In a strange jungle, a few hundred yards from a crashed plane, there’s a garden tended to by monks, where snap peas overgrow the stone walls. It’s not a real place, just an imaginary setting Thomas Bermudez says inspired him to make the Emerald Eclipse, a lush cocktail from Last Rites’ new menu — only the third in the bar’s history — which debuts on August 1.
Bermudez is the general manager at Duboce Triangle’s self-described “adventure bar,” where the sound of a plane flying low hums over the din. Those snap peas from his fantasy run rampant on the rim of the new drink, one amongst many new cocktails replete with storylines on the new menu. “Last Rites is like a little fictional world now,” Bermudez says. “And the effort and detail is more than anything we’ve ever done here.”
Every cocktail on the new menu is accompanied by fictional characters, backgrounds, and book covers. Within the menu, guests will be able to read snippets of the books, all fictional of course, that inspired the drinks. Take Grifter’s Game, made by Steph Granados, a whiskey, coconut, and passionfruit drink that’s topped with a coconut tuile crisp and which the menu notes “doesn’t play by the rules.” Bar manager Gabriel Chavez, to whom both owner Justin Lew and Bermudez attribute this menu’s success, came up with the Long Goodbye. Gin, strawberry, coconut, and, as the menu puts it, “rose-colored memories” wait beneath a hulking strawberry garnish to make for “the lingering echo of a final farewell.”
With this new menu, owner Justin Lew and the team hope to remind readers about the soul of the bar. Last Rites, known at times for its tiki drinks like painkillers and zombies, is actually not about vacations on a sunny coast: It’s about exploration, Lew says. General manager Bermudez says the bar is moving away from the layering of multiple spirits, as is common in tiki cocktails. That, coupled with this chance to go further toward fictitious whimsy, gave everyone on staff a fun opportunity to step up Last Rites’ offerings. “I appreciate and am inspired by the style and service tiki offers,” Lew says. “But it felt more authentic to do something I was really inspired by and nuanced.”
The bar, which opened in 2018, closed for over a year during COVID, giving Lew and the team a chance to drill further into the dime store novels and Choose Your Own Adventure stories that inspired him from the jump. Last Rites popped up at Divisadero Street’s Horsefeather, another of Lew’s bars, selling to-go cocktails in 2020, and at neighbor Blackbird for a night. Then it re-opened in June 2021 — but this new menu feels like both a homecoming and a reintroduction. As guests navigate through it, they’ll no doubt notice the plane noises, the sunset, and the storms that occur thanks to lighting and effects throughout the bar each night. Bermudez points out the staff welcome guests in at the door, reminding them this is no Disney-esque bar with costumes but a proper service experience with high-caliber drinks. “We let the bar speak for itself,” Lew says. “If we projected too far into that, it could break what’s happening. You are truly choosing your own adventure.”
Last Rites (718 14th Street) is open 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The new menu debuts on Tuesday, August 1.