June 2004

Peg Wallace

San Francisco’s New Drinks

Though long the home of wine sippers, microbrews and tourists sipping Irish Coffees at the Buena Vista, San Francisco has developed a bit of an exotic sweet tooth. And while Chocolate Martinis may be on drink menus everywhere, San Francisco bars have taken the sweet cocktail a step further, by putting an organic, and exotic spin on things.

Aziza, the city’s hippest Moroccan restaurant located in the Richmond District, is not only famous for its California-influenced Moroccan cuisine, but also for an eclectic twist on classic cocktails.

The drinks at Aziza are designed to compliment the exotic fare. Take the orange blossom martini, which blends hangar one mandarin blossom vodka, blonde lillet and orange blossom water for a drink that is bright and crisp, with a hint of floral sweetness. The ginger & pear martini, combines pear infused gin with fresh ginger muddled with frangelico and simple syrup. Just the right flavors to balance Middle Eastern spices and ingredients such as almonds, dates, olives and preserved lemons.

For those languidly enjoying Sunday brunch at Aziza, the aged balsamic morocco mary is a blend of organic tomato juice, fresh-squeezed lime juice, vodka & harissa, a Tunisian-style hot sauce made with hot chilies, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil ? not a beverage you’ll likely find on other drink menus.

The wine list is also off the beaten California-heavy path, with selections from Alsace, Spain, Germany and Italy, and listed on the menu under categories such as “herbal,” “floral,” “crisp & dry,” “spicy” and “robust.”