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May 17, 2007 09:10 AM

bar specializing in infused spirits?

has anyone heard of or been to a bar in the bay area specializing in artisanal, infused spirits? my brother and i just came across a really interesting bar in lima, peru. (the name is trapiche, if you're in the area -- av. grau 201, barranco.) they use cane liquor as a base, and have about 75 different infusions -- many herbal, but also wood and even roots. my favorites were oregano and uña de gato ("cat's nail"). the bartender is wonderful -- go early if you can, we were the only ones there, so he was able to sit at our table and tell us about his business and his product.

i know that froufrou vodka infusions are big these days, but has anyone come across anything like this?

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  1. Voda in Belden place specialized in their house made vodka infusions.

    1. There was a place called Infusion, but it closed a few years ago.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Infusion was sold and reopened almost immediately as Nova. While Nova remodeled and changed the menu, they kept the infused vodkas to please the regulars from Infusion. Cucumber, pineapple, lychee, and others. Check out Nova Bar & Restaurant, 555 2nd St., SF, next door to 21st Amendment Brewery. It's been a few months since I've gone, but I've been many times before.

      2. Slanted Door does some very tasty and interesting cocktails, including a great one with lemongrass infused vodka and an obscure French liquor (which probably counts as frou-frou).

        It is "cocktail week" at numerous SF bars right now:

        If you recall, what is the US$ equivalent price for high-end cocktails in Lima?

        1. I agree Voda's a good place to start, although there's no shortage of bars with 20+ commercial flavored vodkas.

          Thanh Long has had flavored rice wines for years. And generally any Russian bar--during the Russian festival, they have shots of flavored vodka. Home made is definitely interesting, but a lot of them taste like battery acid.

          I would head over to St. George's/Hangar One in Alameda for tastings. ($10)

          Orbit Room is also worth a trip. The home-made infusions are generally mixers, but Alberta and her disciples know what they're doing.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Windy

            I also thought of Orbit Windy says, infusions are in the mixers, not the spirits, but it's the same general idea.

            Dave MP

            1. re: Windy

              Here's a link to my post on the Orbit Room with a photo of a typical cocktail.

              1. re: Windy

                So I have bad news for everyone...Alberta does not work at the Orbit Room any longer. A friend told me and I didn't want to believe, but I just called them and they snippily told me she hasn't worked there for two months now.

                The same friend said she wasn't working anywhere else yet, so maybe she's doing private gigs? I heard her on the California Report on KQED a while back and she mentioned that she was thinking of MOVING... this is a sad day if it's true. Matters must not have been helped by the reviewer on Yelp who claimed to be hypoglycemic and rejected the cocktail Alberta had made and demanded a Vodka Tonic; not diet tonic, but the fully sweetened corn syrup type.

                1. re: SteveG

                  The good news is that the other folks working in the Orbit Room know what they're doing. I've been there three times in the last couple of months and had fabulous cocktails each time.

                  1. re: SteveG

                    Sorry to hear it. Actually she has a bartending show online :) So you can learn how to make your own syrups. I do recommend her approach over most of the flavored vodkas and frou frou cocktails out there; Hangar One is the exception.


                    1. re: Windy

                      I actually stopped going there for a while due to Alberta and her antics. It became increasingly more difficult to get a drink from her when busy and she became more difficult. I have been back since and think the bar may actually benefit from her absence. The bartenders appear to be equally adept and one of them I think has been there for almost the same tenure as she. The drinks havent changed much either- maybe more expensive but I still say its worth a trip.

                    2. re: SteveG

                      I have to disagree that not all of the Orbit Room bartenders are worthy of the Alberta-esque mantle. There's one skinny little guy that is a complete mess and makes me never want to go there again. One Friday night we came in and he was completely overwhelmed and the bar back who was helping him claimed he could do nothing more than pour beer and water (he wouldn't even pour wine for some guy). The little bartender man got all stressed out and got into a huge fight with the hispanic dish washer guy who has worked there forever yelling at him above the din of the crowd (which quickly became shocked silence) to "speak english" and "go home"--screaming at him to leave and while about 10 people waited to order a drink, staring at the embarrassing spectacle going on. When he finally came back behind the bar my friend suggested he calm down and he responded "f--- you". I said I had no desire to have a drink made by this guy, so we left.

                      Next time I was there, another weekend night, the same guy was bartending. He seemed to be managing ok, but not great, then I saw him go over to the dishwashing area and dry-heaved into the sink for awhile and looked like he was completely wasted.

                      Swearing I'd *really* never go back again, I somehow ended up there on another occasion and there was a really great guy who had ear plugs and a hat who made excellent, Orbit Room-worthy cocktails. I just wish they'd fire the other guy--he's a mess.

                      One problem I see with the Oribit Room is that it has become the victim of its own success. too many people come in there and say "oh, I like sweet drinks with mint and fruit--surprise me", which means it takes about 10 minutes to make a custom drink while everyone else stands around and the bartender gets stressed out (see above).

                      oh well--great hot toddies though!

                      1. re: cjp

                        I dont know who that guy is. Every time I go there is a gay guy there and he seems to be the heart and soul of the Orbit Room- actually making you forget Alberta ever existed. BTW are you sure you're not speaking of Alberta. She was nuts. Ive seen her tell off a customer almost every time I was in there.
                        I reccomend you go back to the Orbit and be sure to stick with Ron (I think that is his name, Windy refers to him in her post. Like I s aid- the gay one) He and his creations keep me going back every week.

                  2. The short answer is no - 75 infusions, no way. How about opening something like that?

                    I always liked the drinks at old Infusion. Best, IMHO, was the jalapeno, straight up. Also good in a lemon drop. I wonder if they still have the jazz nook near the ceiling.

                    Slanted Door's coctails did very little for me. As usual - most resturants don't mix half as well as a bar that specializes (Boulevard is one of the exceptions).

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: bbulkow

                      thanks everyone. bbulkow, this was my hunch, and i'm actually looking into it.

                      i believe sharing emails may be against chowhound rules, so i apologize in advance to the folks who do the booting, but would anyone happen to know how to get in touch with alberta straub?

                      bbulkow, or anyone else, can you tell me more about "infusion"? i found an old yelp posting about a "cafe infusion" that appears to have gone under, but i'm thinking it must be a different place -- this one had bubble tea and wifi.

                      1. re: Pete

                        As I posted above, Infusion was sold, remodeled, and reopened as Nova Bar & Restaurant, which continued the tradition of infusing vodka and rum and such.

                        1. re: Pete

                          Google "alberta straub" 2007 and view her videos.

                          1. re: wolverine61

                            They're already linked in my post above.

                            1. re: Windy

                              Windy, sorry to intrude. It's what happens if you don't expand all.