If there’s one thing you can count on when covering the bar and restaurant scene, it’s that the players will eventually change. New chefs behind the stoves draw the most attention and expectations, but for me a new bar manager is the most fascinating. New blood behind the bar keeps things fresh, but a leadership change brings the added challenge for them to balance adding their own voice to the menu while maintaining the momentum and house style.
When Chris Lane departed Lolinda last year (to eventually end up at the fantastic Ramen Shop in Oakland), and Nora Furst took over, I wondered how the bar would fare. “I was fortunate enough to inherit a beverage program that had a very well-laid framework,” says Furst. “In many ways, we've honed the menu to complement the food from chef Alejandro, and the tastes of our guests… while never forgetting that we are at our heart, a steakhouse bar.”
The menu balances a list of classic drinks, with house creations — all contributions by many members of the bar staff. In a way the biggest change at the bar is the work of a collective vision, and thankfully one that works especially well with chef Alejandro Morgan’s food.
($10, blanco tequila, Cardamaro, dry vermouth) is a fantastic way to start. Dry and lighter than its list of ingredients suggests, the drink is crisp and bright with just a touch of bitterness. The cocktail is the work of bartender Leilani Vella who developed the recipe for Liza Minnelli herself. Minnelli would come into the Standard Hotel in New York where Vella worked and ordered something like looked like a martini, but lower in proof so she could enjoy a few without going full-on Lucille Two
Drawing on the classic Argentinean beverage of Fernet and Coke as inspiration, bartender David Ranalli concocted the Fernet Swizzle
($10, Fernet Branca, Carpano Antica Vermouth, cinnamon, orange, lime). The drink tames the bitterness of the Fernet in a refreshing combination that almost tastes like it has cola in it.
And drawing on the lovely combination of rye whiskey and Geijer Glögg liqueur spices, Furst’s Friggs Slip
($10, rye whiskey, sloe gin, Geijer Glögg, lemon, demerara) makes a great end of meal drink. Furst designed the drink around some new local spirits she discovered, the Spirit Works Sloe Gin and the Swedish-style Geijer Glögg liqueur.
“One challenge of being a buyer is putting a new or small-batch product on the shelf, and watching it sit there and gather dust, since folks may be unfamiliar with it, or not know what to do with it, says Furst. “This is where the list cocktail comes in: it provides an approachable format, a vessel in which to introduce the guest to a new flavor, or perhaps re-unite them with a familiar flavor in a new form.”
The other member working behind the bar is chef Morgan, who designed an abbreviated menu made to work with the bar’s cocktails, just like the bar tweaks their drinks to work with the food. “Lolinda’s ‘La Barra’ menu is a Latin take on traditional bar food… Instead of nuts or popcorn we have cancha (Peruvian puffed corn topped with chili and salt), and we replace the requisite fried calamari with our signature ceviche de pescado (with ono, sweet potato, onions, lime, aji amarillo),” says Morgan.
1 oz. James E. Pepper Rye Whiskey
¾ oz. Spirit Works Sloe Gin
½ oz. Geijer Glogg
¼ oz. Demerara simple syrup (1:1 sugar: water)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake hard and strain into a coupe glass or martini glass. Peel a strip of lemon zest with a sharp vegetable peeler, and express citrus oils over the top of the drink. Drop zest in the glass to garnish.
, 2518 Mission (at 21st), 550-6970