The Best House Tonics In Town | San Francisco

Tonic gets an upgrade

It's easy to undervalue the importance of a supporting character.

Consider tonic water. Take a Meryl Streep-caliber gin, mix it with a B-list supermarket tonic, and the resulting drink is much like the movie The River Wild: enjoyable, but not the finest use of talent.

Now it is not enough to stock a bar with premium tonic; the most intrepid bartenders are making their own.

At Hog & Rocks, bartender Maxine Sharkey Giammo brews a tonic that is lighter on sugar than traditional versions, perfumed with bergamot and toasted coriander. It is fresh and floral, a fine complement to the restaurant's selection of raw oysters.

Bar manager Lenny Gumm and his crew at Dosa designed their woodworm- and pink-peppercorn-infused tonic to pair with Dosa Blade Gin, custom-made for the restaurant by Old World Spirits. The resulting G&T is a perfect match for Dosa's South Indian dishes.

Priscilla Young, bar manager of the Mandarin Oriental's new Brasserie S&P, gives an Asian cast to her house tonics. She's currently serving two varieties, the citrus-focused Sensei #1 and the Sensei Saffron. Young is also experimenting with new flavors like rhubarb and rosemary.

Dosa, 995 Valencia (at 21st St.), 415-642-3672 or; Hog & Rocks, 3431 19th St. (at San Carlos), 415-550-8627 or; Brasserie S&P (inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel), 222 Sansome (at Pine St.), 415-986-2020 or