Mike Winston’s Top 10 Best Cocktails of 2014

You guys know I eat a ton of food. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I’m also quite passionate about my cocktails. Some would even go so far as to call me a lush.

Well, this year provided no shortage of impressive and outstanding cocktails (and obviously food as I’ve already recapped). And since the end of the year is rolling around, it only seems fair to look back and remember the best of the best cocktails as well. I’ve even inclcuded a list of ingredients for each drink recipe so you can try to whip them up for yourself at home… if you’re particularly talented.

Warning: there are some really obscure ingredients in a lot of these, a lot of them are rather complicated to concoct. Also, I don’t have any of the proportions for the different parts… so good luck!
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A Quiet, Classy, and Impressive Brunch at Maven in Lower Haight

One of my favorite weekend city pastimes is to just pick a direction, wander aimlessly (get it? Winston Wanders), and see where my feet take me. This is also one of the many ways I find new places to eat – I just walk unfamiliar streets and routes and see if I can stumble across something new and interesting.

On this particularly long wander, I started at home in Lower Nob Hill, headed down to Hayes Valley, then over across the Panhandle, through Haight-Ashbury, up Divisadero, across Alamo Square, and down to Lower Haight before I finally decided on a place to sit down for a quality brunch with my buddy, Corey.

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There’s So Much More Than Just Pizza at Pizzeria Delfina in Palo Alto

As an ex-New Yorker now living on the West Coast, I’ve been trained to go to Italian eateries with low expectations, particularly if they claim to specialize in pizza. I know I’ve been spoiled by the ease of access to the very best pizza slices in the country, but I’ve already learned that you can in fact find great pizza in the Bay Area in square slice and Brooklyn-style neapolitan form. Still, I didn’t expect much from Palo Alto’s Pizzeria Delfina despite its very positive reputation.

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Goodbye NYC. Bucket List Part 2: Peter Luger’s Steakhouse

I ate nothing but a salad on the day of this meal. A few days after our Bucket List Date Night at Beauty & Essex it was time for round two. This time, the destination was the much more dude-ly Peter Luger’s Steakhouse. I know you’re not gonna believe it, but somehow I had never gotten around to eating there before. In fact, I consider myself pretty inexperienced with steakhouses at all. I don’t even order steak very often when I’m out. I don’t really have a good reason for any of this except that going out for steak is prohibitively expensive so I don’t splurge on it much.

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A True Cajun & Creole New Orleans Experience at NOLA in Palo Alto

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For Stanford students, there’s only a few bars that everyone goes to. One of the biggest nightlife hotspots is NOLA, an aggressively Mardi Gras themed bar and restaurant that’s gaudily decorated with scattered dangling beaded necklaces. It’s the kind of place that I’d normally write off at first glance, assuming they’d only be able to make stupidly sweet and strong alcoholic punches and serve shitty bar food, but that assumption would be wrong.

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Impeccable Modern American Cuisine at Scratch in Mountain View

It’s not always easy to find quality restaurants in Silicon Valley, but Mountain View has proven time and time and time again that there’s some really excellent places to eat and drink on their main downtown drag. There are not many restaurants that I have loved enough to eat at multiple times out here, but Scratch has sort of become my go-to, not-sure-what-I’m-in-the-mood-for dinner and drinks spot.

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Fútbol & Foreign Food Truck Frenzy at SoMa StrEat Food

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If you’re looking to watch the World Cup in San Francisco you’ve certainly got plenty of options. In my mind, the most obvious two would be at home if you want to watch alone or at a sports bar if you want to watch in public. But if you’re looking for something a little different and also want a variety of unique food options and even more importantly want to be outdoors, read on!

In the shadow of both a highway and a gigantic Costco, in a remote corner of town that could barely still be called SoMa, there’s a really incredible place worth trekking to called SoMa StrEat Food. It’s a large, triangular outdoor lot that draws plenty of young, hip yuppies for food, drink, and various forms of entertainment.

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Quality Cocktails & Seriously Delicious Smokey Bar Food at The European in Union Square

*Editor’s Note 1/30/15: This bar used to have a food menu, but now serves only cocktails

This is San Francisco’s hot new opening. Near Union Square, at the Warwick Hotel, on the cusp of the truly sketchy Tenderloin neighborhood, famed and well-loved Top Chef contestant Casey Thompson has opened a gourmet restaurant named Aveline and an accompanying cocktail bar called The European.

I happened to be staying in a hotel in the neighborhood and stopped by on the opening Friday night. When I arrived at around 9:15 PM it was still a relatively quiet and empty bar, but it wasn’t long before it filled out with the who’s who of the San Francisco dining scene. I was able to secure myself a seat at the truly sexy bar and ordered myself a cocktail while I looked over the bar menu.

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Drink Your Face Off with Bottomless Cocktails & Latin Brunch at Yerba Buena in Greenwich Village

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New Yorkers fucking love brunch. Not only do New Yorkers love brunch, but they love to drink cocktails aggressively while they’re at it. It’s a quintessential part of NY culture, to go out partying ’til 4 AM, wake up disturbingly hungover the next morning afternoon and rely on the old hair of the dog trick to get through the torturous pain that comes with a brutal hangover. And that’s why All You Can Drink brunch was born, to solve this distinctly New York-y problem, but not all AYCD brunch spots are alike.

Some brunches are super expensive, others have mediocre-to-poor food, others have crappy generic cocktails, and others are just too damn crowded to tolerate. When I’m in the mood for an awesomely excessive AYCD brunch, my go-to is Yerba Buena on Perry Street in Greenwich Village.

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New Restaurant Union Bar & Kitchen is Just What West SoHo Needed
New Restaurant Union Bar & Kitchen is Just What West SoHo Needed

New Restaurant Union Bar & Kitchen is Just What West SoHo Needed

I love new restaurant openings. There’s always this energy in the air, an excitement, the mystery of what the gut gamble might uncover. That’s why I was so excited to be invited to the soft launch of Union Bar & Kitchen in West SoHo.

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