In a past life, Over Proof at ABV was a lot of things.
It cycled through different spirit-based personas — rum, whiskey, mezcal and tequila — at a tireless speed, switching up the cocktails, food menu, and decor every three months until, well, it got tiring.
“That was a totally insane idea,” co-owner Ryan Fitzgerald says. “It exhausted us.”
So Over Proof took a little hiatus, and now it’s back and a “completely different thing from what it was before.” This new version of Over Proof boasts a lot more variety, a lot more seafood, and hopefully a bit more permanency as the owners try to create a bar with a bit more creative sustainability.
Finding Over Proof requires going up to the second floor from its Mission bar, ABV. Step behind a door of light wood panels, and you’ll find a cozy set-up nestled in the upstairs space, with funky black-and-gold wallpaper and shelves stocked with rare spirits. There’s a bar that seats about four, and the whole space intends to just seat 18. To eat or drink at Over Proof, you can’t just walk in. You’ll have to make a reservation at their website in advance.
Courtesy of Over Proof
One of the things that Fitzgerald believes sets Over Proof apart from your typical upscale San Francisco bar is its price. “We’re doing our best to make it a really value driven experience,” Fitzgerald says. That’s something that won’t be readily apparent when glancing at the menu, with shared plates averaging nearly $16 and caviar tasting ranging from $25 to $75. But for an upscale restaurant with full service, Fitzgerald believes that this is definitely your money’s worth.
“We’re not going to try to tell you it’s inexpensive,” Fitzgerald says. “But it is a really good value.”
Take a look at the caviar, for example, a tiny dish that can easily price for hundreds of dollars elsewhere. “The caviar is going to be the cheapest in the city,” Fitzgerald claims. Over Proof serves its caviar in a classic fashion, with mother-of-pearl spoons, crème fraîche, and salty potato chips — a combination that someone told me reminded her of “sour cream and onion chips.” Would you get the same satisfaction with a $4 family-sized bag of Lay’s? It depends on what you’re looking for. For those interested in (and who are lucky enough to be able to afford) the fine-dining experience, Over Proof is a value-driven option that still prioritizes quality.
That’s something that shows through in its cocktails as well. Previous iterations of Over Proof focused on a single spirit, but this next generation of Over Proof has an incredible amount of options. If you’re feeling a bit indecisive, its tasting menu — priced at $40 for three drinks and $75 for six — is a good way to go. They’re definitely drinks that you’ll have fun with, because cocktail genius Marcovaldo Dionysos definitely did.
“When we let him, he definitely lets the conceptual cocktail go crazy,” Fitzgerald says, pointing to the Sauna Cocktail as an example. The Sauna Cocktail is served on a wooden tray steaming with dry ice — an enigmatic look under Over Proof’s candlelights. It has whiskey and pu’er syrup, and is “kind of a version of a shower beer,” Fitzgerald adds. “This is more like an Old Fashioned in the sauna.”
You won’t get the Sauna Cocktail if you order the three-drink tasting menu, but you will get the Navy Strength Fruit Cup, a spin on a Pimm’s cup that involves pressing apple slices and mint leaves with gin, lime, and ginger for an incredible balance of sweetness and fragrance and fruit. Its freshness mirrors the chili pepper rock cod crudo, a shared plate off its food menu that combines bright bites of persimmon with kohlrabi and citrusy cod for another stand-out item.
In Over Proof’s newest, value-oriented version, the owners tried hard to make “super baller cocktails” that would normally price at $30 with its rare spirits a bit more affordable. While the bar might not be what comes to mind when looking for cheap eats, as far as upscale dining or drinking experiences in San Francisco go, it’s smartly curated.
Over Proof, 3174 15th St., overproofsf.com