Hooked on Tonics: Priscilla Young of Brasserie S&P

Brasserie S&P at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is officially set to open on Monday the 18th with a unique gin and tonic focused cocktail program: Patrons can customize the perfect gin & tonic for themselves by selecting one of 31 different gins (most accompanied by tasting notes), choice of tonic water, including two house made varieties, and finally one of the elegant garnishes. For those that would rather meander than chart their own course, bar manager/sommelier Priscilla Young features a rotating Gin & Tonic flight ($18, three different gins served with one of the house made tonics).

Any uncertainty about the idea melts under the force of Young's enthusiasm, knowledge, and most importantly, carefully considered combinations like the Indian Summer in Mt. Tam ($14) that blends local St. George 'Terroir' Gin with her Sensei saffron tonic water.

We caught up with bar manager/sommelier Priscilla Young to chat about her love of gin, creating tonic recipes, and what to expect in the future.

Lou Bustamante
The Indian Summer in Mt. Tam cocktail
Why design a gin and tonic focused bar program?

Gin and tonic is one of the most widely called for cocktails, not only in our hotel but internationally. In England, when I traveled there in the summer, patrons that usually have a beer in hand have a gin and tonic instead. In the home of London dry style gins, it was refreshing to see a larger selection of gins. Admittedly I hadn't seen this before in the States. Plus, bartenders would ask me what gin I would like and what tonic I would like, which led me to think that there might be something here.

Then I attended a lecture on gins at the Boothby Center that did a comparative gin tasting to highlight the difference in flavors. It blew my mind how with the addition of one mixer while keeping the soda and the gin constant altered the way the gin is highlighted. Thus, I began my research in creating tonic water with unique characteristics to best showcase gin.

So this what inspired the development of the house made tonics. How did you get started?

I asked a few fellow bartenders and mixologists who are known for their house made tinctures and bitters whether they you ever experimented making tonics. I took the basics from them -- quinine plus sugar plus water -- and made it my own. The recipes I followed were okay and dark in color; therefore, I spent a lot of time in my home kitchen and at Mandarin Oriental experimenting. I cooked up 18 different tonic waters with some great results! My goal was to create a tonic that tasted great alone, and was worthy of conversation, visually appealing, all natural, and highlighted the citrus notes in gins.

Lou Bustamante
The gin & tonic flight
Are you creating a variety of tonics or just one house one?

A variety. I don't know how to turn off my creativity. I am constantly experimenting. I am opening the new restaurant with two to start. The Sensei Tonic #1 and the Saffron Tonic. I am working on a few others at the moment. A rosemary. A rhubarb. Tonic #2 that brings out the earthy flavors of a gin just like Sensei Tonic #1 brings out the citrus.

Does the restaurant's cuisine influence the flavor profile?

Absolutely! Chef [Adam Mali] and I use many of the same ingredients, spices, and fruits sourced from the same farmers and producers. If he has extra produce or extra jam he made, he will give it to me to use in the bar. Or most often, he sources a new exotic fruit or spice and I would take some. As a result, the tonic and food will complement and have the same level of quality. The flavors I add to my tonics show off my personality, ethnicity and our Mandarin Oriental roots by incorporating spices and fruits that originate in Asia.

Brasserie S&P (at the Mandarin Oriental), 222 Sansome (at Pine) San Francisco, 986-2020

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

Location Info

Brasserie S&P

222 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

The Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts

1161 Mission St., San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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