Bar Art: Gold Rush-era Craftsmanship

MANY OF THE RESTAURANTS AND BARS in the foothills are steeped in history. They are located in handsome Gold Rush-era buildings. Inside are carved wooden back bars—“elaborate and ornate made of rich woods, flawless mirrors and stained glass,” as the most famous producer Brunswick explains. The bars continue to be a focal point of these establishments. Some examples:

The Owl Grill & Saloon’s back bar is hand carved cherrywood from Austria, constructed in 1880, shipped around the “Horn”, and delivered via train and wagon.
Grass Valley.

The Golden Era’s Brunswick-Balke-Collender “Record” bar was made in the mid-1890s in Chicago and has been in place since 1904. A vintage photo from 1923 shows a milkshake machine behind the bar during prohibition years. (Care to guess where the whiskey was?) Nevada City.

The National Hotel’s ornate back bar is originally from the dining room buffet in the Spreckels Mansion in San Francisco. Nevada City.

The Holbrooke Hotel’s ornate wood-carved bar was built in 1862 and shipped “around the Horn” from Connecticut by the Brunswick Company. Grass Valley.

The Stone House has a back bar that Brunswick built in 1884 that was once at the Texas “Chicken Ranch” brothel. Nevada City.

Gold-Rush Cocktail

“Few alcoholic concoctions have a narrative as colorful as the Pisco Punch, the official drink of boozy, brothel-studded, Gold Rush San Francisco,” writes Carolina Miranda in, a journal of food and culture. “Part cocktail, part legend, it’s a piece of pre-Prohibition lore—one now enjoying a resurgence across the Bay Area.”

Now the drink has come to the foothills, thanks to the Golden Era lounge in Nevada City. We recently visited the Golden Era and sampled its “Miner’s Punch,” expertly prepared by award-winning mixologist Darren Crawford, who runs the bar program with Eric Giardina. Starting this fall, the drink is being served to groups in a small punch bowl. Darren and Eric shared the recipe:

1-1/2 oz. Capurro Moscatel Pisco or Selecto Torontel
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. pineapple syrup with cinnamon and orange peel
1/4 oz. Dubonnet
1 dash Angostura Bitters
ice cubes, lime wheel and fresh grated nutmeg

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