Behind the Bar Snap Shot

San Francisco’s Treasury: A Bar with the Right Kind of Sensory Overload

Image: Aubrie Pick

“I’m kind of cruisey,” says co-bar-owner Carlos Yturria about the casual vibe in The Treasury, San Francisco’s Financial District gem that opened in a bank-vault-inspired interior earlier this year. And that low-key vibe is felt throughout as the super busy bar and its four partners’—Arnold Eric Wong of Bacar, Phil West of Range and architect Steven Werney—take on their first joint venture.

Yturria admits that while it’s hard to impress bargoers in a cocktail mecca like San Francisco, The Treasury is combining acrobatics, like smoking Old Fashioneds tableside, with drinks produced in less than a minute. Other unique perspectives include his sherry obsession, a fondness for flavored ice that evolves while it melts, and trying to capture all of the guests’ sensory experiences, from the temperature of the glass to how the ice cracks underneath your teeth.

Selfie.  Tory Putnam

The bar’s current flavored-ice drink, the Selfie, is super sensory, according to Yturria, and made with Tanqueray Bloom gin. It plays on both the visual and flavor perspective by melting in the glass, changing colors as it does so and involving the drinker in crunching its ice as they enjoy the drink. Yturria and his partners have been playing with ginger-cherry, watermelon and bergamot flavors in ice cubes over the past couple of months.

As a longtime skateboarder in San Francisco, Yturria says the smells, sounds and colors he has encountered on the street, from taco carts to fruit vendors, have influenced his drinks. Getting color into cocktails, naturally and with local ingredients, remains a big focus. He also loves to combine unusual flavors such as coconut and blueberry. They both went into the Purple Rain cocktail, made with Absolut coconut vodka, manzanilla sherry and blueberries.

Smoke and Mirrors, left, and Flash.  Aubrie Pick

All of these drink hurdles are harder to fulfill than at many other bars because The Treasury serves hundreds customers per night. Yturria estimates that he has served 50-plus Smoked Old Fashioneds a night, during which the barkeep takes a torch to a wood stave to infuse the drink with smokiness in full view of guests. On a regular Thursday, according to Yturria, the bar turned out close to 400 cocktails, not including other beverages, over the course of the night.

The bar’s foursome has also been really inventive with esoteric syrups, such as a mix of oolong tea and pineapple made by Wong that plays a role in the Smoke and Mirrors cocktail. The drink combines Anchor Old Tom gin with Dale DeGroff’s pimento aromatic bitters. The newest syrup is plum and lemon verbena milk that the barkeeps are still debating what to do with.

The bar’s best-seller is the Flash, which combines Aviation American gin with kiwi, cucumber, lemon juice and simple syrup. It has, according to Yturria, an “amazing green color.” It combines flavor and speed in a way that really brings home the bar’s inspirations.