Friday, July 20, 2012

Speakeasy San Jose: Single Barrel

Usually we all pick drinks that come out pink, but not this time. 

Downtown San Jose has it's own speakeasy...

The most charming thing about the Single Barrel is that their mission is to find the perfect handmade drink for just for you. Once you get to the bar, your bartender will pepper you with you like citrus? Gin? Bourbon? Whiskey? Champagne? Do you prefer sweet or salty? After the interview is done, the drink master begins to mix, and juice and slice and twirl. Every thing is super fresh down to the individually curling lemon rind. 

Once your beverage has attained perfection it is handed to you with all it's glory.

Basil Gimlet and the French 77

My perfect drink turned out to be the French 77.  Siobhan's was the basil vodka gimlet. I hadn't even contemplated putting basil in an alcoholic beverage. Scratch that. I hadn't conceived of putting it in any beverage. So tasty.

Buddy Janet scored a really yummy drink called the Hoopla - which was fabulous.  Dianne tasted the Final Ward, which uses a beverage called, Green Chartreuse - made of the extracts of 132 plants. Can you imagine the people who concocted this for the first time... "Hey guys, I know we already put 131 plants in this thing, but it's still missing a little something." Our group thought Dianne's beverage was a might "complex." Everyone but Dianne thought their beverage was perfect for them. She might need a re-do.

The bartenders at the Single Barrel train with the owner of the bar for 3-7 months before they can mix the drinks solo. A test is required for certification and until then, bartenders in training man the door or perform the task of "ssshher."

Speakeasies were places where people could consume illegal alcoholic beverages during prohibition -- 1920 -33 in the United States. Noise levels had to be kept down, lest the feds discover what was going on, so in the original speakeasy in Pittsburgh the owner would tell her customers, "speak easy boys, speak easy." And that is how speakeasies got their name. Single Barrel maintains this tradition, it also helps if they shhhh the crowd so you can hear your bartender as he reveals your perfect drink.

Speakeasies often changed locations during prohibition.

Here is the recipe for my perfect drink, which I now serve in my garden on hot summer days.

St. Germain French 77 

1oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Gin

*note: this is not a French 75. A French 75 has no Elderflower Liquer according to our bartender at Single Barrel. Drink servers in other places may try to pass off a French 75 as a French 77, because they don't know what the difference is. Don't let them. We have our standards.

Epicurious has a fabulous Basil Vodka Gimlet recipe here.

While no password is required to get into Single Barrel, you may face a line on weekends if you don't get here before nine pm.

If you are looking for other fabulous drink recipes, check out Food Fixe drinks here.

Other speakeasy posts from Mystery Playground can be found here (check out the post on Las Vegas' Lady Sylvia for a fabulously yummy recipe for a drink called the 18b).

How to get to Single Barrel:
The address is 43 West San Salvador Street, San Jose. There isn't any sign but you can find it if you look for the barrel. Street parking is plentiful around the corner. If you don't want to walk a block, there is a parking lot across the street. 

Look for the Single Barrel and tell them Walt sent you. 


  1. OMG, I loved reading this post. I love the whole Gatsby speakeasy time, it must have been so exciting. Thanks for sharing this info, and your drink sounds yummy. If I ever find myself in San Jose, I'm there! (before 9pm)

  2. @Kerry - you have to come! It's a really great place.

  3. how much are these perfect artisan drinks? sounds expensive!

    1. Anytime you go to a modern speakeasy the drinks aren't so inexpensive. You pay a little bit more for the ambiance and the hand crafted cocktails.