiskeys (or “whiskies,” and more about that distinction later), you need look no further than Longbranch, now occupying the former location of Sea Salt restaurant on San Pablo Avenue in West Berkeley.

Longtime Berkeley residents and fans of Asleep at the Wheel may be confused by the reappearance of the Longbranch name. There may be mixed feelings about the long-gone $1 cover charge, the sawdust on the floor, the free draft beer and the indoor motorcycle parking — none of which feature at the new incarnation. (Our server informed us that the old joint was further up the street on San Pablo anyway.) So those with long memories are advised to come around and see what the 21st-century version is all about. … Continue reading »

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Opening today: Tupper & Reed, a classic cocktail bar

Tupper & Reed opens tonight in Downtown Berkeley. Photo: Brian Sheehy
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The East Bay is becoming quite the drinking destination. With West Berkeley’s booming craft beer scene and Uptown Oakland’s growing nightlife scene, it feels like we are quickly catching up with San Francisco. More proof if it were needed: downtown Berkeley is now home to Tupper & Reed, the latest project from SF’s Future Bars team.

The long-awaited bar opens its doors tonight at 6 p.m. at 2271 Shattuck Ave. (at Bancroft). Tupper & Reed is modeled on the Future Bars‘ SF flagship, Bourbon & Branch, a speakeasy-style bar. It will boast a menu of 70 cocktails and hundreds of spirits, said co-owner Brian Sheehy, featuring classic drinks, twists on those classics and a number of cocktails created exclusively for the bar. In addition, Sheehy said, it will serve a small selection of beer and wine for “people who insist on not drinking cocktails.” … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Some like it hot at Bourbon & Beef

Bourbon & Beef
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A recent newcomer to Rockridge, Bourbon & Beef  on College Ave. features cocktails with a Latin flair. The heat is apparent in the variety of plates — meant to be shared — on the menu, but it appears among the cóctel offerings too. The vibrant touches of red throughout the room carry out this theme in the décor. Even on a cool night, the room sizzles.

We settled in at the long wood bar, noting the bursts of color in the terrazzo border. Cool blue lights suspended above us contrasted with the striking red wall nearby. We visited somewhat early in the evening on a Sunday, and, by the time we departed, the room was full of patrons sharing plates and enjoying cocktails at the bar, at the tables for two in the center of the room, and around the communal table up front.

At a restaurant with bourbon in the name, we were not surprised to see an impressive array of bourbon and rye lining the shelves. The collection of bottles filled with amber liquids stretched across the wall in a glittering display. We were pleased to discover that our chosen cocktail for the evening, the Blood Orange Old Fashioned, featured one of our favorite bourbons: Angel’s Envy. … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Mixing it up improv style at Gather

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Crowd-pleasing classics and improv behind the bar: Gather pulls it all together Several weeks ago, we were enjoying a cocktail at another East Bay establishment and engaging in conversation with the bar manager, when the gentleman on the next barstool chimed in. As it happens, this gentleman is a bar chef in his own right, and suggested we visit the bar at Gather in Berkeley. We discovered in the course of our discussion about cocktails and other important issues, that he used to be the star behind the bar at Hudson, a Rockridge favorite that closed a year or so ago. We filed away his suggestion, and finally made our way to Gather.

We visited on a Saturday evening, prior to an event at a local music venue. Once we let the host know we were just planning to visit the bar for cocktails, he directed us to the rear of the restaurant and promised us an enjoyable experience. The bar is cozy, with a small number of tables and barstools inside and a sheltered patio right outside. High shelves bordering the bar area contain jars of colorful pickled vegetables. … Continue reading »

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Prizefighter masters science of simple cocktails

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We often get tips about new places to try from the bartenders we meet. When a couple of people mentioned Prizefighter in Emeryville, we decided to give it a try.

Located at 6702 Hollis St. near the Berkeley-Emeryville border, in what used to be known as Butchertown, Prizefighter fits right in with the industrial feel of the neighborhood. The stockyards and meat-packing plants of yesteryear were replaced by steel mills and factories, which in turn have been replaced by enterprises of a different nature today. … Continue reading »

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Building a better cocktail at Build Pizzeria Roma

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When we entered Build on the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Bancroft Way in Berkeley, we decided to bypass the pizzeria side and make a beeline for the bar. We had heard great things about Build’s bar program, and wanted to see for ourselves where the magic happens.

The bar menu has a decidedly Italian flair. We had a hard time choosing, but ultimately we were swayed by the allure of the Autunno a Costiera Amalfitana (Autumn on the Amalfi Coast), made with vodka, Buddha’s hand citron, Campari, lemon, grapefruit, basil and prosecco.

Actually, the entire cocktail menu makes for an entertaining read. While we typically choose our drinks based on the components, we are sometimes tempted to try something with a clever name. (Unlike betting on a horse using this same logic, we are more likely to pick a winner at the bar. It should be noted, however, that our companion for the evening chose to order a Bitter Old Man, made with bourbon, rye, bitters and a blend of vermouths.) … Continue reading »

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Raising the bar in Oaktown: Cheers to Sidebar

Betty Fu's Rum Betty- Goslings Black Seal rum, Averna, lime, agave, egg white
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Good cocktails, great views of Lake Merritt, and owners who are community conscious: Sidebar Oaktown offers a nice mix. Continue reading »

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A taste of summer: A good fit at Boot and Shoe

Boot and Shoe
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A friend who had joined us for a Ms. Barstool adventure several months ago recommended the cocktails at Boot & Shoe Service on Grand Avenue in Oakland. We welcome such suggestions, and decided to see for ourselves what the bar had to offer. While we have been to known to order and appreciate the pizza and other dining options at Boot & Shoe, we had somehow missed the fact that there is a bar in the back. Such oversights must be remedied, and so one recent evening, we walked down the high-ceilinged brick-walled corridor on the left and made a beeline for the bar.

