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March 18, 2019

How I See San Francisco: Pagan Idol's Will Prestwood

As a longtime member of San Francisco's vibrant craft cocktail scene, and general manager of the Financial District's tiki bar Pagan Idol, Will Prestwood can help you narrow down the city's abundant choice for grabbing a drink. While working as a bartender at the Fairmont Hotel's famous Tonga Room, Will developed his love for the tropical tiki history that inspired the playful ambiance you'll find at Pagan Idol. Here, he shares some thoughts with us on San Francisco and the local nightlife scene.

Do you have a favorite go-to cocktail?

The Mai Tai is a classic, invented in Oakland by Trader Vic in 1944. Traditionally, it's made with Jamaican rum, but the formula gives flight to gin, bourbon, rye, tequila, or whatever you fancy, accented by a bit of curacao, lime and a whisper of almond. There are many imitations, but the original is light, rummy, tart and refreshing.

Do you have a favorite locally-made cocktail ingredient?

I really like Small Hands Foods products by Jennifer Colliau, who's been very influential in our cocktail scene. At Pagan Idol, all of our juices, syrups, tinctures, and bitters are made in-house, but when I'm traveling and see Small Hands on the shelf, it's a no-brainer. St. George Distillery in Alameda also makes really delicious spirits.

What's your favorite daytime drink?

I usually stick to water during the day, but when I do opt for a daytime tipple, I want something simple and refreshing like a daiquiri. Don't get it twisted; I'm not about a sugar-bomb slush. Rather, a well-balanced combination of rum, lime, and sugar makes this a favorite on a hot day.

Where's a favorite stop after last call?

After last call, we've still got work to do and spending this time with co-workers brings me joy. If I have a night off, I grab a bite to eat at Nopa, 15 Romelo, or Kennedy's. On a late night, a cup of coffee and plate of chicken at Pinecrest or Orphan Andy's warms the soul. Aces is also ripe for classic times at their earliest hour.

What's your favorite street or neighborhood for bar-hopping?

North Beach has a special place in my heart. It has the perfect mix of craft cocktails and classic neighborhood bars, including 15 Romelo, Devil's Acre, Comstock Saloon, Specs, Vesuvio, The Saloon, and Bamboo Hut. I also love Kennedy's Irish Pub & Indian Curry House, the original home of Skipper Kent's and later, Bora Bora in the mid-20th century.

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