New bar concepts are getting more arcane and ornate. Bellocq in New Orleans has taken Cobblers, the ice-laden, 19th-century refreshments, as its focus. Demi-Monde in lower Manhattan may be as close to a soda fountain as a liquor bar can get, so much fizz and phosphate is there in their inventive drinks menu. Now there's Tradition Bar, the latest from the San Francisco team that brought you Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse. The saloon has placed its bets equally on barrel-aged cocktails and overproof spirits, two hot trends right now. On top of that, it's menu is divided in types of bar. There's a dive bar section, an Irish pub section, a hotel bar section—you get the idea.
But perhaps the most singular, the most peculiar, the most interesting aspect of the program is Traditions Bar's determination to revive the lost (and perhaps better off lost) liquor category of Irish-American Whiskey. I don't know if this is something the world was dying to see recreated. But I, for one, am curious to see how it tastes.
Here's my New York Times article on the bar:
In San Francisco, Reviving Irish-American WhiskeyBy ROBERT SIMONSON
Irish-American whiskey has returned.
What is Irish-American whiskey? Ian Scalzo, the beverage director of the soon-to-open Tradition Bar in San Francisco, says it is a relic. “This is something they had in the 19th century and after Prohibition it got wiped out,” he said. Well, Prohibition didn’t kill it altogether. William Jameson Irish American Whiskey, a brand advertised in the 1930s, boasted that it contained “American for flavor and Irish for bouquet.”
It’s just what is sounds like — a blend of Irish and American whiskeys. Mr. Scalzo said it was a “way to spread out the product a little more.”
He and his partners in Tradition Bar, the team behind Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse, did some research into the forgotten elixir and then created their own. One of their blends is a mix of Redbreast 12-year-old Irish whiskey and Old Overholt American rye. The two are put in a barrel for a couple weeks and the result is “kind of the best of both worlds,” said Mr. Scalzo. “You get the sweetness of the Irish and a nice bit of spice from the rye.”
Tradition Bar takes its lead from history in other ways. The menu will pay homage to classic bar categories, including “The Dive Bar,” “Grand Hotel” and “The Big Easy.”
“We took traditional American bars from the ages and made them into their own section,” said Mr. Scalzo. The dive bar part of the menu will feature “not great drinks that we’ve re-imagined,” for example, a pre-bottled, barrel-aged Long Island iced tea. The “Grand Hotel” category will contain drinks named after or created in hotels, like the Sidecar or the Waldorf. “The Big Easy” will include cocktails invented in New Orleans, including the Vieux Carre and a few Sazerac variations. There will also be menu divisions dedicated to the Irish pub (lots of Irish whiskey), Scottish pub (plenty of Scotch) and English pub (gin, cider and Pimm’s).
Every section will feature at least one barrel-aged creation, some using overproof spirits. The owners have bought barrels from two cooperages, varying in size from one gallon to five, as well as in the level of char. Mr. Scalzo and company finish the barrels by filling them briefly with anything from Scotch to Chartreuse to coffee, and then fill those barrels with spirits ranging from gin to rum to whiskey. One example: a barrel treated with smoky Ardbeg Islay Scotch was then occupied rich Ron Zacapa rum from Guatemala. The resulting potions will sometimes be sold straight and other times incorporated into cocktails.
The bar will have two entrances, one for those with reservations and the other for walk-ins. The reservation section will contain confessional-like booths called snugs. The walk-in area — which will have a pared-down menu — will have a mezzanine where all the barrels will be stacked.