But in mid and late 19th century San Francisco, particularly at one Barbary Coast saloon, a new, rather potent pisco-laced drink was enjoying its own heyday. Pisco Punch. Which is, like interest in the Barbary Coast itself, enjoying a bit of a resurgence in San Francisco.
The invention of the drink is attributed to Duncan Nicol, who combined pisco, pineapple gum, lime juice and distilled water, while he was the owner of the Bank Exchange saloon where the ’70s-flavored skyscraper, the TransAmerica Building, sits today.
The problem, though, was that when Nicol went to the grave, he took the recipe with him.
“The revival of pisco punch,” Raglin told me, “is really a classic example of the entire resurgence of the Barbary Coast as a whole.”
One other note of historical importance. According to Daniel Bacon, whose book “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail,” is a bible for this stuff, one frequent pisco punch-drinking regular at the Bank Exchange saloon was Mark Twain. One night over glasses of pisco punch he got to talking to a fire fighter and they became friends. That fireman’s name? Tom Sawyer.