A recent newcomer to Rockridge, Bourbon & Beef on College Ave. features cocktails with a Latin flair. The heat is apparent in the variety of plates — meant to be shared — on the menu, but it appears among the cóctel offerings too. The vibrant touches of red throughout the room carry out this theme in the décor. Even on a cool night, the room sizzles.
We settled in at the long wood bar, noting the bursts of color in the terrazzo border. Cool blue lights suspended above us contrasted with the striking red wall nearby. We visited somewhat early in the evening on a Sunday, and, by the time we departed, the room was full of patrons sharing plates and enjoying cocktails at the bar, at the tables for two in the center of the room, and around the communal table up front.
At a restaurant with bourbon in the name, we were not surprised to see an impressive array of bourbon and rye lining the shelves. The collection of bottles filled with amber liquids stretched across the wall in a glittering display. We were pleased to discover that our chosen cocktail for the evening, the Blood Orange Old Fashioned, featured one of our favorite bourbons: Angel’s Envy.
(A side note: We had the pleasure of meeting the Angel’s Envy creator and distiller a year or so ago. Lincoln Henderson was a very charming fellow and an inaugural member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. Over a cocktail or two, he explained the meaning of the name to us. From the Angel’s Envy website: “As bourbon ages, for each year of maturation, 5% of the barrel’s bourbon is lost to evaporation. For generations, this precious lost bourbon has been called the Angel’s Share. After tasting his creation, Lincoln joked that the angels might have wanted a bigger cut. Thus Angel’s Envy was born.”)
The Old Fashioned seemed an appropriate choice in light of the local cherry blossoms that proliferate in Oakland and Berkeley these days: the muddled cherries and blood orange combined with the heavenly bourbon added up to a refreshing, citrusy treat for the eye and the palate. We considered other choices, such as the aptly named Some Like It Hot (El Charro Reposado Tequila, cilantro, jalapeño, and fresh lime juice), the Slow & Low Sidecar (Slow & Low Rock & Rye, mint, and lemon), or the Argentina Nights (Limoncello and Reginato Sparking Malbec Rosé). In keeping with the Latin influence, we noticed the B&B Caipirinha, a combination of infused peppercorn Cachaça 51, lime, and blueberries. But the cherry blossoms put us in the mood for a good old-fashioned Old Fashioned.
We asked Victor, our bartender, to tell us what the most popular drink choices are at Bourbon & Beef, wondering if six months is long enough to establish house favorites. But he hastened to mention the Hendrick’s Heights (Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germain Elderflower, lemon and cucumber) and — no surprise — the Some Like It Hot. We waited until he’d muddled some more oranges and cherries for another Old Fashioned and asked him how he might describe a typical crowd at the restaurant. Looking around, we saw a mixture of families and folks of all ages. With its location near Rockridge BART, Bourbon & Beef draws the after-work crowd during the week.
Victor also told us that a flight program is in the works, which will allow Bourbon & Beef’s curious patrons to explore the wonders of bourbon whiskey, America’s only native spirit. Tasting different types of bourbon, learning what one prefers, experiencing the variety of distilled amber liquid — sign us up!
The Crowd: Groups relaxing after work, couples on date night, Rockridge locals, and heat-seeking bourbon aficionados
The Sound Track: Lively salsa and Latin jazz
The Drink: Blood Orange Old Fashioned, featuring Angel’s Envy
The One to Try Next Time: Slow & Low Sidecar, Argentine Nights, or the Sazerac
When to go: Happy Hour, after work, any time
The Deets: Bourbon & Beef, 5634 College Avenue, Oakland
Are you a cocktail aficionado? Read previous Ms. Barstool reviews of Penrose, Gather, Tribune Tavern, the Paragon, Boot & Shoe Service, Picàn, Hopscotch, Five, Revival, Flora, and Prizefighter — and check Berkeleyside Nosh’s Guide to Drinking around Berkeley.
Nosh on the Town: Bourbon & Beef on College Avenue (01.09.14)
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