Bar Review: Redwood Room, San Francisco
San Francisco’s Redwood Room, part of the recently acquired-and-rechristened Clift Royal Sonestra Hotel, has long been a see-and-be-seen hotspot in the city. I’ve personally seen legit celebrities here, and heard tales of plenty more. It’s easy to see why they come: It’s one of the most gorgeous bars in town, with soaring redwood walls that stretch what must be 25 feet or more to the ceiling and lush appointments all around. Even the artwork is interesting, including a pair of video installations that featured a man and a woman easily mistaken for still photos, but which subtly move if you stare at them long enough.
Recently I made a fresh trip the Redwood Room to work through the cocktail menu and see what the A-list was sipping on. First and foremost: The Redwood Room is a place for classics. Manhattans and martinis, glass of wine. Pair them with some of the delightful bites (or larger items on the menu, ranging from pizza to a 12 oz. ribeye) and you’ve got the start to a wonderful evening. (The poke is especially addictive.)
The Redwood has a number of specialty cocktails (many spins on the classics) on the list that, in my tasting, were hit and miss. By far the biggest winner was the Lucille Ball, a tight drink with a lot of similarity to the Ritten Word, subbing in bitters for the amaro. Moderated whiskey-driven sweetness and ginger pop in equal proportions in a concoction that goes down easily. The Mission — a blend of Volcan de mi Tierra tequila, Averna, grapefruit juice, and orange bitters is a paloma with a curious, bitter twist that takes the classic in a slightly different direction. This is probably the most refreshing cocktail on the list.
More divisive were the Afternoon in Humboldt (rosemary-infused Partida tequila, lime juice, syrup, and grapefruit soda), which has too many similarities to the Mission and which needs more syrup in the mix. Similarly, the Prince Charm (vodka, lychee juice, lemon juice, and syrup) is your eastern-inflected lemon drop, an enormous beverage with lingering sweetness that may be too much for some. Finally, the Dutch Spritz is — put simply — a cute mashup of an Aperol Spritz and a gin and tonic. It’s a great concept but I found myself wishing the drink would pick a side.
Cocktails here are a hefty $16 each, but I will note that the service is exemplary and ultra-fast. I never waited more than a minute for a drink to come out (or for my valet-parked car). And, of course, don’t forget: You’re paying for the view, too!