It won’t be fully unveiled until Monday, June 25, but the new menu at Pacific Cocktail Haven has already begun to come together. And like a Magic 8-Ball, all signs point to yes. Proprietor and mixologist Kevin Diedrich has gone to an importer to secure plenty of pandan, a Southeast Asian herb with an aroma similar to that of basmati rice. It’s a vital component of the aptly named Jean Claude Pandan, and while drinking it is hardly a bloodsport, the clarified milk punch with cold-brew coffee happens to have two rums, cognac, bourbon, and absinthe in it. Yet the pandan — also known as screwpine — reigns, endowing it with a flavor and mouthfeel reminiscent of a butterscotch hard candy. It seems to seesaw in the mouth, rolling from sweetness to a kind of honeyed darkness, and the whole thing is of a piece with a bar that opened the doors with a miso old-fashioned.
It’s delightful, but this is getting ahead of things. Just about two years into its existence, after Diedrich transformed Cantina into P.C.H., it’s finally fully come into its own. It came very close around the holidays when the bar briefly became Miracle, a gleefully highbrow-trashy Xmas situation with Naughty and Nice shots and drinks like a How the Gimlet Stole Christmas, enhanced with a caraway-sage-pine cordial. But this new menu comes about at the same time as a physical change: a new mural.
Employing local artists in some fashion is practically de rigeur, but a wall at P.C.H. now looks like a jumble of barcoded airline luggage tags, full of in-jokes and references to the spirits and liqueurs that form the backbone of the drinks. It’s got burn spots and other weathered patches, making it look instantly aged.
Elsewhere, beauty dominates, as in the Back in Black, a black-sesame Manhattan running on an AC/DC current for a silky texture, heavy on the vanilla (and with a sidecar of extra booze served in a chilled vessel on the side). Or the Lil Tasty, a mix of Espolón Blanco, bell pepper, pineapple, serrano, mango, and Hitachino Nest White Ale. It looks like a tomato bisque, only thinner — although not by much. Rescued by the serranos, it’s got that vegetable-forward flavor profile that makes bell peppers so polarizing.
It gets weirder. Graced with a wedge of charred pineapple, the Silk Road is made from gin, Japanese curry, soda, and infanta lambonog, the fermented sap of coconut flowers. Thus combined, it may look like a tincture of campfire, but it’s surprisingly gentle and rounded, barely equatorial at all. While the neighborhood bar that is also an industry insider’s hangout has yet to reveal the full depth of its new menu, P.C.H. shares its initials with the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1. And no. 1 is where it clearly wants to be. Kevin, you are what the French call le competent.
Pacific Cocktail Haven, 580 Sutter St., 415-398-0195 or pacificcocktailsf.com