Depending on what media you consume, 2017 probably didn’t look like a great year to you, either. Wildfires, hurricanes, a global refugee crisis, a mass reckoning with our society’s sexism, the death of Tom Petty — and on top of it all, “The Emoji Movie.”
This can only be good news for bars.
2017 in Bay Area bar openings may not have been the banner year that 2016 was: It’s hard to beat that 12-month period in which we got Pacific Cocktail Haven, Wildhawk, Louie’s Gen-Gen Room, Pagan Idol, the Treasury and High Treason.
Nevertheless, 2017 certainly looked good for Matt Conway, Anthony Healy-London and Josh McAdam. The trio, which owns Hayes Valley standard bearer Brass Tacks, opened two new bars this year: Anina , directly next door to Brass Tacks, and Junior on 24th Street. Colorful and bright, with a large outdoor patio that gets packed on weekend afternoons, Anina is the city’s best new spot for day drinking. The menu is heavy on spritzes, aperitif cocktails, Sherry and vermouth — a context that allows onetime Bar Star Conway’s longtime signature, the irresistible Knife in the Water cocktail ($10), to shine.
This year’s Resurrection Award goes to Biig , the Non Plus Ultra group’s new incarnation of their short-lived and much-hyped Vantaggio Suites bar, Big. Slightly larger than its 400-square-foot antecedent, Biig is decadent, lacking menus and encouraging reservations. Its luxuriousness may feel a little out of place in the Tenderloin (it replaced the 21 Club), but it delivered one of the most fun nights of drinking I had all year.
Still, Biig can’t match the hedonism of Cold Drinks, the Scotch bar at China Live conceived (and since abandoned) by veteran bartender Duggan McDonnell. The click bait is its menu’s $52 cocktail, a Rob Roy variation made with Chivas Royal Salute 21, but it’s the other cocktails — a vegetal take on a gimlet; a tower of mango and habanero; a Peking duck fat-washed Old Fashioned — that form the deeper story here. It may be the most photogenic new bar in town, and — you heard it here first — wins the prize for Best Cocktail Name of the Year, for its Long Islay Iced Tea. – San Francisco Chronicle (12.26.17)