The Year in Food: Cocktails Get More Respect

Categories: Trend Watch
Melissa Barnes/SF Weekly
Bar Agricole was among a handful of ambitious bar/restaurants to open in 2010.
Twelve months, ten storylines: It's SFoodie's annual look back at the year in food.

To call 2010 a revolutionary year in cocktails would be an overstatement. But it was certainly a year in which cocktail-making became an even more serious pursuit.

Fewer and fewer people walk into a bar expecting to order their favorite drink ― more of us go to a bar to see what the bartender can do for us. A few years back, San Francisco became known for garden-fresh cocktails that incorporated fresh juices, local herbs. But bartenders are putting the muddler in the drawer and focusing instead on concocting their own mixers like tonic water, bitters, falernum, and this year's trendiest ingredient, gum syrups.

Buoyed by the success of restaurants with cocktail bars such as Nopa and Heaven's Dog, this year saw a slew of ambitious new restaurants who believed ambitious cocktails were as important (and PR-worthy) as the quality of the food. The most prominent: The Barbary Coast-era Comstock Saloon; Bar Agricole, which featured Thad Vogler's garden-to-glass approach to cocktails; Prospect, the Boulevard team's second restaurant, which hired the amazing Brooke Arthur to oversee the bar; and the gorgeous Twenty Five Lusk, which is, in terms of square footage, slightly more lounge than restaurant.

Lou Bustamante
Smuggler's Cove: helping to redeem tiki, one mai tai after another.
Operating at one degree of intensity lower were all the new restaurants that publicized the name of the consulting bartender who created their cocktail program. (Sadly, the phrase "cocktail program" is entering the mainstream.) In fact, many well-known bartenders left full-time posts behind to become consultants and brand ambassadors for specific liquor brands. 

A few random notes from the year: San Francisco Cocktail Week, now in its fourth year, continued to grow in scale and popularity. Vermouth, rye, mezcal, and pisco all had a good 2010. Tiki bars and rum cocktails recaptured the imagination of the food media, thanks in no small part to San Francisco's Martin Cate and his new tiki bar, Smuggler's Cove. And SFoodie noticed way too many bars serving Harvey Wallbangers. We're not ready for their return.

If we can make a completely off-the-wall trend prediction, SFoodie has a feeling that San Francisco's passion for Japanese cuisine and our thing for Japanese coffee-making equipment is going to spread to Japanese whisky and shochu drinks. Mizuwari!

Other 2010 trends:
- Filipino Finds Its Voice
- Local Media Explodes
- Big-Ticket Dining Surges
- Pizza Pizza Pizza Pizza
- Vegan Goes Mainstream
- Street Food Gets Serious
Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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