Tag Archive for nightlife

The Orchard Manhattan at Bijou

The Orchard Manhattan
Bijou, Hayward

The Orchard Manhattan is an original twist on the classic manhattan cocktail, though I’d say it’s closer to an old-fashioned, actually. It’s made with bourbon, apricot and walnut liqueurs, and black walnut and autumn-spiced bitters. I can’t tell you what the autumn spices are, but I can tell you that I like this drink right from the presentation.


The cherry garnish divides it into visually pleasing segments. The drink maintains the dryness of a manhattan, although it is sweeter than the standard. The walnut presence makes me think of praline candies, and I enjoy the floral note that probably rides in with the apricot liqueur. However, I miss the little hint of citrus that comes with an orange twist or wheel in an old-fashioned. Somehow, the apricot liqueur doesn’t capture it. Add the citrus back in, and this drink is near perfection.


Reviewed 11 Jan 14.

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The Wildfire at Firehouse 37

The Wildfire
Firehouse 37, San Ramon


This cocktail’s made with Templeton rye, Giffard vanilla liqueur, and bitters, a pretty straightforward combination. Cocktail shaking provides a lovely top layer of icy foam. The vanilla liqueur takes the edge off the rye whiskey, yet the cocktail avoids being overly sweet, which is a good thing. The bitters lend the drink some depth, but I’d prefer that the character of the rye shined more. Perhaps a citrus or floral mixer would liven it up?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect more kick from a drink named the Wildfire. It’s more about making rye palatable to the average drinker, which is a worthy cause but one that doesn’t let the Wildfire live up to its name.


Reviewed 11 Jan 14.


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The Cantina


After a fun night out at Kuleto’s last November, our friends introduced us to one of their favorite drink spots, just a few blocks away.


See that fruit bowl of citrus on the counter? It was one of many, and the smell of them permeated the room. There is no question that the Cantina uses freshly squeezed citrus in nearly all their drinks—you can taste it in the air. I could not get over how divine it smelled. I also loved the bright, understated, tiki-bar vibe of the place.


We were there early for the bar crowd, around 8:30 pm. It was filling up by the time we left about an hour later. During that time, I imbibed on two different cocktails. The first was my favorite.


Excuse the blurry pics—it’s hard adjusting focus in dim lighting! That drink is the blackberry and cabernet caipirinha made with Cabana cachaça, muddled limes, Driscoll Farm blackberries, and Carlos Basso cabernet. I’ve loved nearly all caipirinhas I’ve met, and this one is near the top of the list. To be fair, it was nearer to sangria with the addition of the cabernet, but it was delicious regardless. With all the ripe blackberry juice, it had no choice but to shine.

The second was the Cantina’s house pisco punch, made with pisco, crushed pineapple, that fresh-squeezed citrus, angostura bitters, and the bar’s secret sauce.


It is an elegant drink I can definitely recommend, though the pisco’s presence might be stronger than expected for someone imagining a fruit punch. The citrus shone, and I honestly have no clue as to what their secret sauce might contain. That cocktail only comes second to the caiprinha because competing with fresh blackberry juice is an inherently unfair match up.

The Cantina is worth going to just to revel in its divine citrus scent. With drinks that deliver on that promise, it’s bound to become one of my favorites.


The Cantina
580 Sutter Street
Union Square, San Francisco

Cantina on Urbanspoon

Reviewed 1 December 2013.

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