Crafting Cocktails with FutureBars Doug Dalton

Delivering the Elixir of the Gods

Doug Dalton, master of the craft cocktail

Last night I had a chance to drink with the man who is transforming cocktail culture in San Francisco, lighting up dark corners of once distressed pockets of the city with a vibrant nightlife and the essence of absinthe.

The meteoric rise and success of Doug Dalton’s boozy empire, FutureBars, has been nothing short of astonishing, with the opening of 10 hit concept bars in just over 10 years:

Anu, tiny SOMA music venue that featured infused cocktails and large acts like Crystal Method and Tiesto 
Swig, TL bar on the Geary corrider with Redwood Room, Redford & Rye
Bourbon & Branch, speakeasy where patrons learn to pour absinthe over a sugar cube like a master
Rickhouse, whiskey den with a massive book of concoctions
Local Edition, subterranean hideaway for the 1950s Examiner headquarters
Tupper and Reed, first venue outside of San Francisco
Tradition, Barbary Coast backroom of themed cubbies
Devil’s Acre, apothecary to cure what ails you
Lark Bar, rustic sports bar
Pagan Idol, sailing ship and island with tiki huts and tropical drinks

Me at Pagan Idol, monkey drink smashed on floor

I asked, “Why absinthe? Thanks to you, San Francisco is the hotbed for the devilishly delicious drink, but you’d be hard-pressed to find the potent anise spirit in NYC or LA.”

Dalton replied, “Lance Winters of St. George turned me onto it!”

“Corpse Survivor is the best!” I cheered.

Dalton added, “Want to know a great drink to order? It’s an Old Fashioned. Bartender won’t be able to do more complex drinks if the Old Fashioned is not right.”

I then found out that Dalton was a tech refugee who began his career as a Silicon Valley engineer working with industry pioneer Marc Andreessen on the birth of web browsing.

It was simply a twist of fate that brought him to NYC where he became immersed in the epic afterhours scene, and it was there that he had a vision on how he could bring it back to San Francisco.

“In 2003, San Francisco had dive bars and restaurants with phenomenal cocktails, but not the right ambiance and food was just confusing the patron. I saw a way to bridge the gap and deliver an outstanding experience focusing solely on crafting the perfect cocktail.”

The rest is history …in the making. Drink it up San Francisco!

Martine Paris is a tech, games, video, music and lifestyle reporter who has written for AOL Music, Huffington Post, Pocket Gamer & Slide to Play, and has appeared on numerous NPR broadcasts. Follow her @contentnow on Twitter and Periscope.