Gitane – A Sherry Spectacular

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It’s not often that we offer a restaurant review on DOTW but this really isn’t a restaurant review, it’s more of a booze rave. We recently headed to Gitane in San Francisco to experience their cocktail menu. I have recently become interested in wine-based cocktails (and DOTW plans to bring you a new series on wine based cocktails soon) and we went out on a scouting mission. It’s actually not that easy to find cocktail programs that are based around wine. Sure, you get a ton of places offering champagne cocktails or that use vermouth but it’s rare that they go beyond that.

As a side note, I implore bar managers out there to keep the vermouth fresh. Since it’s wine, treat it like wine; open it, keep it in the fridge and toss after a few days. If people only knew what vermouth really tasted like, they wouldn’t be so scared of it.

But, from my preliminary research, Gitane was different. Gitane based its cocktail program around the incorporation of sherry into its drinks. Yum! In addition to my love for cocktails, I am a total wine geek and my tasting group geeked out one time and tasted 15 different Sherries (on top of another Spanish tasting where I snuck in some sherry). Again, folks, give sherry a try. Sorry for the sherry tangent but I was excited by the prospect of the incorporation of sherry in cocktails. I had read for years about the use of sherry in pre-Prohibition (and immediately after Prohibition) cocktails but had never worked up the courage to whip some up myself. Gitane was giving me the easy way out. We decided to grab some food that night as well but it was secondary to the cocktail menu.

We arrived at the restaurant and had to wait a few minutes. My eyes alighted on the bureau holding wine and immediately zeroed in on the sherry selection. Transfixed, I walked over and fingered the glass separating me from the luscious liquid entombed there. I started salivating and blabbed to my husband about the Sherries I had tried and all the new ones beckoning to me from the case. He tried to engage but looked on helplessly (I am sure he was wondering how long he was going to have to listen to me rant about sherry). Luckily, he was rescued by Sean Diggins, the man responsible for the beautiful sherry selection, who talked sherry with me.

Then, we kicked off the evening with cocktails incorporating sherry. The hubby ordered a Hemingway’s Nephew using an Amontodillo sherry, which was tasty and reminded me of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. I ordered a Narguja employing an Olorosso sherry. The original intent was to stick to the cocktail menu but I couldn’t help myself. The siren song of the wine and the sherry was too strong. I was no match. For dinner, we ordered a spicy dish that was like a paella made with pasta. Sean recommended I pair it with a Gonzalez Bypass “Apostoles” Palo Cortado sherry (where the average age of the sherry was over 50 years). Not knowing how much the hubby would like sherry, we ordered him a Alentajano from Portugal after Sean had us try the delicious wine from the Canary Islands. As it turned out, the hubby likes sherry as much as I do and we ended up sharing the Palo Cortado. The Palo Cortado was a perfect pairing, cutting through the spiciness of the dish and the smokiness of the chorizo subtly bringing forth the slight smokiness of the wine. For dessert, we opted for a Moscatel Soledado, which was unlike any Muscat I had ever had (done sherry style in a solera). Amazing!

The next time you have a Spanish wine fix or want to give sherry or sherry based cocktails a try, stop by Gitane. We have heard that the cocktails are still sherry centric, even though the master behind the cocktails, Alex Smith, is now at the Honor Bar in Emeryville.

Photo courtesy of sfist and Alex Smith.

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