A new breed of liquor store has appeared in San Francisco. Opened in December, 2008 by the people behind Bourbon and Branch, Cask offers a high-end shopping experience for the cocktail connoisseur. In addition to a large selection of whiskeys, Cask carries many hard-to-find spirits and liqueurs, an impressive array of bitters, and a wide range of books and accoutrements.

Cask, San Francisco

From the Cask web site:

We don’t offer every brand under the sun for the obvious reasons of product quality standards and marketing gone wrong. Instead, we have a focused beverage program offering the following superior quality products:

* the most sought after, rare and peculiar spirits;
* allocated small production wines only from California vintners, 90% from Napa and Sonoma;
* boutique craft bottled beers from around the world;
* barware from the Germans of Rösle, the Italians of Alessi, the Aussies of Uber Barware and even a few gadgets from the Americans;
* Books – for knowledge, over 150+ new book titles covering cocktails, wine, beer, whiskies and the beverage business and beyond; 20+ vintage cocktail books dating back to the 1880’s.

On the two visits I’ve made to Cask, I’ve found the staff to be knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly. The store is done up with lots of wood, with high wall shelves and shorter displays on the floor. I particularly liked the cocktail table, on which they display the ingredients and recipes for classic concoctions. On my first visit, they were showcasing the classic Manhattan, which needs no introduction, and the Black Manhattan, which uses Averna in place of the vermouth.

Cask, San Francisco

If you’re not local to San Francisco and don’t mind the shipping charges, you can take advantage of their selection by shopping from their web site. Their prices are a little high so you’re probably better off picking up common items at BevMo or elsewhere, but they’re great for those things you just can’t find at a regular liquor store.

Comments 3 Comments So Far

Nicole |

So, I have to know: have you tried a Black Manhattan? If so, is it an improvement, or is it just different?

Kenn |

Black Manhattans are good, but pretty different from a regular Manhattan. The Averna gives it a quite different flavor than vermouth — more bitter and complex. I can see some Manhattan drinkers not caring for this variant but if you like amari give it a try.

Awfulknitter |

I am so jealous! There are only two decent off licences (liquor stores) near me, and both are poky and old fashioned (not in the good way). Having said that, when I went in one on my way home this evening I was in danger of getting seriously carried away and I was lucky to only come home with a bottle of Parfait Amour.

Amara sounds intriguing, I haven’t come across it before. The Italians seem to have a thing for bitter aperitifs and digestivos – a taste the British don’t share, alas! I will have to mention the Black Manhattan to my boyfriend, he does like his Manhattans.