I was told to head to 15 Romolo by a helpful bartender in Mill Valley, CA. She told me 15 Romolo was “Bourbon and Branch before Bourbon and Branch.” That’s a pretty heavy accolade, considering Bourbon and Branch makes some of the damn finest cocktails in a cocktail-centric city.
But that pretty bartender was right on the money. I saddled up to the bar after a long day of walking the city and going over way too many details in my own head about shouldas, couldas and wouldas.
Actually, let me back up. Before I saddled up at 15 Romolo, I had to find the place. It’s wedged down a dark alley, right behind a strip bar. Before you turn down the alley, you’ll see the Beat Museum. It’s worth stopping in, especially to speak with the lovely couple from Baltimore who run it.
But I wasn’t on the edges of Little Italy for dancing naked women and lectures on Ginsberg, Kerouac and Cassady. I was looking for 15 Romolo.
The bar is down a not-too-well-lit alley. When I walked into the nearly-empty bar, I saddled up to the nearest stool and took a look at the impressive collection of spirits behind the bar. I started talking shop with the bartender named Ian, who knows his cocktails and his booze. We talked shop over a wonderful Fish House Punch, which used Spanish brandy with dark rum (I believe it was Cruzan’s Black Strap). Fantastic combo – the sweet, dark rum was the first taste in your mouth, but the backbone of the Spanish Brandy carried the drink. Then Ian made a little something special that mixed bourbon with tequila. I got to try a little bit of the extra. Unfortunately, I forget the exact ingredients, but the two strong flavors mixed beautifully. If you stop in, ask for this concoction.
In a blink, the bar was packed and I headed out the door to wander some more. But just as I started walking, I caught a glimpse of something I never saw before, nor do I ever want to see again: a man tried to enter a strip club with a baby in a baby carriage. The bouncer turned him away, which means the next generation may have some glimmer of hope.