Where the Bar Meets Wall Street

Not content with the prices on the drinks menu? New York’s Exchange turns drink prices into a trader’s delight.

After a brief conversational detour to boast about the size of his manhood, Sean explains how he and his friend from rival bank Citigroup come to have six drinks lined up in front of them. “We’ve been buying Coors Light HARD,” he shouts. “It’s selling at UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS.” The pair started the night on Stella Artois, but switched when the price of the Belgian beer got too racy.

At Exchange, the bar prices scroll along a digital ticker above the bar staff’s heads. Guinness is a bargain, $5 (£3.28) and on the way down. Ketel One vodka has just ticked 75 cents higher, a group down the other end of the bar clearly having gone crazy. The bar food looks pretty stable at the moment, but you’ll not want to take your eye off the market.

“We want the atmosphere to be like the stock market,” says Levent Cakar, one of the owners. “Except, unlike the stock market, nobody is going to have any stress or lose any money.”

Sounds… er, like a really stressful way to spend a night out.

Three Ways to Spend 10 Grand and Get Engaged

Valentine’s Day approaches, and that means bartenders and home mixologists galore will be breaking out the Chambord to create V-Day cocktails.

Or perhaps you’d like to find a way to get drunk and get engaged at the same time. It will cost you, of course — at least $10,000.

The funny thing is this is a bit of a trend. At least three different bars are offering “proposal cocktails” that include jewelry. It’s one-stop shopping for lush lotharios. And here they are.

My favorite recipe (which doesn’t actually include a ring but rather a necklace and some cuff links): Louis XIII Black Pearl cognac, 4 ounces Charles Heidsieck 1981 Champagne Charlie, fresh-squeezed orange juice, apricot puree, Sence rose nectar, two ice cubes, 18-carat gold necklace with Tahitian black pearl, 18-carat gold and stingray-leather Mont Blanc cuff links.

Sounds delish… but after that outlay, we’ll have to elope.

Humphry Slocombe’s Ice Cream For Adults

It’s called a “Secret Breakfast,” but tens of thousands of people seem to know about it: Ice cream from San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe, which operates a tiny Mission shop with about 10 daily concoctions ranging from Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee (better than actual Blue Bottle coffee, IMHO) to Peanut Butter Curry to Pumpkin 5-Spice.

But the real draw here, for many it would seem, is Secret Breakfast, flavored with real whiskey and cut with corn flakes. Get it? Creamy and sweet yet almost overloaded with bourbon flavor (Jim Beam, maybe?), this is the real deal. In fact, it’s so boozy that, unlike Humphry’s other offerings, this one remains a little slushy out of the freezer, since the alcohol stays liquid at that temperature.

But God it’s good. Although I might suggest Rice Krispies in lieu of the corn flakes (and perhaps more of them), this is a whiskey-drinker’s dessert through and through. I enjoyed all of the ice creams I tried (the staff will let you sample them all if you’d like), but this one clearly takes the cake. (I’ve also got a soft spot for the Chocolate Malted Milk, I have to admit.)

It’s also not the only boozy ice cream in the freezer: Slocombe has another confection made with wort, or “pre-beer,” which was unusual and delicious. Also on the menu: Tiny ice cream sandwiches made with foie gras ice cream. Decadent? You better believe it.

Worth the trip, especially if you don’t have to try to spell it!


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Thoughts on Clock Bar, San Francisco

Clock Bar is a hotel bar, yes. But you know what? I like hotel bars — good ones, anyway. They’re not as loud. Not as crowded. And the drinks that get made are often top notch. Plus you get to talk to random tourists, not just jaded locals. Good times.

After passing by many times, I finally hit Clock Bar last night, in the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco’s Union Square. Have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. The drinks — a grapefruit-tangy-tart Nevada and the San Francisco Sensation, which approximates an Aviation but with the addition of mint — were both inspired.

The liquor selection isn’t huge, but it’s solid (though while I was there two people were turned away because Clock inexplicably doesn’t carry Grey Goose). I finished the evening with hard-to-find 15-year-old Springbank single malt, a perfect whisky that I’d love to have more of.

The snacks are good — the truffled popcorn is legendary; could have done without the cheese popcorn in favor of a double dose of the truffled version — but I longed for a more extensive menu. Still, in San Francisco’s nosh-malnourished bar scene, anything is good.

