Smuggler’s Cove Sneak preview
If you’re into Tiki Bars or you’re into Rum, chances are you’ve had an unusual twitch of anticipation pointed in the direction of San Francisco for the past few months.
Martin Cate, formerly of Forbidden Island, still a destination spot for Tiki aficionados, has announced the opening of his new Rum Bar, Smuggler’s Cove, in San Francisco this December. I got a chance to attend a sneak preview of Smuggler’s Cove this past week, and oh what tropical delights awaited within.
The spot, at 650 Gough Street, has little to speak of on the outside but a port and starboard light, giving little clue to what lies inside. Once inside, you are hit with a “seen to be believed” amount of nautical and polynesian decor. Smuggler’s Cove has 3 tiers of seating, including two bars and full-wall waterfall, which came with the lease, though modified with a rock facade for the theme. Why this spot was an instant must-have for Martin’s new realm, couldn’t imagine.
The decor and setting, developed by local artist “Notch”, Ignacio Gonzalez, is breathtaking. Like Disneyland for grown ups, it does have a bit of a “Pirates” flair to it, but keeps true to Tiki with decor from Tiki Bars past, and dedications to former Polynesian Paradises of San Francisco. You will find items from the Stockton Islander, Trader Vic’s SF and Chicago, goodies from Oceanic Arts, and even a few new pieces created by Notch, currently creating their own provenance.
To call this a Tiki bar would be fine, sure, but it is even moreso a Rum Bar, with an emphasis on a significantly vast Rum, Rhum and Ron selection, and all mixology elements which follow. Of course, where Rum goes so does Tiki, and there are plenty of tropical delights alongside the classic Daiquiri and Rum Punch. Everyone from the rum newbie who is only familiar with Spiced Rum and Coke, to the Rum Gods who sit on boats in the Caribbean will find something interesting and new here.
The Rum Selection is vast and bounteous, featuring odd bits here and there, as well as many classics rum aficiandos will recognize from their own shelves. From readily found White Puerto Rican Rums to to the all but unavailable last few drops of British Royal Navy Rum, every country and every coastline has some representitive in the lineup, ready to be tasted or mixed. Even Martin has developed house rum, beer, and wine. The Rums include Eurydice, made at nearby St. George Distillery, as well as a “Special Reserve” house Demerara Rum provided by El Dorado.
The bartending team is an allstar cast of local and newly local bartenders from hotspots such as Heaven’s Dog, and L.A.’s Varnish. They’ll be manning the downstairs and ground floor bars, featuring unique equipment that, as one bartender noted, will make it hard to go back to the old three-sink and shake. The drinks available at the preview included one of my favorites, Three Dots and a Dash, which was incredibly delicious, exploding with allspice and strong rum.
Some of the running features of the menu will include punch-card clubs, with a tiered system of rums to sample, and the accolades that follow, such as brass plates behind the bar, and even a tour of a Rum distillery with Martin Cate.
Opening in just a few days, on Dec. 8th, Smuggler’s Cove has a bright, albeit dimly lit future in San Francisco as a real destination for Rum Lovers or newbies, Tikiphiles, and people who just want to have a good time. If you won’t get a chance to be there, I took a bit of a video walkthrough. Enjoy!