Tartine Manufactory was built as the flagship to Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Roberts’s dreamy empire of the very best that California has to offer, sparing no detail in the process. From the two-story deck oven imported from Germany to the complete buildout of the space adjacent to Heath Ceramics, Tartine doesn’t skimp. Now, that includes a list of cocktails to accompany the restaurant’s brand new liquor license, created by LA bar star Julian Cox.
Cox joined the Tartine team last year to take on the beverage program at the group’s growing number of restaurants, including Henry’s in Berkeley (Tartine investor Bill Chait operates the food and beverage there as well), the impending Tartine Manufactory in LA, Tartine’s project in Hotel G, and Tartine Seoul. His arrival in the Bay Area followed a yearlong stint with the Lettuce Entertain You group in Chicago at Three Dots and a Dash, though he spent years in LA working on cocktails at restaurants like Bestia and Otium.
Now, after months of honing the combined styles of his own drinkmaking with Tartine’s aesthetic, Cox has debuted the first iteration of his menu at the Tartine Manufactory bar. He has been testing a small menu for weeks, in anticipation of launching an even larger menu in August.
He’s also been heavily training bar staff via his six-week “You Can’t Bullshit Me for That Long” training program, starting with basic knowledge of tools and spirits, learning the canon of classic drinks that every bartender should know, and building a foundation. Cox has already trained over 22 bartenders in SF.
In part because of his training process, Cox isn’t scared to hire staff with little or no bar experience. “Baristas are great because they understand the process, measuring ingredients,” says Cox. “I love helping people find their way, and their career; it’s harder to undo bad habits than to teach good ones.”
In the SF vs. LA battle for coolness, Cox says SF drinkers are much more sophisticated (“LA is still stuck in the vodka drink world”), the result of bars like Trick Dog.
“I can’t be next to Trick Dog and True Laurel and not throw down,” says Cox. “The artistry, the way drinks look and taste is part of whats making it your own. I have a style that’s a little different.”
For now, drinks aren’t paired with specific dishes from Tartine’s kitchen, though Cox says he regularly consults the menu to make sure he’s including complementary flavors. “I don’t think cocktails have to pair with food,” he says. “Very few people can do it well.”
The menu has its own set of culinary considerations, starting with what’s in season, and extending all the way to the very, very clear ice that Cox and his team create. True to form, Tartine has obtained some of the very best equipment money can buy to achieve icy perfection, including two fancy Clinebell ice machines. Each one freezes 2,300 pounds of ice over three days that is then lifted out with a hoist, hacked into smaller hunks with chainsaws and then carved into perfect cubes of various shapes and sizes. Each block creates between 250-350 cubes.
For now, the full menu is still in development, with plans to launch sometime this summer. Cox is serving his abbreviated menu of about eight cocktails at the bar now, rotating through drinks in a quest for perfection.
“When you’re consumed by something it’s a beautiful struggle, you go through periods of self doubt and excitement then you’re happy again and elated,” says Cox. “It always come down to the guests and seeing if they like it.”