At the Hog Island Oyster Company located in San Francisco, Marshall and Napa, California, oysters are clearly king. But recently, this sustainable farming company has upgraded their cocktail program. We sat down with head bartender Saul Ranella, who was recently brought onboard to elevate the cocktails being presented to their bivalve-loving clientele at their outpost in San Francisco's Ferry Building.
“The program revolves around, of course, oysters, a fun waterfront environment, local spirits, produce and fruit,” Ranella says. “The goal is always to create an environment that is comfortable for tourists and locals alike. It is a celebration of Northern California and the amazing oysters that grow along this coastline.”
Prior to arriving at Hog Island, Ranella was working in Manhattan at La Mar Cebicheria, where he almost exclusively dealt with pisco. His many travels to Peru afforded him extensive knowledge of this spirit, as well as its culture. But I am here for another type of drink: one that all imbibers are familiar with (especially following a night of drinking). I am talking, of course, about the Bloody Mary.
There are many variations to this classic, but I’ve never had one that incorporates a reference to earth’s perfect food — the oyster.
Having nurtured many a hangover with a Bloody Mary in the past, I am excited to try Ranella’s version, which features Grey Goose as its main spirit. As a chef myself, when I look at the recipe, I am pleased to see a nice balance of umami, savory and heat. Like all good dishes, a cocktail should have balance, and Saul’s Bloody does just that.
“Our Bloody Mary is actually a straightforward execution, with a few twists to gear it towards our oysters,” he tells me. “Using organic tomato juice without straining provides the base of texture and acidity. The vinegar and lemon add in a bright zest that tames the brine in the oysters. There is the signature hot sauce, horseradish and Worcestershire that give it its edges, and black pepper and celery bitters for a finish.”
One of nature's most perfect creations, oysters, are the perfect complement to a Bloody Mary. Hog Island makes their Bloody Mary special by doing what they do best: giving a shout-out to their own delicious oysters.
But the ingredient that really gets my culinary juices flowing is the addition of their “Hog Wash.” It’s equal parts shallots, seeded jalapeño and cilantro, mixed with fresh lime juice and black pepper to taste. This play on a mignonette really sets this cocktail apart. It adds texture and a savory herbal spice that lingers on the palate.
Even for a cocktail that’s typically consumed the morning after, I would order Ranelle’s version any time of day. Of course, for best results, don’t forget to pair this drink with the ultimate accompaniment: a tray of fresh, cold, briny oysters.
To make the Hog Island Bloody Mary:
- 1 1/2 ounces Grey Goose Vodka
- 3 ounces tomato juice
- 1/4 ounce seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 ounce non-seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 ounce Worcestershire
- 1/4 ounce lemon
- 1/4 ounce horseradish
- 4 dashes Tapatio hot sauce
- 2 dashes celery bitters
- 1 pinch salt
- 5 cracks pepper
- Garnish: pickled vegetables or Castelvetrano olives
- Top: 1 large bar-spoon "Hog Wash" (recipe below)
Serve alongside freshly shucked Hog Island Oysters
To make Hog Wash:
- Equal parts: shallots, seeded jalapeño and cilantro
Mix together; add lime juice and black pepper to taste.