It was last September when I took over the spirits buyer position at K&L and my first mission was to tap into the Classic Cocktail revival that is happening in comsopolitan cities like our own San Francisco (although ironically Cosmopolitans are not a part of it). We have always had a great selection of brown booze, but we weren't doing enough to tap into this newly blossoming scene of pre-Prohibition libations. For those of you who know nothing of this so-called movement here's a quick synopsis: when Prohibition made alcohol illegal in the U.S. it destroyed the craft of bartending - and during those days it was indeed a craft. There were unknown quantities of secret recipes for syrups, bitters, liqueurs, and cordials that disappeared with the men who had created them, not to mention to collective knowledge of building cocktails with them. Luckily there is some documentation from this period - such as the now reprinted Savoy Cocktail Book - that gives us a peek into some of the recipes. Unfortunately, unless you have a bottle of orgeat or pineapple gum syrup somewhere in your cupboard, you're going to have a tough time recreating many of the best drinks. Enter Jennifer Colliau.
Lucky for us, the Bay Area is brimming with some of the planet's finest bartenders and one of them has taken matters into her own hands. Small Hand Foods is the result of one woman's desire to provide bartenders (including herself) and cocktail enthusiasts everywhere with the missing pieces of the pre-Prohibition puzzle. With other producers focusing on lost liqueurs such as Creme de Violette and Falernum, Jennifer Colliau decided to fill in the gaps and focus on forgotten sweetening agents such as gum syrups and quality grenadine. Practicing her craft behind the bar at top destinations like the Slanted Door, and currently at SF's top cocktail destination Heaven's Dog, she had mixologists everywhere in a frenzy for her historically accurate drinks. The demand for quality versions of these syrups was so high that she started bottling her recipe and selling it herself. Because of increasing interest in classic cocktails nationwide (and the fact that Jennifer is the only one currently producing and selling these things) she has finally found a producer to help her concoct the recipes to her own high standard. Now that they are being distributed throughout the state, there is finally enough supply for K&L to stock it consistantly and I couldn't be more excited.
You might be thinking at this point: "David, that's great that your so happy, but what exactly am I supposed to do with these things?" That's a great question! Did you know that a drink called Pisco Punch was once the most popular drink in San Francisco? Do you know what a real Whiskey Cocktail is? Did you know that the Jack Rose is my favorite drink but that it needs Jennifer's grenadine or else it just plain doesn't work? Do you want to know where you can find these recipes or what exactly orgeat is? Click here!
The Gum Syrup and Pineapple Gum Syrup will be in stock as of next Thursday. The Orgeat and Grenadine will for now still be hand made by Jennifer herself and they need an extra week, so the following Thursday for them.