Martin Cate has expanded his territory of themed bars in San Francisco. The latest addition is Whitechapel, a bar claiming to host the largest selection of gin in North America. Now that’s a big claim, but if anyone is able to achieve an outstanding bar program showcasing an extensive variety of gin, it is Martin Cate and Alex Smith.
Cate proved his spirit expertise with Smuggler’s Cove, Hayes Valley Tiki bar featuring over 500 distinct bottles of rum. When Alex Smith came to Cate with the idea of creating a destination for gin, he applied the same concept of Smuggler’s Cove to create a menu that celebrates the entire history of the often overlooked spirit.
The menu begins with a table of contents to help navigate the 100+ cocktails, opening with Originals. Cate showcases his historical and literary expertise through cocktails with names like The Queen Mother - an ode to Queen Elizabeth - and Norman Conquest. My favorite from the first selection is the Lamplighter’s Story – Plymouth gin infused with hibiscus, grapefruit marmalade, serrano chili, bitter orange soda and lemon.
Chapter two is titled “Honor Among Thieves”, featuring cocktails carefully crafted by notable bartenders including Charlotte Voisey and Erick Castro.
Chapter three features cocktails made with Whitechapel’s own gin recipe, a blend designed by Cate and Smith with San Francisco’s Distillery 209. Whitechapel Victorian Dry Gin is an exclusive blend of traditional London Dry botanicals mixed with English Vlack Walnut, Lemon Verbena, and East Kent Golding Hops.
The next section features Cate and Smith’s blend in popular classics, such as the Singapore Sling and Tom Collins.
The next page of the menu is not to be missed by cocktail enthusiasts and history buffs. Smith’s martini family tree dating back to the 1840’s not only serves as a menu, but also articulates the evolution of the classic martini.
Finally we get to the gin and tonics. What is a quality gin without a good tonic? Whitechapel offers a range of tonics to choose from, including Small Hand Foods tonic and Lurisia Acqua Tonica.
True to Cate’s affinity for tiki culture, Whitechapel offers punches and bowls that are recommended for groups of 4 or more. Finally, for those interested in joining the Polk Street Irregulars - a gin tasting club -you can find gin flights in the closing section of the menu.
If the impressive variety of gin doesn’t peak your interest, the unique atmosphere makes the bar still worth visiting. Inspired by Cate’s fascination with the many abandoned stations of the London Underground, Whitechapel is designed to look like an abandoned station turned private gin club. The space offers an escape from the streets of San Francisco to a fantasy gin palace. With three distinct areas of the bar all featuring ornate designs and fantastical lighting fixtures, it might only take a cocktail or two before you forget you’re still in San Francisco.
600 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94102