In recent months, more bars and restaurants in San Francisco have begun offering one or two truly opulent cocktails. Some come with luxurious seafood garnishes, others are crafted with rare or top-shelf spirits and other special ingredients.
Here are four of San Francisco’s priciest Martinis—along with a handful of other high-priced libations for good measure.
Shaken, Stirred, Expensive
The Merrior Martini
At the Ferry Building location of Hog Island Oyster Co., bar manager Saul Ranella recently changed the format of the house Vesper variation from using an oyster-infused gin that is no longer produced to including foraged nori seaweed in the glass along with gin and aperitif wines. The Merroir Martini ($30) is garnished with smoked trout roe set upon a lemon rind and comes with an oyster on the side.
The Pabu Martini
The just-launched drink menu from bar manager Natalie Lichtman at Pabu in the Financial District features a Pabu Martini With Caviar. The drink, which consists of dry gin, vermouth and plum bitters, comes with 4g of sturgeon caviar resting upon a flavored lotus root chip garnish. The cost? A cool $36.
The Cicchetti Martini
It’s not the only Caviar Martini in town. At the new Venice-inspired glitzy lounge Bar Sprezzatura near the Embarcadero, a section of the drink menu is dedicated to cocktails that come with small bites on the side. Leading the section is the Cicchetti—a dirty vodka martini with olive brine and truffle oil, accompanied by a dish of burrata-stuffed Italian red peppers, prosciutto and black truffle caviar. The setup comes on a silver platter and costs $34.
The Post Martini
Another new truffle-accented Martini can be found at Tenderheart at the Line Hotel on Market Street in the form of The Post Martini. It contains gin, white truffle, butter, dill and fortified wine. This one will only run you $16, but it doesn’t come with snacks.
Opulence by Another Name
The Deliciously Decadent Sazerac
At Wildhawk in the Mission District, the Deliciously Decadent Sazerac is made with a split base of Martell Cordon Bleu cognac and Wild Turkey 101 rye, plus absinthe and bitters for $25. This drink has been on the menu for a few years, but General Manager Christian “Suzu” Suzuki says it started selling better during the pandemic. The bar also offers a $30 martini called the Tré Fancy Martini that includes Procera Blue Dot Gin from Africa and Yzaguirre Reserva vermouth.
The Flaming Beauty
In other restaurants, the value-added bonus is found inside the glass. Miller & Lux, the Tyler Florence steakhouse adjacent to the Chase Center, serves $24 Manhattans and Martinis, but the $35 Flaming Beauty is the bigger splurge here. It is a warm drink made with Hennessy VSOP cognac, Grand Marnier orange liqueur, high-proof rum, Cardamaro (cardoon and blessed thistle liqueur) and chocolate bitters. The drink is served in a snifter and lit on fire tableside.
The Blue Blazer
Another high-dollar hot cocktail is found at Empress by Boon, the glam top-floor restaurant in Chinatown. There, the 1800s-era Blue Blazer ($36), a drink that is traditionally ignited and poured back and forth between metal mugs, is made with Glengoyne Cask Strength scotch whisky, honey and cinnamon.
The Heir of Pantheon
At Estiatorio Ornos in the Financial District, the Heir of Pantheon (a $42 drink made with Mina’s private stash of W.L. Weller bourbon) from the recent Alexander the Great-inspired cocktail section might make a good sendoff to the year. Should you want to reminisce about simpler times, another menu selection of vintage spirits is the right place to look. In addition to pours of Suze or Campari from the 1970s, the restaurant also offers a seasonal drink called Autumn. The $65 cocktail contains Gordon’s gin and Cynar (artichoke liqueur) from the 1970s and framboise liqueur from the 1960s in a drink inspired by the Negroni.
Camper English can be reached at [email protected]