21st Century “Soda” Jerk Off

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The Tempest Bar in San Francisco was the site a Jerk Off competition, a Soda Jerk competition.  Given the sad decline of the soda fountain in the United States, we can only imagine that it was the first soda competition that has happened since the 1950′s when soda fountains were in there full glory.  We can only hope that the Jerk Off is a harbinger of things to come because the sodas at the Jerk Off were incredible!

Walking into the Tempest in 2012 San Francisco, there was no doubt that you were not in the same soda fountain that your parents (or grandparent’s) frequented.  The Tempest is a classic dive bar where the crowd was rocking out to a live band belting out hits from the 1950′s to the 1990′s and drinking their Angostura phosphates with a side of beer, a shot or both.  The phosphates and cream sodas were courtesy of the soda jerks working the soda counter that had been set up in the middle of the bar.  Another clue that we weren’t in the 1950′s were the soda jerks, who weren’t all men and weren’t all garbed in white aprons and hats.  Oh, and the drinks weren’t all virgin. 

The scene of the battle went down at the bar where there were three preliminary heats with each jerk concocting an alcoholic and non-alcoholic libation.  The winner of each round proceeded to the final where the jerk picked his or her poison to serve the judges.  The battles were epic.  You could see the sweat roll off foreheads as eggs were cracked, liquids poured and shakers shook.  It was a precise and intense dance.  The froth had to be just right, the amount of phosphate neither too little nor great and the fizz had to fly.  I was glad that I was merely an onlooker and not a participant. 

The competition in the first round was stiff.  The competitors were Dillon Lockwood of the Ice Cream Bar, Ricky Paiva of Rickhouse and Jennifer Colliau of Small Hand Foods.  This was no easy round.  Dillon is the consummate soda jerk and showed up in his whites.  Ricky is one incredible bartender and his handlebar mustache could have given him the leg up.  Jen owns and operates Small Hand Foods, one of the premier purveyors of fine syrups used in cocktails and sodas – think grenadine, gum and orgeat, as well as bartending at the Slanted Door.  Dillon whipped up an Egg Cream Pie and Heureux le Peche, Jen did a phosphate drink while Ricky made duo of delicious soda cocktails.   After many sips and much deliberation, the esteemed judging panel ultimately picked Dillon Lockwood to proceed to the final.  I was lucky enough to try each of the drinks and picking a winner would not have been easy.

Round Two was a two man round between Meryll Cawn of Oro Pisco and SF Lupec and Dalton Finney of the Ice Cream Bar.  Meryll made a mean South Side and Deconstructed Breakfast of Champions, which reminded her of breakfast with her Dad.  Dalton spent the evening before the competition thinking of what to serve and with some inspiration served the amaro inspired Bella and Thai inspired Thom Ka.  All of the drinks looks amazing.  Once again, I was able to sneak of sip of each.  Once again, delicious but I was partial to the Thom Ka.  Based on the Thom Ka, Dalton pulled into the final.

story continues after the sideshow

We knew that Round Three would be serious when the competitors pulled out their own tools and brought fourth many pre-made ingredients. Round Three was a grudge match between two of the Ice Cream Bar’s own – Anne Sauer and Chris Simpson.  Unfortunately for Chris, he didn’t stand a chance.  Not only did Anne bring her own cheering section, Anne brought the nuclear weapon of all ingredients – bacon – and she combined it with an egg cream.  Once again, all four libations were amazing but the Bacon Egg Cream was unbeatable.

After tasting the Bacon Egg Cream, I thought that that there was no way Anne could lose.  Seriously, it was heavenly!  But, I was wrong.  The fierce battle between the Ice Cream Bar’s Anne, Dalton and Dillon, where they respectively served their Bacon Egg Cream, Thom Ka and Egg Cream Pie, resulted in a tie amongst the five judge panel.  Two felt that the Bacon Egg Cream deserved the top title, while two felt that the Egg Cream Pie should be King and the refreshing Thom Ka got one vote.  After a huddle among the judges, the Egg Cream Pie was deemed the winner (I believe based on its perfect appearance and consistency and overall deliciousness) and Dillon Lockwood crowned the King! 

The Jerk Off is the brilliant creation of Russell Davis, one of our favorite bartenders who currently slings drinks at the Rio Grande in San Francisco (and originally hailing from the Longhorn state of Texas), and Darcy O’Neill, a raging Canadian bartender and writer of the Art of Drink.  The Jerk Off highlights the artistry of drink making and connects the the current cocktail craze to the golden age of cocktail making before Prohibition, the mythical pharmacies of 19th century America where Coca Cola and bitters were invented to the nostalgia filled days of the 1950′s soda shop. 

We are hoping that San Francisco will be the first stop on the Jerk Off tour.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/aynsavoy Anne Sauer

    To be fair to my competitors, Dalton’s drink actually got two votes in the final round and mine got one. But thanks for the support!