Orbit Room’s New Cocktails Stay True to the Highbrow Dive

Slightly Space Age, but mostly Deco, Orbit Room is a stylish anomaly.

It’s full of globes, the light fixtures are killer, and the floor is pitted in a way that looks like someone took a steel rod to it, searching for hollow spots where treasure might be buried. And now the 23-year-old bar, which closed in early 2015 after its longtime owner died, only to open later that fall, has rolled out a new collection of cocktails that’s as retro-stylish as the interior.

Courtney Ross and Nic DeLillo — who come to Orbit Room from Bloodhouse and HiDive, respectively — have stayed true to their highbrow dive surroundings with nine drinks, all in the $10-$12 range. While it’s difficult to sample more than a half-dozen spirit-forward drinks and avoid inadvertently creating additional pits in the floor, two that stand out in particular are the Kansas Manhattan and the Ask Me Again. The former consists of un-aged Dickel whiskey, sweet and dry vermouth, ginger liqueur, Dickel 8, and an orange peel. While people in Manhattan, Kan. might not drink Kansas Manhattans, they at least ought to know that the drink is perfect, in both senses: It’s damn near flawless and it uses both types of vermouth. Another bourbon beverage, the tasty Ask Me Again, comes with lemon, basil simple syrup, and a basil leaf.

Bourbon in Bed
Bourbon in Bed (Orbit Room)

However, you can also get an Ask Me Again with rye, if you prefer. Offering patrons their choice of spirit could be perilous — woe to the busy bartender confronted with indecisive people too tipsy to think on the spot — but Orbit Room is taking its chances. You can construct a Debonnaire around vodka, gin, or pisco, and the Shut the Front Door (a variation on a Mule, with lime and ginger beer, plus hibiscus or Hellfire) can be made with vodka, gin, pisco, bourbon, rye, rum, or tequila. I love nothing more than making decisions for everyone else in the room, and that quandary left even me frozen in place. For what it’s worth, DeLillo recommended pisco, and I took him up on it.

Off-menu, he pours a drink that’s based around bourbon, Benedictine, and Cynar (the artichoke liqueur that’s a nimble tool of the trade). He wants to call it a “Blunderbuss,” but suspects that another San Francisco bar may already have a drink by that name. (Tradition, in the Tenderloin, did at one point.)

Since the only time most people see bars during daylight hours is when they forgot to close out their tab from the night before and need their debit card back, it’s good to know that Orbit Room has started serving breakfast, too. From 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. on weekdays, and from noon onward on weekends, you can roll up for coffee and a bagel with lox, or an Orbit Breakfast sandwich (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pepper jack, and jalapeños on a croissant). So in other words, you can go to Orbit Room, get drunk, and then go back the morning after for some grub. Trust me, the chandeliers and glass bricks look even better by day.

Orbit Room1900 Market St. 415-932-6655 or orbitroomsf.com


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