openings

Exclusive: A Tiny New Bar Called Big Quietly Opens Its Doors

The place is decorated with flea-market items accumulated over time by one of the owners' mothers, including this 48-star flag.Photo: J. Barmann/Grub Street

Back in February we broke the news of a small, ironically named new cocktail venture from the team behind Jones called Big opening within one of those old residence hotels at 761 Post Street. Just last night they quietly opened, and Grub Street has the first pictures of the place. It's a wee little spot, with just a few seats, and for now it's only open Thursday to Saturday, serving up artisanal cocktails of the sort you might find down the street at The Wilson or Bourbon & Branch, only without having to make a reservation or feel obligated to drink more than one. The sole bartender is Brian Felley, who recently took home the top prize at SF Weekly's Drink event, and who previously bartended at Fleur de Lys and Garcon.

Felley's serious about his craft and he's hoping that guests at the new bar are serious about their cocktails too — if you're in a rush for a vodka soda, in other words, you're probably better off down the hill at the Owl Tree, or elsewhere. But don't think this is all humorless, pretentious mixology — Brian's a fun dude, but he's going to take a minute or two to make you something good. For now there's no set menu, and in the style of Milk & Honey in New York, you just suggest a drink, or some flavor you're feeling that instant, and Felley will make you something either classic or improvised on the fly, or some combination of the two. His main goal, he says, are "balanced and clean flavors," and not overworked mixology messes. By way of example, we had a drink (in the slideshow), featuring muddled pear and ginger, lemon juice, pear eau de vie, gin, and simple syrup, garnished with orange-chili oil.

Also, like Milk & Honey and Bourbon & Branch, there are some house rules at Big which you can read here. There shall be no jackassery or skullduggery, and though cellphones are not banned, one is asked to keep mobile phone use "to a minimum." But there's also the added bonus of some eclectic vintage glassware, collected over the last few months at flea markets and antique shops, and a ceiling lined with crushed red velvet bunting.

The plan is to test things out Thursday to Saturday, around 6 p.m. until things die down, which probably will be around 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. (Look for the kerosene lamp out front to be lit when they're open, whether the door's locked or not. Just knock to get let in, or the topof the split door may be open anyway.) In the coming weeks, they will likely start opening on Wednesdays and Sundays as well, but hours may not be regular. Because there are only about eight seats and minimal standing space, they will be keeping capacity around 25 people, and starting a list when they're full — they'll text you when space opens up, and you can either text back, or ignore.

And be on the lookout for an upcoming concoction, exclusive to Big, that sounds like a uniquely San Franciscan twist on the gin martini: hickory-smoked gin with smoked olive oil in place of olives.

Big - 761 Post Street between Jones and Leavenworth - Open Thursday to Saturday, around 6 p.m. onward.

Earlier: Ironically Named Big, a Tiny New Bar, Coming to TenderNob

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