Spirit-Swapping: SF Bartenders' New Favorite Hobby

Swapping spirits is all the rage at local bars

Relatively few classic cocktails call for tequila or mezcal, as those spirits weren't popular in the States in mixology's first golden era.

Today, however, San Francisco's tequila-loving bartenders have been swapping out bourbon and Scotch for south-of-the-border spirits in both vintage and modern cocktails. Here, some of their finest substitutions:

Conduit The Hub (pictured) is a mind-altering, tequila-based version of the New Orleans-born Sazerac. Bar master Reza Esmaili makes it with blanco and reposado tequilas, Peychaud's Bitters and an absinthe rinse. The drink is no longer on the menu, but Esmaili will always make it on request. 280 Valencia St.; 415-552-5200 or conduitrestaurant.com

Michael Mina The classic Blood and Sand–a surprisingly delicious combination of Scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry liqueur and orange juice–became the genius Sand and Sangre when former bar manager Borys Saciuk put Los Danzantes Reposado mezcal in the mix. 335 Powell St.; 415-397-9222 or michaelmina.net/mm

Beretta Bartender Ryan Fitzgerald replaces the smoky Laphroaig Scotch that's in the Penicillin (created by Milk & Honey bartender Sam Ross) with an equally smoky mezcal, Sombra, in the new Penicillin #2. This ginger, lemon and honey cocktail has become a fixture at Beretta even though it's never officially appeared on the drink list. 1199 Valencia St.; 415-695-1199 or berettasf.com