Chef Sarah Rich on Drinking in San Francisco

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Chef Sarah Rich, along with her husband, Evan, owns and operates the hugely popular ever-changing farm-to-table Hayes Valley spot, Rich Table. And before opening the restaurant in 2012, she worked at such acclaimed restaurants as New York City’s Bouley and San Francisco’s Michael Mina, where she was sous chef. She talked to us about what she likes to drink and some of her favorite places in San Francisco.

What do you like to drink when you get off work?

I always go for something really refreshing. I used to love a glass of white or rosé, but people would make fun of me and call me an old lady. But it’s always 110 degrees in the kitchen! Lately it’s been a dry Martini.

Gin or vodka?

Definitely gin. Please. I like a few different kinds. I really like [St. George’s] Terroir gin because it just has so much complexity to it and Douglas fir notes, which we use a lot at the restaurant. I also like Fords gin because it’s straightforward. But sometimes I like a combination of the two, because Terroir can be a little strong.

Fords gin and a dry Martini are two of Sarah Rich’s go-tos.

Do you usually drink at work or head out when you’re off?

I usually come home, because we have kids and it’s hard for me to get out. But I might get a glass of wine and sit in the office and change. Monday nights, Evan and I both work and we get a babysitter so we may sneak away. We’re lucky that we have a lot of nice places nearby like Smuggler’s Cove or Brass Tacks, or if we want to get something nice to eat we’ll hit Monsieur Benjamin for oysters and sweetbreads.

What are other local spots you like to hit for drinks when you’re off work?

We live out in the Presidio. Where we live is not the hot spot for cool places, but we have great places. Outerlands always has great cocktails and so does Aziza. I wouldn’t say everything at The Cliff House is spectacular, but we love going there and we bring our kids. We went the other day, and we got Bloody Marys, and our kids had hot chocolate.

Have you found any cocktails that inspire your cooking?

We try to have the spirit of our cooking with our cocktails. A lot of people start with the spirit when coming up with cocktails. But we think of ingredients first. We go to the market, see what’s there and incorporate that into cocktails. For us, there’s a connection between the food and cocktails. That was really important to us because the whole restaurant is cohesive. That can be a tricky thing when hiring someone for the bar, because that’s not necessarily the way for the bartender to think about drinks. The guy we have now, Tommy Quimby, is doing a great job.

Rich Table

Any spring or summer ingredients that inspire your cocktailing?

We have a few. We have a drink called the Stonehenge with dried apricot, gin and lavender; the 86 has strawberries, coriander and vodka; and the Runaway has cherry, rye whiskey and Douglas fir. I love Douglas fir; we put that everywhere.

What do you drink when traveling?

Anything that’s wet. I’m kidding—only kind of. We just went to Mexico recently and were drinking Margaritas, sipping on great mezcal. Sometimes when starting a trip, we’ll get a nice Bloody Mary before getting on a plane.

What do you like to serve at a dinner party to kick things off?

I think Champagne is always a great way to start. Evan’s aunt and uncle threw a lot of holiday and dinner parties. You’d always get a glass of Champagne with a bit of crème de cassis in it. We do that as a tribute to them.

Sarah Rich

What’s a go-to summer cocktail?

This restaurant I worked at in Manhattan, Mas (farmhouse), made this drink that was vodka infused with grapefruit peel, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, orange bitters and a 90/10 sugar/salt rim. That was really nice, and I love that even though grapefruit isn’t summer. It’s refreshing and easy to drink.

Is there a quintessential San Francisco drink you like?

I feel like everyone says the Negroni, but I’m not a lover of Negronis. I don’t like Campari. I had my first Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista recently, and it was delicious. We have the Rich Coffee on our menu—it’s the same idea but has some pistachio puree in it. It’s really delicious.

Any guilty pleasures you like to drink when no one is looking?

The only thing I would say is I don’t mind drinking vodka. I know you’re not supposed to like vodka, but I’m an equal-opportunity boozer.

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