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Last Rites Might Be the World's Darkest Tiki Bar, in Every Sense - July 5, 2018 - SF Weekly
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Last Rites Might Be the World’s Darkest Tiki Bar, in Every Sense

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Early on in Lost, an expedition deep into the jungle shows the location of the Black Rock. It’s a masted 19th-century slave ship, of course, and not some big onyx stone. It’s full of dynamite, a 200-foot tsunami had carried it miles inland more than a century before a French biologist found it, and it was near that giant, four-toed statue.

The overly complicated mythology of J.J. Abrams’ ultimately unsatisfying show feels a little like the interior of Last Rites, a new quasi-tiki cocktail bar from the Horsefeather team in the Duboce Triangle space that formerly housed The Residence. In what appears to be a sincere effort not to trample on anyone’s cultural heritage by remixing a bunch of tropes from the Caribbean and the South Pacific into an offensive mess with all the coherence of a diorama of penguins chilling with Santa at the North Pole, Last Rites went a little dark.

That’s both literal and figurative. I don’t know that I’ve ever had such a tough time reading a menu in my entire life, but the dimness functions mostly as a way of concealing the lack of imagination. It’s “Polynesian noir,” and part of the bar is constructed out of genuine fuselage — reclaimed space-age polymer? — but otherwise it’s mostly a bunch of fake leaves and a human skull the size of King Kong’s.

But all that matters are the drinks, and let’s all breathe a sigh of relief that they clock in at around $12 and not $16. Of all the Catholic Church’s sacraments, the Last Rites is the spookiest. As priestly rituals go, it’s not as boozy as the Eucharist, but the proximity to death should send an electrifying shiver up your spine. Let that be in the form of the Last Rites cocktail, a mix of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, house white rum, an overproof rum blend, lime, passion fruit syrup, Blackstrap molasses syrup, a “Last Rites mix,” and a charred stick of cinnamon as potent as palo santo. It comes in a skull-adorned commemorative glass, and you’re only permitted to order two of them before some demonic Welsh chieftain named Caedmal slays your friend and leaves you with the tab.

Put it down on a wooden chest that looks like what Washington bureaucrats chose to store the Ark of the Covenant in at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones references show up here and there, from the Kali Maa’s Doom (a gin-and-pisco concoction with Sauvignon blanc and vanilla cream that’s a nod to the leader of the underground Thuggee cult around whom you’d better cover your heart) to the Jock Lindsey (a very celery-forward tequila-and-mezcal number named for Harrison Ford’s seaplane pilot). Celery shows up again in the Hetch Hetchy, an otherwise wonderfully spicy cocktail that might replace San Francisco’s water supply if we bring three magical stones together so that they glow.

If you want to get even more violent than the Temple of Doom, there’s also a Legend of Xtabay made with buttered popcorn-infused rum and cacao nib-infused Angostura bitters, named for a shape-shifting Mayan temptress. Security is ready at the door in case anybody tries to feed you to the crocodiles, though. As the menu marks every cocktail’s base spirit(s) with an X, one column is conspicuously absent of any: brandy. That’s probably because the parish priest swiped it from the liquor cabinet of the last person he anointed in preparation for them to meet their maker. Or the Smoke Monster.

Last Rites, 718 14th St., lastritesbar.com