Did you know these cocktail origins can be traced to San Francisco?
Some might surprise you!
The Martini (Martinez Special)
One of the most well-known theories is that the drink originated during the mid-1800s Gold Rush, in Martinez, California, just north of the Bay. While celebrating his recent rise to wealth, a gold miner ordered champagne at a local bar. However, the bar didn’t have any champagne, so the bartender suggested that he try another cocktail from the ingredients he had: vermouth, gin, maraschino liqueur, bitters and a lemon slice, calling it ‘The Martinez Special.’
The Cable Car
The Cable Car, was created in 1996 by Tony Abou-Ganim at the Sir Francis Drake’s Starlight Room. It’s an intriguing little twist on the classic sidecar (get it?) that swaps the original’s cognac for Captain Morgan’s spiced rum, but keeps the orange liqueur and lemon juice. It also adds a cinnamon sugar rim as a garnish, adding to the spice profile of the cocktail.
Pisco Punch (or anything Pisco, really)
The legendary drink was first served over a hundred years ago at the Bank Exchange & Billiard Saloon by Duncan Nicol. Pisco is a traditional brandy that was first introduced in the 16th century in Pisco, Peru and was first seen in San Francisco in the 1830s. The drink is traditionally made with Pisco, pineapple, lime juice, sugar, gum arabic and water, but can also be made with orange juice, simple syrup and other ingredients.
Technically from Oakland, the original shakes together rum, lime juice, Orange Curaçao, syrup, and orgeat. As the legend has it, the drink was created by Victor Bergeron, aka Trader Vic, for some friends visiting from Tahiti. One exclaimed “Maita’i roa ae!” in roaring approval, and thus the Mai Tai claimed its name from the Tahitian word for “good.”
California Milk Punch
Jerry Thomas, who is known as ‘the father of American mixology’ who popularized and created many cocktails we know today, was the first to create Milk Punch. After spending some time gold mining, Thomas became a bartender in San Francisco, which is where he invented the drink. Unlike many cocktails typically found at a bar, this drink takes a few days to make. First, pisco and rum (originally made with Batavia arrack, which can be hard to find in the states) and a variety of spices are infused for about two days. Then these cold ingredients, which are strained, are combined with hot milk, curdling the milk. This mixture then sits for a few hours or days before serving.
Boothby (Basically The Manhattan)
The Boothby cocktail is a San Francisco classic that was invented by Bill Boothby, San Francisco’s cocktail pioneer. Boothby, a well-known bartender at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco in the early 1900s. The Boothby cocktail became famous when H. Joseph Ehrmann was reading Bill Boothby’s obituary and discovered it as Boothby’s signature drink. The recipe we know today is basically a classic Manhattan cocktail—whiskey, sweet vermouth and angostura bitters— but with a topper of champagne. The Boothby original cocktail is made of equal parts of vermouth and bourbon, angostura bitters and topped with a champagne floater and an orange twist for garnish.
El Draque (Mojito)
Although the exact origin of this classic cocktail is the subject of debate. One story traces the Mojito to a similar 16th century drink known as “El Draque”, after Sir Francis Drake. In 1586, after his successful raid at Cartagena de Indias Drake’s ships sailed towards Havana but there was an epidemic of dysentery and scurvy on board. It was known that the local South American Indians had remedies for various tropical illnesses, so a small boarding party went ashore on Cuba and came back with ingredients for an effective medicine. The ingredients were aguardiente de caña (translated as fire water, a crude form of rum made from sugar cane) mixed with local tropical ingredients: lime, sugarcane juice, and mint. Lime juice on its own would have significantly prevented scurvy and dysentery, and tafia/rum was soon added as it became widely available to the British (ca. 1650). Mint, lime and sugar were also helpful in hiding the harsh taste of this spirit. While this drink was not called a Mojito at this time, it was the original combination of these ingredients.