New Blood

Drinking in Hayes Valley without the 'tude

Marlena's Santas may be gone forever, but that won't keep us from returning to their former home.

Brass Tacks, which opened in Hayes Valley three weeks ago, has accomplished the rare feat of converting a legendary drag bar to a nominally straight one with the former owner's blessing.

If you've spent time in partner Anthony Healy-London's other bar, Churchill, you'll recognize the chill, polished vibe, with deep gray walls and a chandelier made from dozens of hanging Champagne flutes.

Yet it's no ultralounge. Draft beers cost $5; wines on tap, $8; and the cocktails top off at $10, which are practically 2008 prices.

Oh, and the cocktails are great.

The 'tenders slip Amaro Nonino into the Junco Partner, where it adds depth to a refreshing rum-and-lime Highball, with chocolate bitters adding a staccato bass note.

Co-owner Matt Conway, a recognizable face to anyone who knows her genever from her gin, performs a similarly subtle maneuver with the Conversation, adding enough of a house-made, sarsaparilla-like root syrup to Bulleit rye to smooth its bite without shouting it down.

Just the kind of conversation we like having.