Yeah, it’s a hotel bar. But it’s a solid one. Go.


What Does a $20 Bloody Mary Look Like?

Like this.

San Francisco’s Waterbar serves this $20 “Ultimate” Bloody Mary, which largely speaks for itself. The garnishes — bacon and two jumbo boiled shrimp — steal the show, but the Bloody itself is darn good, too. Belevedere Vodka — not my favorite on its own — works fine with this superb blend of tomato juice and spices, and the ratio is spot-on. Drink through the straw or get an extra pepper kick by sipping from the glass, which is rimmed with more spicy goodness.

Be warned: That’s a whole pint of Bloody Mary, and it packs a serious wallop that had me napping for most of the afternoon. Awesome concoction.


Free Drinks in Your Neighborhood

God, this is a great idea. Myopenbar.com tells you where and when you can get free drinks in New York City, SF, LA, Chicago, Honolulu, or Miami, pretty much every day of the week. Some require purchase of food or a cover charge, some are promo events, and some require lady parts. NYC gets most of the action.

The New York Times has the sordid backstory.

Bar Review: The Four Seasons; Austin, Texas

Spent New Year’s Eve in Austin, Texas this year — specifically at one of the classiest joints in town, the lounge within the Four Seasons hotel, a fixture of downtown Austin and a bar which I’ve visited dozens of times. (I had martinis here before hanging out with Leaving Las Vegas director Mike Figgis, even.)

Normally the bar is quiet and mellow — New Year’s is, of course, a different bag (complete with $25 cover charge). I don’t hold that against them, of course — most nights you’ll find things quiet and upscale here, not chock full of twentysomethings looking for Mr. Right/Rich.

The cocktail menu features a few interesting originals, many driven by the bar’s Texas roots. Tito’s Vodka and Treaty Oak rum figure prominently, as do South-friendly fare like margaritas and mojitos. The favorites of the (long) evening included the Batini Black (Tito’s, blackberries, fresh grapefruit juice, and Champagne) — with the bat-shaped berry and mint leaf garnish really sealing the deal — and the Mojotini, essentially a straight mojito with Prosecco instead of a splash of soda. Its a nice twist and one I may rely on for future mojitos.

Less thrilling: The Raspberry Mojito (mojito plus raspberry puree), which didn’t taste strongly of either of its namesakes, and (worse) the Lychee Martini (Ciroc Vodka and lychee juice), which tasted watery and would have been better with lychee liqueur or St. Germain instead of this thin mix.

I also sampled a couple of Scotches and was downright shocked to see how much was served in a glass (snifter, not an old-fashioned glass). Check out the photo below for some idea… I figure the pours were at least 2 1/2 ounces.

At $11 to $12.50, cocktails aren’t cheap, but hardly out of line for a four-star hotel. There’s also a capable bar food menu, but I was sad to find that the guacamole garnishing various plates was definitely out of a bag, not freshly made (heresy in Texas cuisine). A small knock on an otherwise solid bar — just make sure you order wisely from the cocktail menu.

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Give a Pal a Drink… 3000 Miles Away

Anyone ever try this service? I’d love to hear how well it works…

Step 1 -Select – Choose a friend. Give a drink credit of $1 to $99, good towards a purchase at any Bar or Restaurant!

Step 2 – Style -Style your gift by making a drink suggestion and adding a personal message.

Step 3 – Send -Pay with a credit card to place your order. Your friend will immediately receive a gift notification via email, with instructions on how to redeem their Real Drink!

The credits are claimed to work in “any bar or restaurant in the United States” … and I can think of a few dives in which I’d immediately try to put that to the test.

Know Any December 5 Birthdays?

Many catches, but there’s up to $75 in it for ya…

We’re offering a $75 bounty for a Bay Area resident turning 75 on Dec. 5, 2008, and a $25 bounty for a local turning 21 on the same day. You see, Dec. 5 is the 75th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. Yes, it was the 21st Amendment that gave Americans the right to drink again, and we’re planning to celebrate with a march (to the pub) for beer. We need a couple of Grand Marshalls to lead the parade, so we’re looking for someone turning 21 and someone turning 75.

Get all the details here