By Virginia Miller
On a chill Mission corner, Wildhawk is a beacon in a neighborhood packed with excellent bars. The cocktails are stellar, to be sure. The intimate space’s seductive black and white floral wallpaper and green velvet chairs make it both romantic and cozy. But pull up to the curved bar for a warm welcome that confirms it as one of San Francisco’s great bars. The all-star bar team is a model for what a strong bar team is all about.
This bar crew is managed by Karri Kiyuna, who bartended for years at legendary Comstock Saloon, and has deeply studied her spirits on the ground, including multiple trips to Peru digging deep into pisco production. Her versatile male-female staff empowers other female bartenders, including a lineup of some of SF’s top female bartenders who create many of the house cocktails.
In addition to creative house cocktails — like Wildhawk’s signature Breakfast Negroni, created by Jacques Bezuidenhout, who had originally opened the bar with Ken Luciano and the PlumpJack Group — the menu features classics, a low proof vermouth cocktail section, a featured martini from bartending friends and industry stars around the world, and an elegant house martini with gin of your choice.
Kiyuna’s gracious spirit permeates Wildhawk, trickling down to the staff and hospitality that awaits within its doors.
Karri steers a menu that covers the gamut from elegant low ABV sippers to fascinating but easy drinking spirituous cocktails. Bartender Marguerite Regan’s ShéSolé has been the unofficial staff drink since day one but just recently made it to the menu. It’s a crushable, dry-but-refreshing, low proof mix of Hidalgo Pastrana sherry, soda, lemon and Angostura bitters.
Sarah Lawson-Stopps’ Lucky No. 2 feels like summer with a floral-vegetal hit of nasturtium, lemon and honey with No. 3 Gin, Meletti, Bitter Bianco, Suze and three kinds of bitters. Claire Hunter’s Robo Geisha is a vibrant beauty of Kikori Japanese whisky, St. George Terrior Gin and Slivovitz (plum brandy) in equal parts, with a subtle tropical dose from Small Hands passionfruit, lemon, egg white and Scrappy’s Thai black lemon bitters.
Kiyuna’s NEFT cocktail, Two Rivers, takes inspiration from dessert but is far from sweet. With Palo Cortado sherry and Dolin Blanc vermouth bringing a beautifully dry balance, NEFT’s silky texture is highlighted with Bacardi Banana’s fruity sweetness, backed by the acidic structure of lemon and garnished with a lemon twist and brandied cherry.
KIYUNA’S NEFT Cocktail: Two Rivers
- 1.5 oz. NEFT Vodka
- 0.75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
- 0.5 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
- 0.5 oz. Lustau Palo Cortado Sherry
- 0.25 oz. Bacardi Banana
Add all ingredients to a cocktail tin and shake until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist and brandied cherry.