‘Farm-to-glass’ flavors rule cocktail list at Zero Zero

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerJuiced: Tom Ruszel

When a bar works closely with a top-notch kitchen, expect good things from the cocktail list. And it’s quite clear that the chefs of Zero Zero, working under the direction of pizzaiolo and head chef Bruce Hill, keep the bartenders in mind when they are gathering ingredients for this unpretentious yet upscale restaurant and bar. Beverage director Tim Felkner describes their approach as “farm-to-glass,” and a look at the bar’s palette of ingredients and freshly squeezed mixers explains the meaning of the phrase very clearly. The drink menu is stocked with creatively named original cocktails and a selection of classics — or new takes on them. And for those in the company of teetotalers, there are strikingly tasty mocktails. If you are of the opposite persuasion, there are a few large punch bowls to choose from that might be more appropriate for your table. We spoke with lead bartender Tom Ruszel.

You’ve got some really interesting ingredients on your cocktail list. Where do they come from?

Between the head chef, sous chef and others, there is probably someone from the business at a farmers market every day of the week. So the mixers are all very seasonal and the chefs will bring in all kinds of crazy ingredients from these markets, some of which I know nothing about until we try them.

Such as?

Blood limes — sort of like an under-ripe blood orange. And we use a stone fruit and jalapeno marmalade for another. The kitchen really supports what we do at the bar. They squeeze the juices we use for our drinks every morning.  

I can’t say I like Islay scotch, but somehow that potent flavor has found a bit of harmony with the other ingredients in this drink.

It’s difficult, but a balanced taste is the ultimate goal. To go from an idea for flavor to the final recipe, it did take us a few sessions of trying different things and fine-tuning here and there. But we’re really happy with it. The gum syrup adds just a touch of viscosity to it. And you know the business supports the bar when they go out and buy new glassware for a new cocktail — something they actually did.

That’s a proper cocktail pun you’ve got in its name.

Ha ha, absolutely. We had a good time naming that one. Some of the rejected names were, “Whatchu Talkin’ Bout Willett?” and “Long Islay Iced Tea.”

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