Smooth Sailing At Sports Bar

Published on August 6th, 2013

(August 6, 2013) – The America’s Cup races may have gotten off to a stumbling start, but the event’s “pop-up” sports bar at Pier 27 in San Francisco is sailing along nicely.

A collaboration among restaurant vet Eric Rubin, San Francisco builder Karl Hasz and mixologist Scott Beattie, the America’s Cup Sports Bar is an excellent place to enjoy a cocktail along with a sweeping view of the Bay, even for people who can’t tell their boom from their rudder.

The 12,000-square-foot bar — actually two bars with a third, smaller bar out front — feels airy and expansive, due to the incredibly high ceilings, industrial chic decor and an open patio looking out to the Bay. Almost as a reminder that it’s about the sailing, some of the decor and furnishings were made of catamaran pontoons and other salvaged boat parts. (We asked our bartender what one piece of nautical equipment was that was hanging on a wall, but he didn’t know. However, he made a fine drink.)

The bar seats about a dozen people in some of the least comfortable metal stools I’ve ever encountered. If you have the chance, try to grab one of the comfy sofa chairs overlooking the water. If there’s racing going on, it’ll be a mob scene, but on other days, it’s a mostly quiet stream of tourists.

We’d been told that a Pimm’s Cup was the traditional cocktail of the America’s Cup. I’ve since learned that it’s also the traditional cocktail for Wimbledon, so it’s probably the traditional cocktail for any sporting event of the country club set. I remember enjoying Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, a wonderfully light liqueur, mixed with French lemonade and a slice of English cucumber at many a house party, but the drink I got at the America’s Cup Sports Bar was much more interesting.

Beattie’s recipe calls for a small shot of locally produced St. George Terroir gin, which helps bring out the gin-based flavor of the Pimm’s. It’s mixed with a bit of lemon juice and the zingy Bundaberg ginger beer (with a dash of Angostura bitters, to boot, which I credit for the drink’s slightly pink hue). It’s served up in a thick glass with ice, garnished with a ring of cucumber slices and a bay leaf rising from the drink’s surface like a green mainsail. The presentation makes it look almost too good to drink (but I did).

It’s a refreshing summer cocktail, with just enough kick to encourage a second. But we had to move on elsewhere on the cocktail menu. With classic cocktails all the rage these days, it’s not unusual to find a Negroni, Old Fashioned or Manhattan on a menu. This bar had three versions of each drink, and every one of them seemed to have its own personality.

There’s a mile of difference between two Manhattans — the Yachtsman, a traditional sort made with Evan Williams single-barrel bourbon and Templeton Rye, and the Leatherman, which includes Qi black tea liqueur — created by nudging the recipe an inch here and there.

We loved everything about the Frisco Mule, except the name. This modified version of the Moscow Mule was topped with fresh grated nutmeg and included a syrupy concoction called a ginger shrub.

All the cocktails are $14 each, which is convenient but costly if you’re tempted to try out a few new things. The Napa Valley-heavy wine menu includes everything from a glass of chardonnay from Napa Cellars for $9 to a $100 bottle of Chateau Montelena’s 2010 chardonnay.

The only major disappointment was the beer menu. Peroni, the Italian beer that’s the bar’s major sponsor, is there, but the rest of the menu is uninspiring, save for a couple of highlights, like 21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die IPA. Thank goodness the cocktails more than made up for it.

The regular food menu isn’t that big, but we were very happy with a Charcuterie and Cheese Board ($21 for two people) and a trio of sliders ($14). The sliders come in three varieties — barbecue short ribs, braised pork belly and pulled turkey — all on brioche buns from Acme Bread. The pulled turkey, surprisingly more spicy than the short ribs, was our favorite.

Far more tempting is the brunch menu, available until 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, with a variety of breakfast sandwiches, egg dishes and a Farmer’s Market Inspired Quiche ($47) that can be shared among four or five people.

A quick word on getting there: Parking is incredibly tight on the Embarcadero because of the America’s Cup. Your best bet is to take Caltrain or BART (or just park elsewhere in San Francisco) and take Muni. The historic F-line streetcar stops nearby, or it’s just a short walk from the Ferry Building.

When: Through Sept. 30
Where: Pier 27, San
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
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