Trade your expectations for appreciation,
And things change rather quickly.
One of the many lessons I learned in life after having uplifted many such expectations, realizing how they can rise to the clouds and plummet to the soil. As a wanderluster, I have learned to tame my expectations based on what I know of places, without letting too many preconceived notions fog my thoughts. For truly, the moment of surprise, when an expectation is met, surpassed, or falls flat on its face, is priceless.
One such place is San Francisco, one of my favorite culinary cities on the continent, which has seldom disappointed me with its immaculate food skills, but leaves much desired by nightfall. For a city based time zonally and weather forecasted-ly in the lesser preferred regions, and with intellect taking precedence over fashion, I have often found myself overdressed and seeking options for the post midnight mischievous boy within.
One such night took me to a recommended spot, which I ended up frequenting repeatedly since. Smuggler’s Cove, as the name suggests, is every pirate‘s fantasy. Sans any fishnet stocking mermaid, it was like walking into a pirate’s den, making me toggle relentlessly between being my innate Peter Pan (who hated pirates) and my benevolent Jack Sparrow, who’s personality I evoked many a time, as per onlookers. For it is a pirate and nautical themed tiki bar with the strongest of award winning drinks.
May your anchor be tight,
Your cork be loose,
Your rum be spiced,
And your compass true.
Touted as the city’s best rum and exotic cocktail destination since 2009, Smuggler’s Cove truly had one thing going for it: ambiance. Drenched in a wall-less interior, there were details of pirate swag and buccaneering adventures everywhere – from fish skeleton neon lights to fishnet ceilings to multi-colored exposed lightbulbs in wooden nooks and crannies and a whole lot of boisterous chaos that could only mean a fresh catch. The interiors were credited to a local designer Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez of Top Notch Kustoms. The tiki artifacts continued on a lengthy, descriptive menu of the origins of rum and the nautical voyages quested to find it, offering a deliciously dramatic outing. I would have expected the opulent quotient of glitz in inherently vibrant cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Istanbul or Delhi, but to find it in San Francisco was truly a whimsical surprise of its own!
With a bi-level space, I opted for drinking several drinks at the crowded bar before perching to the upper level, which offered a secluded, dare I say romantic escape for those pirates looking to catch some sexy action amidst straw thrones, wooden tables and a dimly lit parlor upstairs. I was inevitably and inherently at home, both with posing in my Armani snake print shirt and Roberto Cavalli leopard print pants as Gastronomypix played my accomplice in yet another adventure.
Hers was a fun creamy froth drink, titled Tradewinds because winds allow us to sail away to find tranquility with Jamaican rum from the 70s, blended with lemon, coconut cream, apricot liquor and both dark and silver rums. Stronger than its decadent looks, it was speckled with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg to elevate the odyssey of the seas, and the illusion of enchantment that would inevitably end in memory loss.
I opted for a clear but boozier Navy Grog, being the captain of this ship as it seemed, taking on a new meaning in the world of tiki. With historic rum, sugar and lime, there was grapefruit-pimento dram, all spice liquor and dark rum to add that cloudy sea finish to a powerful potion, mixed together with a cinnamon stick. Indecipherably strong, it left me smoldering and almost losing balance of the ship in my fantasy world.
The last drink of the night was the signature Rum Punch, served in a rum barrel as a keepsake. It was essentially filled up with hum, house-made spiced sorrel (hibiscus) liqueur, fresh lime, and garnished with an edible hibiscus flower. So strong that it made me levitate like Captain Hook, the misleading aroma of hibiscus and the flower was a clear sign for it being a mermaid lagoon trap. I nonetheless guzzled it down, sweet and citrusy all at once before the solid rum hit home, making it time to actually get whisked home, sans ship.
On a disparate occasion I opted for a Caribbean ecstasy of sorts, with a comrade from Trinidad and Tobago who let me grace his wedding as a key guest. It was called “Queen’s Park Swizzle”, named after the green oasis in the heart of Trinidad’s Port of Spain, where Trader Vic described it as described in the Queen’s Park Hotel as “the most delightful form of anesthesia give out today.”. It was made of mint, lime, demerara sugar, a Private Reserve Rum and Angostura bitters. More citrusy than bitter, it left a lasting effect that left me fairly stunned thereafter, quite misleading for the tall vial that it was served so unsuspectingly in!
But then again, I work like a captain, but I play like a pirate.