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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Irwin

Low-Proof Cocktails Come to North Beach

The new tapas bar Red Window imparts a health-conscious approach to the San Francisco bar crowd.


SF Weekly

Even if you haven’t gone to a low-proof cocktail bar yet, you’ve probably picked up on the health-conscious, low-proof alcoholic beverage trend. Seltzers, often with less than 50 calories and around 5% ABV, have graduated from Gen Z trend to all-ages favorite, while cannabis drinks become more socially acceptable by the day. Low-proof craft cocktails, too, have floated around the connoisseur’s market since around 2018, but are seeing a surge in popularity as bars begin to reopen and some, confident in their pandemic hopefulness, daringly open their doors for the first time.

One of those bold new establishments is Red Window, a restaurant-bar in North Beach specializing in Spanish bar snacks and low-proof cocktails. At Red Window customers can order from a three-page beverage menu that falls entirely under the jurisdiction of a beer and wine license, along with a selection of tapas, pintxos, and a handful of delicious desserts. With their prime location on the corner of Columbus and Stockton, they can seat 100 people outdoors, though they also offer take-away. Indoor dining reservations will be available soon.

“As the outlook on our industry turns more optimistic, our mission is to revive a sense of hospitality, impart fun and playfulness, create a place for community, and share a whole new way to enjoy craft cocktails,” co-owner Elmer Mejicanos said in a press release. Despite the timing, he says he and head chef and co-owner Adam Rosenblum formed their idea for Red Window before the pandemic, stalled by over twelve months of unpredictability. Their hybrid sit-down and take-out model, complemented by the benefit of a corner location with two streets available for outdoor seating, will hopefully sustain them until so-called “normal” returns.

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol consumption decreased by 5 percent in the last year, IWSR told ABC News. In that same period of time, low-proof alcohol consumption rose by 1 percent. Though some have certainly let their healthy habits slip during the pandemic, research shows an increased interest in exercise and healthy eating over the last 12 months, while trends like “dry January” have expanded the appeal of part-time sobriety over the last decade. The diverse menu at Red Window includes a wide variety of reinvented cocktails for the low-alcohol consuming and sober crowd, with both variations on classics like a gin and tonic to complex sours complimented by ginger, carrot, or bananas.

“Since the proofs used in our cocktails are lower, the natural botanical and floral flavors aren’t eclipsed by the heat of higher proof distillates,” Mejicanos says. Having ordered a gin and tonic, I can vouch for the truthfulness of this statement, finding myself distinctly more aware of the unique flavors of the tonic water, juniper essence, and botanicals. Entirely non-alcoholic options are available as well, including a mojito and a booze-free adaptation of the G&T.

The tapas and the more bite-sized Spanish bar snacks, pintxos, are no less enticing than the drinks. Small plates of salad, rice, pork shank, and fish are perfect for two, while skewered snacks are perfect if you’re only swinging by for a post-dinner drink. Little Red Window, the restaurant’s take-away concept, also offers Spanish, Argentinian, and Mexican empanadas as well.

The restaurant’s colorful design was as much a labor of love as the menu. Mejicanos painted the restaurant, Rosenblum finished the parklets, and Creative Director Nicholas Roberto of Auspice Design did the interior woodwork. Multicolored plates and beautifully garnished drinks channel the same excitement and Spanish flare as the decor.

Red Window 500 Columbus Ave. Wed, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. | Thu, 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. | Fri-Sat, 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. | Sunday, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. 415-757-0600 |

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