Classic cocktails are a little bit like ghosts: apparitions from bygone eras who have weathered the test of time, and who are not allowed to cross to the other side until their work in this mortal plane is complete. Originally commanded by great spirit guides of the 19th and 20th centuries, conjuring up one of these cocktails to do your bidding merely requires performing the proper incantations with your jigger, while uttering the commands from your bar necronomicon.
Of all the bars in San Francisco that practice these old arts, Bar Agricole is one of the most renowned. Its menu reads like a spell book of arcane drinks: the Harvard ($11, armagnac, Italian vermouth, amaro, bitters), 'Ti Punch ($11, agricole rhum, cane syrup, lime peel), Whiz Bang ($11, scotch, vermouth, grenadine, absinthe, bitters), and so on. While all worthy spiritual experiences, the Presidente ($11, white rum, white vermouth, farmhouse curaçao, grenadine, orange bitters), a drink developed in the Prohibition era at La Floridita in Havana Cuba, has a wonderful balance of sweet, aromatic, floral, with subtle bitterness worthy of any world leader and common person alike.
The cocktail is based on Eddie Woelke's original recipe that uses a rum from Guyana that is the closest equivalent to Havana Club Añejo Blanco Rum, and includes housemade bitters based on ones found in Charles Baker's The Gentleman's Companion. Made from organic herbs and botanicals that are infused in a biodynamic grape distillate, the bitters show how high the standards Bar Agricole demands. "We seek out those products that have a clear sense of origin, production method, agricultural traceability, and, ultimately, are made well, and simply taste better than anything else in their category," says lead bartender Craig Lane.
And for those that think that those old recipes aren't exciting as new recipes, Lane reminded us of the old Bruce Lee quote: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."
"At Agricole, we are of the opinion that in the cocktail lexicon there is already an abundance of great cocktails on record, and we feel that it is egotistical to think that one could invent something new that would supersede something that has already been made several hundred thousand times over between 1830 and 1930," Lane says. "We endeavor to adhere to pre-published source material for inspiration, and then seek to find the best possible products to showcase in those drinks."
Manifest your own or get into Bar Agricole and catch up with a Prez.
2 oz. El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum
½ oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1 barspoon Marian Farmhouse Curaçao
1 barspoon Small Hand Foods Grenadine
2 dash orange bitters
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a cold cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the drink, and garnish with the peel.
Bar Agricole, 355 11th St. (at Harrison), 355-9400