I was at Whitechapel the other night, enjoying a lovely cocktail and the ambiance of this great new watering hole. We were discussing the merits and qualities of various gins and watching an incredible bartender flame orange peels for the Penny Dreadful, my latest cocktail obsession.
The aroma and wild flaming action of the orange peel brought back a memory of another night, sitting at a bar in North Beach, chatting with an older bartender. He told me about his working the bar at a private party at Dean Martin’s home. Imagine, making cocktails for Dean Martin or even being at one of those epic parties… the mind boggles.
As he crafted me a cocktail, he told me about how bored Dean was getting with martinis and how he was listening to the other members of the Rat Pack talk and sing, and when Tom Jones chimed in with song, inspiration struck. The bartender created the Flame of Love cocktail. He filmed a coupe with fino sherry, then stirred a vodka until very chilled and poured that into the glass, and then flamed 3 strips of orange into the glass. He flamed the orange peels for me at this point in his story and I was hooked. It was very dramatic and aromatic and something I will never tire of watching.
I sat and sipped this divine concoction in the dimly bar, chatting with this charming older gentleman about old Hollywood and the stars of the day, trading tales of meeting this person and seeing that person, but really, who can top the Rat Pack with Tom Jones?
The last time I went to the restaurant the bartender was no longer there and the current staff did not know about the Flame of Love. A little research revealed that the cocktail is the creation of Pepe Ruiz. I searched for images of Mr. Ruiz and realized that the bartender who told me this story was not Mr. Ruiz and that it was all, sadly, a tall tale. Whoever that bartender was, despite not creating the Flame of Love himself, his company, the story, and the evening were enchanting. There are many tall tales in San Francisco, and while some of them are real, most of them are perfect for passing the evening, sipping something divine.