At Trick Dog, the Mission district bar from Josh Harris and Scott Baird, collaboration is forefront in mixing some of the most in-demand drinks in San Francisco. “Scott and I will come from two different angles, whether it’s name, color, whimsy,” says Harris, who opened Trick Dog with Baird this January and launched their first menu based on Pantone colors. “We do it all together. The drinks are an overlap of both our styles.”
A prime example is the Polar Bear, a minty-cool play on the brandy and crème de menthe Stinger. The Polar Bear started with Baird, who created a variation of the classic cocktail for an event. He swapped aged tequila for brandy and added something the duo can’t quite remember. “When it came time to mock up drinks, we made the cocktail different ways and changed ratios, but we couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t as good as the drink before,” says Harris. Around that time Harris was also playing around with a two-part tequila, one-part vermouth drink, a sort of Mexican Manhattan. One day, during drink testing he “just sort of got up and made [the tequila drink] and added some ingredients that happened to be on the table,” including the crème de menthe and mezcal.
The two drinks merged, and the Polar Bear was born.
This combination of mezcal, vermouth, and crème de menthe yields a drink that’s minty, cool, and refreshing with a hint of smoke and just a touch of sweetness. Harris kept his original ratio with two parts mezcal to one part vermouth, and her added a ½ ounce of crème de menthe. The mezcal—a soft and slightly floral Pierde Almas Puritita—plays off of the locally produced Tempus Fugit Crème de Menthe in a clear, crisp way. “There is a cooling menthol to the after breath of good mezcal and good tequila,” says Baird. “And this particular brand of crème de menthe is just spectacular. It’s a natural mint that tastes like real mint.”
The finishing touch is six drops of angelica tincture, which Baird made after finding a rare bundle of local, fresh angelica. The extract has a subtle vegetal, celery seed flavor. “Mezcal really tastes of the earth, so it complements that ‘of the earth thing’,” says Harris. And while the angelica tincture really completes the drink, it’s hard to put in words exactly how. “We strive to create cocktails that have something you can’t quite put your finger on it, and [the angelica] is that thing,” he explains.
In keeping with the preparation for a classic Stinger, Baird and Harris’s Polar Bear is shaken, not stirred. “We tried shaken first, and it was better, more aerated, sharp in a different way,” says Harris. “It gets super cold, which plays with the menthol aspect, and turns opaque because we agitate so furiously with ice when shaking.” That opaque color also helped the drink earn its moniker. The flavor profile and minty rush immediately made them think of Polar Bear, and there just happened to be an off-white Pantone (2912) with a name to match. Serendipitous, yes. It’s just the kind of magic that happens when you find, or stumble upon, the perfect partner.