Finally on this Mother’s Day, a cocktail Mom would certainly enjoy, where two of her spirit-driven favorites, the Manhattan and the Vieux Carré intersect along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.
That would be the “Cocktail a la Louisiane” from Erik Adkins epic Bourbon and American Whiskey stocked bar at Charles Phan’s (The Slanted Door) sparkling month old New Orleans- inspired boîte, Hard Water. In Pier 5 along the Bay waterfront, just off the Ferry Building, you can’t help but immediately get in a Bourbon- ready mood after staring for a moment at the hypnotizing massive Wall of Whiskey, the backdrop for the horseshoe-shaped bar. Table seating is really counter-seating along the perimeter, with some seats affording Bay views. Olle Lundberg’s masterpiece strikes you as an atelier, warm yet austere from a mixture of glass, dark wood, leather, and oak components.
The “Cocktail a la Louisiane” originated in 1937 when the recipe was published by Stanley Clisby Arthur in his Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em. If only Mr. Arthur could concoct a worthwhile Hurricane recipe or fix the Vieux Carré version at the Carousel Bar, where it originated.
Elements of the Vieux Carré come into play with plenty of Benedictine stirred with Whiskey, in this case Rittenhouse 100 Rye. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth adds the Manhattan dimension, softening the often over-bearing Benedictine. Peychaud’s Bitters and Duplais Absinthe round out this spirit-forward offering that is remarkably smooth. It was actually shockingly smooth. Handsomely served up in a chilled coupe with a marinated Maraschino cherry resting at the bottom, this is a classic example of a simple, not complex drink, with no hint of seasonality, that is absolutely pitch-perfect. Start with some boiled peanuts, cornmeal-crusted alligator, and baked oysters in a broth of bacon and Old Grand Dad Bourbon. Then move onto good ol’ okra étoufée (who needs crawfish?) and a new candidate for the city’s best fried chicken.
All through the meal or Happy Hour, there will be brown spirits. There is the “Bourbon Lift” (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Stumptown Coffee Liqueur, Straus Organic Cream, Orgeat, Soda Water), or a version of everyone’s favorite, the Mint Julep (Old Grand Dad Bonded Bourbon, Gum Syrup, Mint, Crushed Ice). For the aficionado, indulge in the $100 Van Winkle flight. More reasonable is the Craft Distillers Flight at $20 that spans Oregon, Colorado, and Texas.
Not that you would want Abita Beer under any circumstance, but it’s available here by the bottle.
Is Hard Water a term for Bourbon? I’m not sure. It’s not hard to enjoy these cocktails, though. Whether along the Mississippi River or San Francisco Bay waterfronts, the “Cocktail a la Louisiane” will have you singing joyfully with the saints marching in.