Smuggler's Cove: drinking tiki in San Francisco

[Biting Commentary returns from San Francisco today.]

Did I come all the way out to San Francisco for a Halekulani cocktail and drinks garnished with a purple orchid? Not exactly. But after drinks at more "serious" bars like The Alembic and Bourbon and Branch, it seemed time to have fun, to drink fruity cocktails and gather around a Scorpion Bowl at Smuggler's Cove, a tiki bar/rum tasting room that opened a few years ago. It opened around the time speakeasies and Prohibition-era cocktails were experiencing a resurgence, reminding us that not all vintage drinks were liquor-forward, that after Prohibition, what we really needed was a bit of escapism.

Smuggler's Cove prides itself on fresh squeezed citrus and fresh juices—no bottled mixes here. Prohibition-era Havana cocktails include the Hotel Nacional Special, with muddled pineapple, rum, apricot liqueur and lime; tiki cocktails such as Three Dots and a Dash, with lime, orange, honey, falernum (a Caribbean-style sweetener), allspice, bitters, and a blend of two rums; and of course, the infamous Scorpion bowl, a communal cocktail with orange, lime, gin, brandy, orgeat (an almond sugar syrup) and rum.

(For more on tiki culture and bars, read David Thompson's piece in HONOLULU magazine.)