The cocktail scene in San Francisco is ever-burgeoning. New restaurants almost are required to have a great cocktail program to be a success and consumers are more and more educated about what goes into their drinks. So over the next month, we’ll take a look at some of the city’s best bartenders and get their stories.
The award-winning Quince in Jackson Square is probably best known for chef Michael Tusk’s amazing cuisine and a first-class dining experience. The restaurant recently made “the holy grail” nabbing four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer. But perhaps an under-the-radar aspect of Quince is the wonderful cocktail program in the refurbished bar and lounge led by lead bartender Corey Harrison.
“I’m in a unique situation. I’m not only a bartender but also a captain. I have to really understand the food that is being served and work on marrying it with the drinks I come up with for my menu,” Harrison said. “I don’t want the drinks to be too strong; that will just overpower the food. I don’t want to make the drinks too crazy but I also want to work with the ingredients that are readily available.”
Harrison said he changes the bar and lounge menu about 5-6 times a year, usually based on the seasons and the fresh produce that is available at that time. Understanding the clientele at Quince, he makes sure to always have classic cocktails and spirits available. But he also has some leeway in his creations as well. “I want to have a nice mix of items, not just to have the classic Martini or Manhattan. So for the seasonal cocktails, I try to create classic cocktails with a bit of my own twist, something that can be readily enjoyed by someone having dinner or a group looking to grab a few drinks after work,” he said.
Currently, Harrison has drinks like the Lucien Gaudin (a more citrusy version of a Negroni), Tita’s Sangaree, his fresh take on a traditional Sangaree featuring tequila and a rosemary foam and Cameron’s Kick #2, almost like a dessert cocktail with scotch and an amazing passionfruit consomme. “One of the things I am really proud of is that we are working to get more local producers on our menu. We try to shy away from cocktail vendors that are mass producers,” he said. “Plus, our beer and whiskey programs are really evolving. When I first started out here in November of 2009, I was a bit of a novice in terms of whiskey. But now, I am constantly learning more and more as our whiskey program continues to evolve and move forward.”
Although many of the classic spirits and cocktails are constants on the menu, Harrison said he loves to give diners and those stopping in for a drink and/or small bite options. “We do plenty of special pairings. We do a beer and cheese pairing and scotch and cheese as well,” he said. “And we also do specials for events like the Oscars and the Kentucky Derby. I created some cocktails that I thought were a representation of Hollywood of year’s past and for the Kentucky Derby, we are featuring plenty of Kentucky bourbons throughout the week.”
Another huge part of his success is appealing to different senses in his cocktails. “I try to make drinks appealing visually with bright colors, giving each drink a unique smell and taste. And we really focus on glassware here at Quince. We have different glasses for different drinks, some much more unique than others. Visually, it really adds something to the experience. You won’t see this glassware in many San Francisco bars and restaurants” To that end, Harrison has introduced tableside cocktail service, where your drink is prepared in front of you, another added touch to the experience at Quince.
A fine dining experience and a fine drinking experience as well, part of the wonderful appeal of Quince.
Quince is located at 470 Pacific Avenue. Bar and lounge hours are from 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday.