by Anneli Rufus
Getting into the appetite-stimulating spirit, San Francisco’s Range has launched a new “Aperitif Hour.” This innovative program includes a special menu of aperitif cocktails and exclusive sherries, amaros and vermouths along with bar snacks designed to pair perfectly with aperitifs — all served daily at the sleek, popular Mission District restaurant between 5 and 6 p.m.
The idea was inspired mainly by Range bar manager Tayler Buffington’s memories of living in Spain, where he learned to love sherry — one of the Iberian nation’s most glorious treasures.
“The beauty of sherry is that it’s so versatile,” Buffington said during the first-ever Aperitif Hour. “You’ve got your finos and amontillados, which are brighter and more summery than other varieties. After it has been so maligned in this country for so long, with generations of people thinking ‘It’s what Grandma drinks,’ it’s nice to see sherry coming back” as a popular bar beverage.
His aperitif cocktails include — among others — the Spanish Bramble, which comprises amontillado, blackberry-mint shrub, St. George Terroir Gin and soda, and the Paris to Milan, which includes Cocchi Americano Rosa, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, white verjus and prosecco. A set of “inverted classics” — light homages to Julia Child’s beloved “reverse Martini” — include the Slippery Slope, comprising Dolin Blanc vermouth, Martin Miller’s gin and absinthe.
The bites are very seasonal and very local: earthy toasted nut mix, creamy chicken-liver mousse with pickled-peach jam and flatbread, crisp trout rilletes served with shaved fennel and mustard crème fraiche, juicy house-made pickles and more.
“Any amontillado paired with nuts is just superb,” Buffington beamed, explaining that San Francisco and Barcelona are temptingly similar in terms of taste and climate.
He and fellow Range mixologist Jeff Lyon “spent a lot of time thinking about this menu and this program. We’re both very studious. I guess this is another way of saying nerdy. We took classic drinks as our touchstone and went off from there.”
Lyon is particularly excited about Range’s house-made shrubs, which include a blueberry-cinnamon version and a cherry-vanilla version.
“I dial back a bit on the vinegar when making shrubs,” Lyon explained, “because I don’t want my drinks to taste like salad dressing.
“We’re basically asking people to trust us,” he added.
And nothing builds trust like a rose-colored cocktail on a sunny summer day.
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