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In Search of the Elusive Old Potrero

Back in 1997, before the tobacco prohibition hit San Francisco, I used to throw quarterly cigar crawls. The idea behind the cigar crawl was that a bunch of us would get together and hit four or five cigar friendly bars and a couple of cigar shops on a Friday night after work.

The first crawl attracted 19 people, which was not a shabby little feat. The next crawl had over a hundred attendees. The third crawl was smaller, as we were throwing it in honor of Carlos' impending marriage. The fourth crawl never happened… and by the time we were planning the fifth crawl, the prohibition had taken effect, leaving us with nowhere to go to smoke our cigars.

During the first crawl, we went to a bar called Fume. Fume was San Francisco's first cigar bar. It closed early this year because without the cigar smokers, it was just a boring little bar. Anyway, while we were at the bar, I happened to come across an interesting looking bottle of whisky. So, I asked the bartender for a shot of this Old Potrero.

It was amazing. Old Potrero is a one year old single malt rye whisky, produced in San Francisco by the good folks at Anchor… the people who brought you Anchor Steam Beer. Old Potrero has a bright, clean taste with a nice burn and a strong kick to it. That night, the group of us would order many shots of Old Potrero, savoring it along with our cigars. Old Potrero was deemed the patron booze of the cigar crawls.

When we prepared for the second crawl, we were told that the State of California had a law on the books from the 1800s restricting the sale of any whisky less than three years old. Therefore, they could not sell any Old Potrero. A waiver was granted to the good folks at Anchor a few months later.

For the third crawl, we went to the Cigar and Cognac Lounge at the Canterbury Hotel. That night, Toshi and I stumbled across one of our greatest finds of all time… a 1/3 full bottle of Old Potrero. We went to the bartender and asked if we could buy the whole bottle. He said that we could buy all of the liquor and he'd give us the bottle. So we asked him to measure out the how many $14 shots worth of this heavenly rye were left and we would just buy the bottle. There were eight shots left, and he let us have it for $80. We each had a few shots that night… and Toshi still has the remaining dram of this liquor, and the bottle in safe keeping at his house.

At last year's Belgian Beer Festival, I made contact with someone who had access to a few bottles of Old Potrero, and in January I came into possession of one of the 1448 bottles of 1994 vintage.

A few months ago, a Carlos and I were celebrating something or other and went over to MacArthur Park for a late lunch and a drink. So he grabbed the table and I went over to see what was on tap. What did I find? You guessed it, a bottle of Old Potrero. So, I ordered us up two shots and was all ready to bring him his first taste of this magical elixir. Unfortunately, the bottle only had a half of a shot left in it. So, the bartender gave us the few remaining drops and the bottle as a souvenir of the afternoon. When I went back to grab my computer from the office, I stashed the empty bottle in my file cabinet under lock and key.

This afternoon, Carlos and I went over to John Walker and Co, a specialty liquor store in the Financial District. He had a bottle of Bols Genever, an excellent Dutch Gin on hold… and I always love checking out what's new. So, we're looking around at the whiskys and what did I find… three bottles of Old Potrero (1996 vintage&#41. John Walker was one of a few specialty shops who were given a small allotment of Old Potrero to sell, and just got these bottles in earlier this week. Carlos immediately bought one bottle, but I decided to pass, as I still have almost a full bottle at home. Instead, I bought a bottle of Anchor's new gin, Junipero.

Carlos and I got back to the office, and I sat there, looking at the bottle. I imagined what I would have first. A gin martini? Gin and Tonic? I decided on a gimlet.

I opened up my file cabinet, grabbed the empty bottle of Old Potrero and opened the bottle to enjoy the angel's share [the angel's share is the vapor… i just sniffed it, in case anyone from work thinks I was drinking in my office]. Then I threw the two distant cousins: Junipero and Potrero into my bag and took the long trip home.

Posted in Smirks.

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