Bar Review: White Cap, San Francisco

Bar Review: White Cap, San Francisco

In San Francisco’s Outer Parkside district, one often gets the feeling that one has reached the literal end of the line. This is a beach community, but the water is so cold and the wind so brisk that spending much time on the beach is reserved only for die-hard surfers and masochists. (It’s so cold that it’s one of few beaches you’ll find these days that allow campfires.) Abutting the sand dunes you’ll find little more than rundown beach houses (San Francisco style, of course, all jammed on top of one another), the occasional diner, and any number of dim dive bars.

In other words: This is not a part of town where hipsters and tourists come to visit and enjoy craft cocktails.

Until now?

White Cap is a brand now operation just blocks from the Pacific, a watering hole looking to bring a little bit of class to this otherwise unremarkable area. It’s a tiny place, with room for about 24 people seated, another dozen or so standing. The menu, which will be updated roughly quarterly, adheres close to the classics for now — usually with a little spin in the form of a unique house-made syrup or an unexpected ingredient.

Case in point is the Cold Chisel (all the drinks are named after tools), a Casino-like cocktail made with Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, grapefruit, lime, and Maraschino. The grapefruit is hefty here, giving it a bit of a bitter finish. I enjoyed it, but a touch of sweetness would have added balance.

The San Angelo, with applejack, St-Germain, allspice dram, cardamom, and lemon was more successful, appropriately wintry with its flood of spices and almond notes. It’s a bit of Christmas in a glass, so pop in for one before the holiday.

As we’re technically by the beach, White Cap’s Mai Tai was a must-try — and was arguably the most popular drink being ordered during our time there. Lots of lime plus ample hogo from its use of pot still rum make it a bold drink — but aside from the lack of a paper umbrella, it’s a stalwart example of tiki. The Cat’s Paw, with tequila, quince, coffee casacara (the flower of the coffee plant), and lemon, was also an unexpectedly beachy drink, with earthy and lightly tropical notes blending into an exotic and seductive whole.

Easily my favorite drink of the night was the Maple Hammer, a simple rendition of the Manhattan with Dickel Rye, bitters, and a maple-walnut reduction. Seductively sweet but incredibly nutty and with just the right amount of maple notes, it’s an example of three ingredients working together perfectly. My only complaint: The drink was served too warm, perhaps an indication that the extremely speedy bartending staff might need to slow things down a tick.

Pop in when you get a chance… but remember to bring your parka, not your swim trunks.

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