I had a panic attack when shelter-in-place happened, for perhaps the first time in my life. I sat on my bed, my heart pounding. I’d forgotten to breathe and started hyperventilating. My friend had just hung up with me after warning me that martial law would soon come down the pike. Reading the news, watching social media timelines, and listening to loved ones had all turned against me— suddenly, my whole reality shifted to an apocalyptic level of anxiety.
So I shut it all off. I stopped logging in. I turned on Gilmore Girls, took extensive walks, wrote fluffy stories, and sewed. I made myself happy making masks in bright, colorful prints, and I was an early adopter to sell them. I have a small apparel business, and at first, money flowed into it so quickly that I raised $1,000 in what felt like overnight, and I donated it all to affected queer nightlife. I told everyone—and still believe—that mental health is just as much at risk as your physical health. Stay positive, stay upbeat, stay bright, and also: comfort yourself and others wearing my bold and sparkly prints. All of it worked for me for awhile. I got to spend more time with parents, and I felt just an outpour of support from customers, community and friends alike.
Then they canceled Pride.
I think it would take another 10,000 words to un-box what that moment meant for me in a column that’s meant to be about cocktails. Suffice to say: it’s dented my reality a bit. I come from conservative roots, the sort that made me avoid living in San Francisco at first for fear it was “too gay.” The past five years as an active participant in the LGBTQ community has meant more than I can articulate. In recent years, Pride earned some criticism for being “too corporate” and “too straight.” For me, however, it remains the one day every year I feel the most acceptance, love, and emotional honesty from everyone around me. I am deeply saddened by this development.
And while I do think we should all acknowledge and process grief, I’d still like to find reasons to stay happy. With that in mind, here are some Pride-themed cocktails I asked friends in nightlife to mix up for me. Reader beware: bartenders asked me if they should make these cocktails user friendly, and I said no. “Make them bold, bright and pretty,” I said. I’ve tried my hand at layered cocktails in the past, and they can be pretty impossible. So, mix at your own risk. Tip your bartender, and remember to smile.
Made by Jasmine Johnson at El Rio. (3158 Mission St.) Tip Johnson on Venmo at @jasminej4
- 2.5 ounces Espolon Reposado or tequila of choice
- 1.5 ounces hibiscus simple syrup
- 0.5 ounce simple syrup
- 1.5 ounces fresh lime juice
- Mix together and serve over ice
“Pretty basic but delicious!” Johnson said.
Two recipes by Ben McGrath, manager at The Stud (399 9th St.) He says to make these “both at once.” The Stud has a GoFundMe and you can also Venmo the bar at @stud_sf
Cherry rum milk punch
- 1.5 ounces Lola Belle Cherry Rum or rum of choice— just add a couple drops food coloring for color.
- 2.5 ounces of milk
- 0.5 ounces of half and half
- 1 tablespoon of white sugar
- 2 drops of vanilla extract
- Shake vigorously and strain over crushed ice.
Use the leftover liquid from the Cherry Rum Milk Punch and strain it into a shot glass. Then spoon in Blue Curaçao so that it pools at the bottom of the glass.
- 1.5 ounces vodka of choice (she had a photo with Kirkland vodka— we’ll just pretend I didn’t see it.)
- 0.5 watermelon syrup
- 0.5 ounce Caravella Limoncello liqueur or a limoncello liqueur of choice
- 0.5 ounce Grand Marquette triple orange liqueur or an orange liqueur of choice
- 7-Up added by amount according to drinker’s taste
- Mix together and pour over ice in a glass with a sugar rim.
Juanita’s lipstick cocktail
Made by Christopher Niles, cocktail director at Starbelly. (3583 16th St.)
To note: This cocktail is named after local drag queen royalty Juanita More. I asked Juanita for bartender references for this column, and she referred me to Niles, who provided a cocktail named after her. After that, I lightly suggested to Juanita that she’s a press ham, and she replied with photos of her drinking the cocktail. To wit— I don’t fault her in this instance one bit. Juanita’s annual Pride party is one of the key must-attends, complete with some of my favorite local fashion all year, and she donates thousands upon thousands from ticket sales to charity.
Venmo her at @Juanita-More
- 2 ounces of 21 Seeds grapefruit hibiscus tequila (any type of clear tequila or mezcal on hand will work)
- 0.75 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce hibiscus tea syrup (recipe below)
- 1.5 ounces dry grapefruit soda such as Q Grapefruit (or even a grapefruit La Croix)
- Combine the 21 Seeds grapefruit hibiscus tequila, lime juice, and hibiscus tea syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and double strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Top with the grapefruit soda and garnish with a grapefruit wheel and a sprig of mint.
Hibiscus tea syrup
- 1 cup of water, cold
- 2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers
- 1 tablespoon agave
- Place cold water and add the dried hibiscus flowers in a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the agave, stir to dissolve and allow it to cool. Pour the concentrate through a strainer to remove the flowers.
In a tall glass, layer the following:
- Tequila 1.5 shots
- Soda water, fill a quarter of the glass
- Tonic water, fill a quarter of the glass
- Grapefruit juice, fill a quarter of the glass
- Squeeze fresh lime into the glass
- A float of mescal on top, or more tequila
- Garnish with an abused lime
“Why abused, I hear you say? You want to be able to smell that peppery oil from the rind,” Evans said, adding, “It’s great for home use because it doesn’t involve any equipment and it’s a nice, long, day drink.”
Saul Sugarman is a San Francisco-based writer, event producer and apparel designer. Last Call with Saul appears every other Sunday in the Examiner. He is a guest columnist and his opinions are not necessarily that of the Examiner.