Tradition Bar
Beverage director Ian Scalzo offers a barrel-aged drink from each themed menu, but instead of aging the whole cocktail, Scalzo often only ages one of the drink's components, usually the base spirit. This, he says, gives him more control over balancing the final cocktail. The aging at Tradition doesn't just include cocktails, but also whiskies. Barrel program manager Jake Chevedden runs the onsite aging of whiskies in small barrels often "washed" (filled with wines or spirits, then dumped out) to add an accent to the spirits going in to age. Chevedden likes the interaction opportunities it creates with customers. "We can show someone a bottle of pinot noir-washed gin and explain how the pink hue is a result of the barrel, just like a bourbon's hue is the result of a freshly charred barrel," he says. 441 Jones, 474-2284,

Zero Zero
At the SOMA pizzeria, lead bartender Tom Ruszel sees the aged cocktail fitting in with the bar's focus on classics and their variations. Ruszel like to use the barrel-aging program as a platform to showcase a rotating selection of cocktails that you might think you know, but which are presented in a different way. In the past, the aged cocktails have included classics like Negronis and Manhattans, and stick to the recipe. "For our program, we're often choosing to go with the classic proportions, in order to stay true to the cocktail and to allow the imbiber to appreciate the changes which have taken place," Ruszel says. But that doesn't mean they only work with classics. "Sometimes someone puts together a great cocktail and everyone says, 'this would be great with some oak,'" he says. Original creations like the Vida Vieja ($12, Del Maguey vida mezcal, Gran Classico liqueur, green chartreuse, Punt é Mes vermouth) show up on the menu along with the unaged Vida Nueva for a compare-and-contrast opportunity. 826 Folsom, 348-8800,

Make Your Own
Want to give making your own a try? If you have space in a dark, cool place to store a small barrel, try your hand at a barrel-aged Negroni. This recipe is designed to work with a two-liter barrel, which you can order online from Tuthilltown. For other recipes, check out Morgenthaler's blog (

• 2 1/2 cups Beefeater gin

• 2 1/2 cups Cinzano sweet vermouth

• 2 1/2 cups Campari

Prepare your barrel by filling it with water and letting it sit until it's swollen enough to stop leaking. Drain.

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir. Fill the barrel with the cocktail using a funnel, seal with the bung, and check on the barrel to taste. Depending on the size of the barrel, a batch should be ready in four to seven weeks.

When ready, fill glass vessels with cocktail until ready to serve, making sure to use a fine strainer to catch any sediment.

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Our last experience at Tradition, a must visit in SF, it was an amazing kaleidoscope of flavors from Jake Chevedden's blending/aging magic.  A very special treat indeed. 


Given the sheer number of bars in the Bay Area I know this list can't be comprehensive, but I'm very surprised that they did not mention the Hotsy Totsy in Albany. They've been making a barrel-aged Negroni and an aquavit-based cocktail (called the Trident?) for quite some time. Both are absolutely amazing, but I was really surprised by the latter. I didn't think I was an aquavit fan, but I'd happily drink that cocktail any day.

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