Eddie Beltran has that mix of friendly and imposing we imagine works well for a bar owner and bartender. Military background, stocky — we weren’t all that surprised to hear he also works the door on Tiburon’s rowdiest night, Friday’s karaoke. We could imagine him throwing some people out, literally. But he looked after us well on our return trip to the Tiburon Tavern, upper State’s neighborhood bar of choice. Five regulars sat at the bar, nursing beers and watching the game.
We first came to the Tib in our guise as cocktail wiseguys in 2007, but did not meet Beltran. Six years ago, Beltran bought the Tiburon and decided not to change the name of the five-year-old establishment. “It was on its last legs,” he says, and set about repainting, redecorating and revarnishing. A few large mirrors stayed, but most of the décor is his.
Being a beer-and-shot bar, Beltran doesn’t make many cocktails, but he did have some favorites up his sleeve, ones that he will try and ones that get ordered during karaoke night.
The Strawberry Tony Diamond (check that acronym to get the joke) is Beltran’s variation on an old cocktail. (We can’t find a Tony Diamond in our research, please drop us a line if you know.)
It’s a mix of Strawberry Stoli, Cointreau and Rose’s Lime with a dash of cranberry. It’s alcohol-forward, but the citrus liqueurs go a little way in dispersing that, leaving a sharp strawberry taste. Not bad, we thought.
The Ruby Red Crush is Beltran’s variation on the Orange Crush that sells out on Fridays. It’s a straight mix of Absolut Ruby Red with dashes of grapefruit juice, 7-Up, cranberry and Cointreau. Beltran agreed that it’s a bitter answer to the sweetness of the Orange Crush, a more manly (but not compared to a shot of rye whiskey) way to go. We tried this on the rocks, but in retrospect, having it up is the way to go.
Then we all got talking about Manhattans, which, if you read this column a lot, you know is one of our favorite cocktails. A patron recommended Basil Hayden’s as a whiskey base (though produced now under Jim Beam it’s rarely seen). Beltran didn’t have it. But he did have Red Stag, Jim Beam’s black cherry-flavored whiskey. And so we settled into a Red Stag Manhattan, which, even if you don’t like ’em too sweet, is a lovely blend of dark flavors. Beltran is not afraid of the sweet vermouth (good for him) and the bitters managed to peep through the cherry juice. Though the beer-and-shot crowd may not see the point, that’s their loss. This is our Drink of the Week.
RED STAG MANHATTAN
4 parts Jim Beam Red Stag
2 parts Sweet Vermouth
1/2 part cherry juice (from the maraschino cherry bottle)
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Shake over ice, strain into martini glass, garnish with cherry.
316 State St.