Drink of the Week: Going All In On the Vesper Lynd At the Burritt Room
Few bars have endured as much turmoil in the scant three years it's been open as the Burritt Room. Despite a parade of very talented bartenders and bar managers moving through, many cocktail menu changes, a grand remodel with the sale of the bar to restaurateur Charlie Palmer, and the addition of a restaurant component -- the Burritt Tavern -- the one thing you could always count on was a good drink.
Lou Bustamante The Vesper Lynd
Thanks to a new menu by lead bartender Josh Trabulsi who transitioned into the bar when the space got a revamp last year, the quality of the cocktails has reached a level equaling some of the best in the Bay Area. This is due in part to Trabulsi's skills, but more importantly, the cocktails seem to articulate a sense of place. These drinks feel right for the Burritt, a small, but bustling place that conjures a nightlife hideout in an intersection that connects locals with tourists.
Trabulsi's take on the classic James Bond cocktail, the Vesper Lynd ($13, Leopold's Navy Strength Gin, cucumber-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth), is named after the seductive double agent who stole James Bond's heart in Casino Royale. And it immediately stole ours. The two-ingredient cocktail seems simple, but a sip reveals the complexity of its personality, with lavender and juniper contrasting with fragrant and vegetal cucumber notes, all entwined with sweet herbal vermouth. Like the character in the movie and books, the Vesper Lynd is a classy and spirited companion, especially to to chef Luke Knox's Lobster Risotto ($22, spring peas, pea tendrils, mint) -- the green and floral cocktail components bloom with each bite of the fresh spring vegetables and creamy rice.
Lou Bustamante Lobster Risotto
There is an appropriate level of elegance in all the cocktails Trabulsi serves, like the Berlinetta ($12, bourbon, Cynar, Carpano Antica, Price Blood Orange Bitters) that twists bourbon into beautifully spiced, pre-dinner sipper cooled by a single small frozen planetoid in the glass. It's as much fun to look at as it is to drink, and made our scrappy alt-weekly journalist best go from thrifty to Prada just by holding the glass.
Lou Bustamante The Berlinetta
Having gotten his start in Boston barbacking in the 90's, Trabulsi moved to San Diego and transitioned into wine, working and learning his way into a sommelier position at the Hotel Coronado. Just like last call, the bar beckoned him again, and he got behind the bar working at Starwood and Preferred Hotels properties. This led him to San Francisco when the Crescent shifted to Mystic Hotel, and now to lead the bartending team.
Lou Bustamante Lead bartender Josh Trabulsi
While Trabulsi may not be a native to the Bay Area, he certainly tries to honor the drinking culture and gleam some knowledge from the drinking history here. The Knickerbocker à La Monsieur ($13, aged rhum agricole, orange curacao, raspberry, lemon) is a drink that famed bartender Jerry Thomas first created in 1862 at the Occidental Hotel at Bush and Montgomery, not too far from the Burritt Room. Using the original recipe, he adds a slight variation with fresh raspberries to work with grassy funk of the cane spirit.
Lou Bustamante Knickerbocker à La Monsieur
150 years from now, Casino Royale may be as exciting as silent movies are for our current generation, but hopefully the Vesper Lynd will be just as vibrant.
1 ½ oz. Leopold's Navy Strength Gin
1 ½ oz Cucumber-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir longer than usual--the extra dilution here is key to balancing the drink--until cold. Strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish thin cucumber slice.
Burritt Room, 417 Stockton (at Sutter), inside Mystic Hotel, 400-0555