I’m not sure if it’s because my roots were first planted in Kentucky, or if it’s just in my blood, but a strong love of bourbon flows through these veins. Often, I imagine myself in another time, in a different set of circumstances, sitting on a hay bale inside a tobacco drying barn, bourbon in hand. I’m enjoying it neat despite the sweltering humidity overtaking the rolling Kentucky hills just outside.

Since I have yet to figure out how to transport myself to this alternate universe, I continue to explore bourbon focused businesses to fill this void. Hard Water is like many San Francisco dining institutions, in that it’s backed by a well-known restaurant group, and it’s always busy. They started taking reservations a few months ago, so I secured a few prime Friday happy hour times, and was finally able to enjoy one of them last week.


The space is one that I could see myself spending hours in, catching up with friends both new and old. The ceilings are lofted, the windows huge to showcase views of the bay, the interior full of clean marble lines, and most importantly, there is a library styled wall with bottle after beautiful bottle of bourbon.


We sat at the bar counter, and surveyed the cocktail list with much anticipation. I’d of course done my pre-visit menu stalking, but seeing the drinks crafted and delivered in person, changed the images I’d created in my mind. First up was the Bourbon Lift, which was a dessert like, yet still refreshing cocktail, that did not disappoint. Each sip was perfectly balanced to showcase the bourbon, while letting the roasted flavor of the coffee liqueur peak around the decadent Straus cream.  I made myself slowly savor it, despite my strong desire to slurp it up in a few short swallows. For my next drink, I wanted a classic, and opted for their Mint JulepIt was served crispy-cold in a silver mug with fresh crushed ice. It tasted uncomplicated, and with one sip and I was recalling memories of Derby parties past.

For my next visit, I’ll save my pennies so I can splurge on a flight of Willett. Or who knows, maybe I’ll sell everything I own and throw down on the Van Winkle… hopefully those tasters are big enough to numb the pain of my wallet being a hundred bones lighter.

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