CUESA’s popular Ferry Plaza after work cocktail event is moving to Jack London’s Square on August 2.
CUESA, the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture, best known for their tri-weekly Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, occasionally hosts a cocktail series at the Ferry Plaza featuring bartenders from around the Bay Area (but mostly San Francisco). The events are wildly popular as they offer access to fascinating, and often one-time, cocktails.
Bartenders are tasked with using seasonal produce to create innovative drinks. Adding to the challenge is a bartender has to work with a “tasting spirit” provided by one of the several event partners. The bartenders attend a planning session where the get to select the base spirit of choice on a first come, first serve basis. As a result, bartenders are often forced outside of their comfort zone to create a tremendous cocktail using a spirit they might not normally fancy. For example, I’ve been to five of these things and San Francisco’s gin bar, Whitechapel, has never once had a gin cocktail.
For the next cocktail event (and final of the year), CUESA is heading across the Bay to Jack London Square for a “Party Under The Palms.”
Who will be there?
The roster of bartenders is all East Bay, so this is a perfect opportunity to get out of San Francisco and see the exciting cocktail culture shaking things up across the bay. As an Oakland resident I was going to make a list of the standouts in the list, but, seriously, you can’t really top this selection. Everyone CUESA has invited to the party is top of the craft (although, I will admit I have a soft spot for the craziness that is Blind Tiger’s cocktail and food menu).
Nikhil & Samuel Jimenez, Blind Tiger
Tamir Ben Shalom, Bull Valley Roadhouse
Watson Henderson, Le Cheval
Douglas Beford, The Double Standard
Sherry Legend, Fort Green
Jessica Maria, Hotsy Totsy Club
Rick Dobbs, The Last Word
Julie Anna Figueras, The Miranda
Pilar Vree & Matt Harrison, Penrose
Jared Hirsch, Sidebar
Kat Bushnell, Starline Social Club
Daniel Sheer & Robbie Conroy, Tupper & Reed and East Bay Spice Company
What About the Booze?
CUESA usually has three presenting spirits. These spirits are used to create the three full cocktails you’ll find at the CUESA event. You can only get one each of these cocktails. For the Jack London event, you’ll find Don Julio, Don Q, and Ketel One.
In addition, CUESA has several “tasting spirits.” These are usually local(ish) distillers and they make up the base spirit for the tasting size cocktails you’ll be drinking. These are basically only limited to how many cocktails the bartenders have batched. Don’t be afraid of going back for more of a favorite. For the Jack London event, CUESA has tapped: Arkansas Black, Back Bar Project, Black Cow Vodka, Corbin Cash, Cutwater Spirits, Do Good Distillery, Lo Fi Aperitifs, Spiritworks Distillery, and St. George Spirits.
How Does It Work?
There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Coupe Tales has the best bullet list on “how to CUESA,” so I’ll repost those points here (and I can’t stress enough that third point “arrive early”):
- No coat. No purse. No phone. You need both hands for snacks and drinks.
- Many tables offer business cards and menus. You’re going to want to check out some new places after you taste what their bartenders can do.
- Arrive early. It gets crowded.
- Food goes fast. Don’t wait around if something looks good. Cocktails rarely run dry but I’ve seen food tables close shop early.
- The ballot may leave you thinking you can only vote for a full-size cocktail. Not so! All cocktails are eligible.