Martinis at the Pied Piper Bar

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(Image via sfpalace.com)

In "The Hour," Bernard DeVoto’s slender, sublime tribute to cocktail time, he bemoans the practice of mixing up a batch of martinis and sticking them in the icebox before the guests arrive: “You can no more keep a martini in a refrigerator,” he says, “than a kiss.”

The elusive, vaporous transcendence that is a perfect martini is an alchemy of mood, setting and ingredients conjoined with icy precision and corporeal warmth. The end result, curiously glacial and ardent at once, can melt away the stresses of daily life, lighten a previously tepid mood or forge an intimate bond between you and another warm-blooded mammal.

My favorite place to sample this gin-kissed, vermouth-scented elixir is the Pied Piper Bar (in the Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery at Market, 512-1111), best known for its striking century-old Maxfield Parrish mural. But it's the venue’s rich mahogany accents, tinkle of ice and warm welcome that create the perfect ambiance for the cocktail in question.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Palace's martini is that it remains ice-cold for a good 20 minutes after preparation through some alchemy beyond my personal ken. And the establishment's elite cadre of barkeeps all seem to have the same innate sense of proportion, resulting in a supple, soul-soothing example of the genre served in roomy, crystalline glasses. . .salud. --Matthew Stafford


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