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Cocktails

Rescuing the Golden Cadillac

May 06, 2022

Story: Kara Newman

photo: Nader Khouri

Cocktails

Rescuing the Golden Cadillac

May 06, 2022

Story: Kara Newman

photo: Nader Khouri

Bottle Club Pub reimagines the indulgent drink with saffron-accented Strega and a technique to amplify the creamy texture.

Supply chain issues have caused bars to make all kinds of adjustments lately. But at Bottle Club Pub, a midcentury Americana–themed bar and restaurant on the edge of San Francisco’s Union Square neighborhood, import backlogs resulted in a serendipitous new riff on the classic Golden Cadillac cocktail, the Solid Gold Cadillac.

“It started out as a joke,” recalls Jayson Wilde, project launch manager for Bottle Club, which opened in mid-March. While the classic version of the dessertlike drink calls for equal parts Galliano, crème de cacao and cream, the bar had trouble getting bottles of Galliano in time for opening. So Wilde turned to another sunny-hued, herbal Italian liqueur: Strega.

While workshopping the drink with Sam Miller, who at the time worked at Bottle Club’s sibling bar Pagan Idol, “I jokingly said, ‘We have Strega, let’s use it,’” Wilde remembers. “We weren’t taking it too seriously. But we just looked at each other and said, ‘This is going to work.’” Luckily, Strega’s saffron and savory spice harmonized well with the crème de cacao.

Wilde had always planned to include a Golden Cadillac on the pub’s opening drinks menu, which was envisioned as offering familiar, accessible companions to American comfort food like smash burgers and chicken-fried chicken. 

“I’m from Sacramento,” Wilde explains. “El Dorado Hills is close to where I’m from,” referencing the site of Poor Red’s Bar-B-Q, a roadside bar that lays claim to creating the original Golden Cadillac in 1952. 

Solid Cold Cadillac Bottle Club Pub SF
Recipe

Solid Gold Cadillac

Strega adds saffron and savory spice to this updated midcentury cocktail.

Yet, the standard recipe for the Golden Cadillac is often lackluster. Aspiring to more than midcentury kitsch, the bar—outfitted with a collection of vintage ceramic whiskey decanters and a mesmerizing rotating showcase that gently shuttles backbar bottles from the top shelves down to eye level—knew an elevated version of the classic was in order.

Even with the herbal liqueur component of the drink resolved, the texture was still problematic. Poor Red’s original Golden Cadillac uses ice cream, but Wilde sought something more pourable. Most bars substitute cream or half-and-half, but that results in “a loose, watery, not-exciting texture” that even vigorous shaking can’t save, according to Wilde. Drinks made with this approach yield something “overly sweet and not nuanced in any way,” he says.

The solution lay somewhere in the middle: a mix of two parts melted French vanilla ice cream mixed with one part regular cream. Flash-blending the mixture in a Hamilton Beach blender, Wilde notes, “hits the fats in the ice cream and whips it up to a nice, creamy texture.” 

A sprinkle of fresh-grated nutmeg ties the drink together by echoing the spices in the Strega and slightly drying out the aroma. “It gives an eggnoggy feel to it as well,” Wilde says. 

With the melted ice cream mix perfected, Wilde is now thinking about applying it to other creamy classics, like the Grasshopper or Pink Squirrel. “It opened our eyes,” says Wilde. “The texture is superb.” 

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