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[whitespace] frozen fruit drinks Luscious Libations: The frozen fruit drinks at Leticia's make it a great place for girlie bonding.


Places to drink if you drink like a girl

By Michelle Goldberg

I hate beer. Not just the taste--although I would rather sip John Goodman's fetid bath water than even the most deluxe Czech brew--but the whole hale-hearty iconography of beer, the grotesque earthiness of it.

People used to assure me that beer was an acquired taste, and so as a preteen miscreant I would choke down one after another, feeling with each sip that'd I'd rather be repeatedly punched in the thorax. Because I loathe beer so much, I always feel alienated in places where everyone else drinks it, because I truly and profoundly don't understand how anyone could possibly like it.

There they are in a bar, with liquors, liqueurs and juices of every variety imaginable, a whole glittering Eden of exotic flavors, and what do they order? A pint of unspeakable dirt-colored fluid, a veritable rebuke to fantasy, elegance and delight. It's like being offered a Versace gown and choosing instead some surplus burlap sack from pre-perestroika Russia.

Which is why I set out to find places that an unreconstructed lover of gaudy girlie drinks can consume gem-tone libations in (relative) peace. Sure, there are tiki bars, but aside from Taboo Tiki at the Stud (held on the first Thursday of every month) and the Lilo Lounge on Potrero Hill (1469 18th St.), most island-themed bars tend to make me feel as if I've been stuck on a cut-rate cruise ship--there's a tackiness that's a little too sad to be laughed off as kitsch, and it's hard to feel pampered when the drinks taste as if they've been made with Slurpie syrup. (The Lilo Lounge is a fabulous exception, serving tasty Thai snacks along with fresh, gargantuan piña coladas.)

Surprisingly, for a town that has bought so wholeheartedly into cocktail culture, if you ask many San Francisco bartenders to make you the most froufrou drink they can think of, they'll answer with a pedestrian cosmo or one of the trusty breeze family (sea, bay or, my personal favorite, Malibu Bay). Which are perfectly serviceable, but distinctly unthrilling.

For something a little sweeter and more ostentatious, it's best to start at The Zodiac Club (718 14th St.), that little enclave of attitude in the otherwise aggressively casual Duboce Triangle. The Libra is one of the best drinks in the city: chilled brandy, Chambord and champagne. Equally lovely is the Demeter's Delight, made with vodka and real pomegranate juice. Yum!

Just up the street is Leticia's (2247 Market St.), a Mexican restaurant seemingly custom-made for girl-bonding--hence the walls lined with reproductions of paintings by that mono-browed icon of women's studies departments worldwide, Miss Frida Kahlo. Beneath her comfortingly stern and tortured gaze, Leticia's bartenders serve female-friendly fruit drinks, including sensuous mango and peach daiquiris.

Nearby is the Orbit Room (1900 Market St.), which mixes what may be the best girlie cocktail in all of SF. The Peachy Passion is made of Passoã passion-fruit liqueur, peach schnapps and all kinds of juices. There's also a wonderful electric-blue lemonade that, when you hold it, magically transforms you into an underage coed on spring break.

Down the street a few blocks is Martuni's (4 Valencia), where you can sip divinely sweet and devilishly strong concoctions surrounded by elegantly dressed and well-groomed homosexuals. Bathed in an immensely flattering gold light and filled with the lilting live sounds of lounge ballads and show-tune classics sung without a trace of corrosive irony, Martuni's provides an oasis of civility. Best of all, the bar serves green-apple martinis, oversized cocktails made with sour-apple schnapps and real green apples that taste kind of like Jolly Ranchers.

The prize for best-named candy cocktail easily goes to The Top (424 Haight St.), that lower-Haight haven of house music and surprisingly creative drinks. There, you can order the Bitches Be Trippin (also called the Koko B. Ware), made of Stoli Vanilla, Melon Zone, cranberry and orange juices and grenadine. Recently, a friend invented a personalized version for me--called the Goldberg, substituting Goldschlagger for grenadine. That's the joy of an extravagant drink--instead of beer's off-the-rack prole lumpenness, a perfect cocktail feels like it was designed just for you.

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From the May 24, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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