Interview: bartender-mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann (Elixir)

Bartender San Francisco

H. Joseph Ehrmann champions cocktail history at Elixir in the Mission.


JL: What’s the most recent cocktail you developed?

HJE: The Tarragonia is probably the most recent thing I did. Barasol Pisco, Ruby Port, muddled blackberries and tarragon, lemon juice and agave nectar; shaken and served short over ice with absinthe-sprayed blackberries.

JL: What was your approach with that one?

HJE: I had a bunch of blackberries and tarragon on me, and I had absinthe in a spray bottle. I liked the anise blackberry combination. Also, I did a drink awhile ago that I won a Chartreuse competition with, called The Monk’s Cherry. As a garnish on that, I had a Bing cherry and I took the stem out and put a lavender sprig in its place. I was playing with the blackberry and tarragon in the same way. I put the tarragon leaf into the top of the blackberry so it looks like a stem. Then I was like, how else can I make this a little richer? The grape-y sweetness in the Pisco married with some Port for some richness, then balance it out with some acid and sugar. It’s the right combination.

Cocktail San Francisco

Ehrmann’s Tarragonia cocktail balances the namesake herb with berries, Pisco, and Port.

JL: What’s the best seller?

HJE: On this menu, the Yuzu Cucumber Collins is the best seller, consistently. Square One, yuzu and cucumber in a Collins. It’s a pretty simple drink. That’s something I’ve changed in the past year or so. I’ve gone back to more simple spins on classic formulas. From a sales perspective, customers like things that are coiffable, things you can drink a lot of. Get too funky and the bartenders can’t crank out the drinks as quickly. If it’s too esoteric – I have customers who will come in for that, so I always have one or two of those on there. The Tarragonia is that, or the Napa Creole, but they’re all selling. This is probably one of my best selling menus in a long time.

JL: Do you plan to change the menu any time soon?

HJE: I’m changing it this week, and year after year I bring back things that work. The Cucumber Collins has been a standard, and I just changed it to Yuzu, and it works like mad. Sayulita is a recipe that works every summer. Strawberry and ginger with tequila. The other strawberry drink that’s been a big seller for years is the Emperor Norton’s Mistress. Bourbon, strawberry, vanilla and orange. Now we’re going into seasonal. You see here, rhubarb and berries. Early summer. Now we’re switching into more mid summer, Bing cherries, watermelon, blueberries, as before we were more into raspberry, blackberry, strawberry. We’ll stick with strawberries, add blueberries, a couple watermelon drinks, a couple blueberry drinks.

JL: Where do you like to drink when you’re not here?

HJE: I’ve been hanging out at Comstock Saloon since they opened. Those guys are good friends of mine and I love that they’ve restored another old, classic saloon. I love what they’ve done with it. I like hanging out at my friends’ bars. I go to Cantina, Duggan McDonnell’s bar. I go to Rye when I can, Smuggler’s Cove. Hogs & Rocks just opened this weekend and I’ll be hanging out there because it’s close and in the neighborhood. The reality is that I don’t get out as much as I used to. I travel a lot, just running the business. I get out to dinner more than to bars.

JL: What’s a great simple cocktail for people to make at home?

HJE: The Cucumber Collins is great. Any kind of Collins in the summertime is such a great platform that you can build on. If you’re just using lemon, simple syrup and a splash of soda, then you can change up your base spirit for whatever you want. Bourbon, gin, rum, whatever it is. Then you can add another layer of flavor by throwing on another kind of juice, fruit or liqueur. If you look at the sour formula as a blank canvass and add layers of flavor on there, you can do it as a soup up, throw some egg white in it, or you can leave it tall over ice, more like a lemonade, without any soda water. Or you can cut it with soda water and it becomes more of a Collins than a lemonade. Add a little liqueur and it becomes a Daisy. This is what I teach. I do a lot of Mixology 101 classes, whether it’s for the public or companies for team builders. I always emphasize how we can build flavor off of simple formulas…Start with lemon and something sweet, add different flavors and you can create 10-15 different drinks. Lime and sweet, you can do the same thing. Lemon and lime, throw in some pineapple. Understanding that base is great for being able to explore.

JL: If you could only drink one more cocktail, what would be in that glass?

HJE: A Manhattan. Rittenhouse 100 rye, Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters. Stir it up.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Thanks for coming by! This was fun. I’ll re-post as part of my profile on the Barbary Coast Conservancy website. Please come to SF Cocktail Week (


It was great to finally learn more about your background and approach. I’ll certainly do my best to make it to SF Cocktail Week.

The Session #41 – Craft Beer Influenced by Homebrewing…

I am writing to ask for your permission to include your posts on and include a link to your blog in our directory. We would include a link back to your blog fully crediting you for your work along with a profile about you listed on DCguide….

Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by foodgps, HARLEM. HARLEM said: Thanks FoodGPS for a great article: Q&A with bartender-mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann (@ElixirSF) […]


How do I make these cocktails?

[…] Food GPS » Q&A with bartender-mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann (Elixir) […]

Leave a Comment