The Devil’s Acre

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I had studied The Devil’s Acre Almanac carefully and was well pleased with the look of the restorative libation that was placed before me on a small cast iron table.

I had chosen a Devil’s Manhattan which promised much in matters of insurance of the health and instant purification of corrupted blood cells. Prepared and formulated by druggists of Future Bars & Co based somewhere between the Barbary Coast and San Francisco it comprised: Rye, Sweet Vermouth, Boker’s and Orange bitters and Champagne. It was a revelation! No sooner had the first few drops trickled down my throat than I began to feel the upwelling of a glorious and all-encompassing love for my fellow man and especially for the effortlessly beautiful woman sat opposite me. This was the stuff that made life and all who strutted and fretted their hours upon the stage truly magnificent.

And so ends our time in San Francisco. A time that began very inauspiciously but that has ended on a serene high in the brilliantly eclectic Devil’s Acre cocktail lounge in North Beach, San Francisco. I had liked the sound of the place from the outset, hence our trek across the city to seek it out. The name originated in a Charles Dickens book of the 1850s and was used to describe a particularly notorious slum near Westminster. I think Cardinal Wiseman’s description gives a pretty good idea of what it contained:

“Close under the Abbey of Westminster there lie concealed labyrinths of lanes and courts, and alleys and slums, nests of ignorance, vice, depravity, and crime, as well as of squalor, wretchedness, and disease; whose atmosphere is typhus, whose ventilation is cholera; in which swarms of huge and almost countless population, nominally at least, Catholic; haunts of filth, which no sewage committee can reach – dark corners, which no lighting board can brighten.”

So, here in San Francisco, itself no stranger to darkened alley and evil poverty, a mid-nineteenth century English pocket of hell has been resurrected as a purveyor of restorative libations, aromatic elixirs and surfeit waters. Come and be restored, the devil’s in the detail.

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