Discreetly stationed between a neon-lit strip club and the site of San Francisco’s first jailhouse, 15 Romolo is the kind of back-alley watering hole that oozes character, cultivation, and old-world ambiance. This classy little establishment, located in the distinguished yet seedy North Beach neighborhood, is named for the address it shares with the Basque Hotel—a guesthouse that historically has catered to a clientele of predominantly Basque heritage.
It is a sweet summer-like evening in San Francisco, and your faithful correspondent is here on assignment to meet Ian Adams, a fine local gentleman and bar manager of 15 Romolo. The purpose of today’s visit is to discuss gin, exploring this fabled spirit that in years past has begun to deliver in new ways on its promise as a liquor that its maker can imbue with a wide range of flavors. The fact that virtually all gin begins its life as essentially vodka, or a flavorless base spirit, means that the sky is the limit. However, in order to be considered a proper gin, there is at least one essential ingredient: juniper berry—a woodsy, slightly bitter botanical.
Most gins also include a citrus essence, oftentimes from the sour and primitive-looking bergamot orange. Bombay Sapphire has released a new label “Bombay Sapphire East,” that showcases the oriental heritage of the traditional botanical structure found in gin. Cardamom, coriander, and ginger are just a few of the spices that you may also pick up on.
For those that prefer their alcoholic beverages with a bit of back story, Ian is the kind of bartender that ensures your visit to be equal parts education and recreation. He skillfully prepared a flight of four gin cocktails and help me get my learn on. Here are the delicious gin cocktails everyone in S.F. should be drinking this spring.