Fast-forward six years, and a disheveled Norton — dressed in a ragged military uniform, a plumed top hat and with sword in hand — returned to San Francisco, declaring himself the emperor of the United States. At first, no one knew what to make of him. Had he gone crazy? But soon enough, “Emperor Norton” had charmed himself into the hearts and minds of locals and tourists with his public philosophical ramblings and bold declarations on political and social matters (he even demanded that anyone using the term Frisco to refer to San Francisco be fined, an order that most locals would still gladly agree with). He rode public transit for free; ate in the city’s best restaurants on the house; and even printed his own currency, which businesses happily accepted as payment. Sadly, though, on Jan. 8, 1880, Norton collapsed on the corner of California Street and Grant Avenue in downtown San Francisco and died. The following day, more than 10,000 people lined the city streets to pay homage.
At the Residence, an unassuming cocktail lounge on 14th Street tucked between the city’s Castro and Duboce Triangle neighborhoods, the atmosphere is a mix of homey and updated retro, with cushy couches along the wall and minimal noise, making it an ideal spot for carrying on a conversation. It’s about as true to its name as a bar can be. And like so many similar establishments that have opened citywide over the last several years, the drinks are top-notch — like the tart, tequila-based pink cocktail Riding with Death, which calls to mind a homegrown Hell’s Angel on a Harley who has a taste more suited to demure sipping. It’s deceiving, sort of like San Francisco itself.