Hog & Rocks Handpicks Its Favorite Bourbons

Hog & Rocks handpicks its favorite bourbons

Consider it the alcoholic equivalent of handmade shoes.

More and more restaurants in San Francisco are tailoring booze to fit their tastes. Some are stocking custom-distilled gins; others custom-brewing beer.

Hog & Rocks, which already has an enviable bourbon list, has joined the cult of the bespoke. Owner Scott Youkilis and bar manager Michael Lazar are purchasing bourbon by the barrel from well-known Kentucky distillers.

The shipment of Willett 8-year ($14 a glass) arrived a few weeks ago. The wheated bourbon comes across as ruddy-toned and brawny; if it were a red wine, it'd be a top-shelf Malbec.

Because the spirit is bottled at cask strength (135 proof), a sip sets off fireworks across your palate; swirl in a good dose of water, and the bourbon settles down, letting its toffee-apple character take over.

Drinkers who like their whiskeys leaner and lighter may prefer the single-barrel Elijah Craig 12-year ($9 a glass). With a smooth, caramel-tinged greeting and a hint of coffee in the farewell, the Elijah Craig sips more like a good oloroso sherry.

Fall for either spirit, and you can order your own bottle to keep behind the bar.

Hog & Rocks, 3431 19th St. (at San Carlos St.); 415-550-8627 or hogandrocks.com