Like the weather in the East Bay these days, the cocktail menu at Boot & Shoe changes weekly. We like this idea, since we can anticipate new choices on subsequent visits. On the evening we visited, the featured cocktails were the Monk’s Garden (gin, lime, grapefruit, St. Germain, yellow chartreuse, and Peychaud’s bitters) and the Diablo Cocktail (tequila, ginger, lime and crème de cassis). We were tempted by the Deadly Sin (bourbon, carpano antica, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters) and braced ourselves for the possibility of a Gunpowder Punch (Navy strength rum, lime, cane syrup and Angostura bitters).  … Continue reading »

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Straight up Southern hospitality at Oakland’s Picán

Pican. Photo: Risa Nye
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We recently joined the ranks of those felled by the flu-like cold that’s been going viral throughout the East Bay. Finally on the mend, we couldn’t think of a better way to lift our spirits than to get back on the barstool in search of a cure for what ailed us. The cure turned out to be cocktails at Picán.

The menu offerings at Picán are described as “Southern Infused California Cuisine,” and that Southern influence is present behind the bar as well. We decided to forego the bourbon flights on this visit — next time perhaps? — and perused the list of cocktails instead.

But which drink to try? The obvious choice would be the Mint Julep, made with bourbon, rock candy syrup, fresh mint and bitters. But that would mean passing up the Southern Peach Squeeze and the Devil Went Down to Georgia, both of which include a teasing taste of summer with peach purée or peach whiskey. We were intrigued by the mysterious Black Hand (Wild Turkey, basil, balsamic syrup and ginger beer) and startled by Rosemary’s Baby (gin, fresh rosemary, agave nectar, lime juice). When in Uptown, we mused, shouldn’t we try the Uptown Manhattan? Our thoughts were muddled. … Continue reading »

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At Hopscotch, classic cocktails with new twists

Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar
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Seeking shelter from recent storms, we bustled into the cozy comfort of Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar in Oakland’s Uptown. Hopscotch has the familiar feel of a re-imagined diner, with its traditional chrome accents; light fixtures with a vintage look; checkerboard floor; and L-shaped counter lined with red barstools. A relative newcomer to Uptown, Hopscotch seems as though it’s always been here.

In an unprecedented move, we visited Hopscotch twice in one week. … Continue reading »

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12 drinks a drinking: Reasons to rejoice at FIVE

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Some may say that chocolate has no place in a cocktail. We beg to differ. Particularly at this time of year, a little extra sweetness helps reduce pre-holiday stress, and increases the ability to enjoy the spirit of the season.

We gave ourselves an early present by sampling from the Twelve Cocktails of Christmas featured during December at FIVE Bistro & Bar. Listed between the Eight Maids a Milking (chili vodka, chocolate liqueur, sugar and cayenne rim) and Ten Ginger Lords (vodka, ginger liqueur, apple cider, gingerbread cookie rim), the Nine Ladies Dancing leapt into a clear lead in a very competitive field.

Since it’s early in the month, bartender Victoriano had yet to tackle the Nine Ladies. This proved not to be a problem for the chemist-by-day, bartender-by-night, however. “Bartending is just like chemistry,” he assures us, as he reviews the ingredients and mixes the requested drink, which he then served in a glass with a cocoa-coated rim. … Continue reading »

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Airmail at Flora: Rum, lime, honey, a dash of bubbly

Flora. Photo: vision53
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Flora Restaurant and Bar, located in the 1930s Oakland Floral Depot building on Telegraph Avenue, combines Art Deco ambiance with Uptown panache. While a likeness of stage magician Carter the Great dominates the dining room, behind the bar the magic begins with Liam, bartender and teacher.

A barstool is the perfect place to observe some bartender sleight-of-hand and pick up a few tricks of the trade. So, notebook out, pen at the ready. Better still, Liam had an apprentice on a recent evening, so two bartenders fielded a series of questions about cocktails and techniques.

The house favorite is a concoction called Carter Beats the Devil which Liam describes as a smoky, spicy Margarita. But we opted to go top of the menu: the Airmail. … Continue reading »

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Raising the dead at Revival Bar & Kitchen

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The weekend before Halloween — when vampires, zombies, and happy Giants fans wandered the city streets after dark — presented the perfect opportunity to hop on a bar stool at Revival Bar & Kitchen on Shattuck Avenue and delve into the renaissance of the Corpse Reviver.

The evening didn’t start off with the intention to dig up old recipes. The Silk Road Sour was a more appealing choice on the cocktail menu, promising a silky, fragrant, citrusy libation. Its complex flavors—mandarin silk tea infused bourbon, with citrus and cane sugar—included a hint of vanilla. A pleasant nightcap to end an evening of jazz and dinner with a friend in downtown Berkeley.

Revival was busy on that Saturday night. Patrons lined both bars plus the smaller kitchen bar at the end of the room. Those looking for more than a nightcap were seated at tables in the well of the restaurant. High ceilings, slowly rotating fans, draped fabric and a necklace of lights makes the room feel both spacious and intimate. Behind the bar, tall shelves display bottles of all sizes and shapes; and, chalked on a blackboard, the words, “Thoughtful, modern artisan cocktails and food.”

What does this actually mean? We ask Justin the bartender for illumination. And Justin introduces us to the Corpse Reviver, Revival style. … Continue reading »

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