More and more often, restaurant bars are mixing and matching their menus to fit what is coming out of the kitchen. Although not always a perfect match, the trend toward lighter, seasonally-driven cocktails, like the ones at the Grand Cafe with head bartender Kristin Almy are becoming the norm.
Almy, who worked previously at Bar Adagio and Miss Pearl’s Restaurant and Lounge, has a sense for the classic cocktail, but includes traditional French spirits and the amazing seasonal Bay Area produce to come up with her cocktail menu, which changes quarterly.
“I actually wouldn’t mind changing it even more often. When most people think of French drinks, they obviously think first about wine and champagne. But I wanted the cocktail list to capture the spirit of the past, matching the 1920’s feel of the restaurant,” Almy said.
From the names of the cocktails (Merci, Bardot, Moulin Rouge) to the presentation, customers really get a sense that they are not only being served a wonderful drink, but almost like they are going back in time to a different era. “We have such a wide range of guests coming in, from people staying at the hotel, to international travelers, to people milling around Union Square or those going to a show that I wanted to have items that are creative and unique, but also things that are familiar,” said Almy.
The cocktails at Grand Cafe are lighter in nature, although Almy said the menu goes from “low to high octane” from the top to the bottom of the page. “I am starting to do more with in-house bitters and am really focusing on seasonal produce. For example, the Merci has a house-made blackberry liqueur. When blackberries go out of season, I’ll switch it up to include some other fruit,” she said. “Stuff like peaches and cherries will be making their way onto the menu soon.”
Almy said she likes “the challenge” of creating a menu that fits the theme of a French cafe or brasserie and her creations show it. She makes drinks that taste wonderful and refreshing, yet still pack a bit of a punch. And she not only appeals to taste. Items like the Bardot (lavender-infused Absolut, St. Germaine, lemon, rosemary syrup, egg white) have an amazingly fragrant smell while the Merci (Noilly Prat dry vermouth, house-made blackberry liqueur, sparkling wine) is a visual stunning drink with a beautiful red color to it.
When she has some free time, she loves immersing herself in the cocktail culture in San Francisco at dive bars and top-end spots or mixing up drinks with her fellow bartenders at local events and competitions. She said that when she gets off of work, fresh from serving up cocktails all day, she loves to wind down at home with a nice glass of scotch. A woman after my own heart!
Grand Cafe is located at 501 Geary Street. The bar is open seven days a week, Sunday-Thursday from 11:30 am-11:00 pm and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am-midnight. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Main Photo Credit: Grand Cafe