Appetite: Highlights of SF Cocktail Week, part 1 - Page 2

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The back room of one of my favorite bars, Burritt Room, was transformed into a turn-of-the-century, Barbary Coast-era saloon/parlor with craps, blackjack, roulette and poker (sans real money), and a beautiful menu of classic cocktails prepared with skillful care, from The Last Word to a Boulevardier with scotch. A jazz quartet (with talented female vocalist) set the mood, transporting me to another time, as did the decked-out crowd who filled but did not overcrowd the room with bowler hats, suspenders, boas, saloon or retro attire. It was a swank affair that carried on late into the night with an after-party at Comstock Saloon.

9/25 - Cocktail Carnival Gala

The event of the week, Cocktail Carnival Gala in the stunning, historic Old Mint, was a brilliant night. I only wish even more people filled  (not overcrowded) the spacious mansion we were given free reign in. This was a one-of-a-kind night I'd plan towards next year. The Barbary Coast-Era carnival theme included roving minstrels, talented musicians, contortionists, man-on-stilts, jugglers and acrobats, roving among us through each high-ceilinged room as we sipped punches from antique punch bowls.

Leave it to Martin Cate from Smuggler's Cove to wow us with a 40-gallon rum punch bowl with flaming volcano shooting out of a sea of spiced punch. Daniel Hyatt and the Alembic crew scooped some mighty tasty 'swill' out of a swampy bucket. One cachaca-based punch sported an ethereal liquid nitrogen top. Bartenders from Elixir, Cantina and 15 Romolo ensured there was not one bad drink in the house.

Chef Chris L’Hommedieu of Restaurant Michael Mina and William Werner of Tell Tale Preserve Co. sent out small but impeccable bites like lobster corn dogs, chips topped with caviar and creme fraiche, and lush dark chocolate caramel cake squares.

The courtyard of the Old Mint was a surreal setting transporting me directly to an ancient Spanish or Italian square. Chipped building facades contrasted against a deep, midnight blue sky. As minstrels serenaded us on this warm, sultry night while the full moon cast a glow over the courtyard, I felt alive with the night... one of those perfect moments that lives illuminated in memory.

The evening ended (at 2am) with a bang: Brass Mafia played and we began to dance. Circling in and among us, their blaring brass brought to life songs from musicians as random as Michael Jackson, Salt-n-Pepa, Men at Work, even Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It", all in New Orleans' brass band style (they threw in a few classic Nola Dixieland tunes, too). It was a joyous, raucous dance.

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