The Traveling Bar is an on-going series where cocktail bloggers, bartenders and boozy professionals pick their favorite neighborhood watering holes. Today we’re back in the East Bay (in Northern California) joined by Todd from Honestly Yum for his favorite place to get a drink. Read on to find out where you can oogle a tower of gin and then later feast on tacos. Mmmm… ~Elana
1. What do you look for in a bar?
While admittedly I’m quite the cocktail nerd, by no means would I consider myself a cocktail snob. Consequently, I like a bar that takes its craft seriously, but doesn’t take itself too seriously; a place that can mix me up a boulevardier or a last word, but won’t get snarky if I order a rum and coke or a screwdriver. I’m a sucker for a good tequila selection and fresh citrus. Friendly bartenders go a long way, especially when I see they have a group of loyal regulars.
2. Here’s the scenario: your cocktail lovin’ friend is coming to your town for ONE night. You only have time for ONE bar. Which one is it?
The first place I always take my friends is the Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany, CA. It’s my favorite neighborhood bar – I grew up just around the corner. Nothing beats it!
3. What makes this place so special you’d bring them here?
The Hotsy Totsy has it all: the charm of your friendly neighborhood bar, mixed with the craft of today’s cocktail scene. The local regulars are practically family. The owners Jessica and Michael keep the bar stocked with an evolving selection of spirits, old and new, including an impressive tower of gin. The bartenders are all incredibly knowledgeable, and in times of indecisiveness they never fail to mix me up something delicious.
4. What do you order for your friend? What do you order for yourself?
Hmm, so many choices…if it’s chilly outside I’d probably order my friend a “Hot Totsy”. It’s a flaming drink that uses overproof rum, brandy, honey syrup, lemon juice, hot water, and a winter spice blend. The spices are toasted over the flaming glass, which always makes for an impressive show (and smells incredible, btw). If the weather’s warm, and let’s face it we’re in California, I’d probably go with something cold and refreshing like “El Matador” (pictured here) – Hangar One chipotle vodka, Ancho Reyes, lime juice, agave and cilantro with a sriracha-salt rim. As for me, I’d probably order a glass of well-rum and fresh-squeezed grapefruit. Old habits die hard.
5. Does the bar have food? If not, where would you go for a bite?
The bar itself doesn’t serve food, but there’s an incredible taco truck called Tacos El Autlense parked in the Totsy’s parking lot, 7 days a week. Cocktails and tacos…it doesn’t get much better than that!
*Photos courtesy of Todd Wagner.
More Traveling Bar Posts found here!