With so many amazing craft cocktail lounges, wine bars, and beer taverns, it's a tough job narrowing down the best bars in San Francisco. Still, here's a pretty thorough starting point for exploring SF's wonderful world of libations. From roof-top bars with unbelievable views to some of the most inventive cocktail menus on the planet, get ready to start imbibing!
A Mission District favorite occupying a former warehouse-turned-hip industrial space, Trick Dog is known for an incredibly creative cocktail menu that changes twice annually. Editions have included a book of record sleeves with cocktails named for songs (think “Eye of the Tiger” and “Centerfold”) and a cookbook-style menu concocted in collaboration with some of the city's top chefs.
Disappear into a world of fruit, flower, and umbrella garnishes, thatched-roof huts, and bartenders sporting Hawaiian shirts and leis. This two-room tiki bar features a ship-like “Captain's Quarters” up-front—complete with illuminated portholes in which the occasional shark “swims” by—and a larger “Island Paradise,” where you can sip Mai Tai Floats beside an occasionally “erupting” volcano.
The Treasury SF
A lively gem in the heart of San Francisco's Financial District, serving up colorful cocktails and chef-driven bar fare in bank-vault inspired setting. The stunning 1916 Beaux Arts space is a popular lunch spot during the work-week, an almost given since it was started by some of the biggest names in the city's food and drink industry.
Bourbon & Branch
Enjoy a menu of labor-intensive libations served by highly skilled (and dapperly-dressed) bartenders at the city's original nuevo speakeasy, which first opened its unmarked door back in 2005 and ushered in a whole new era of SF craft cocktails. Both a reservation and password are required to enter this secretive corner space, home to its own set of “House Rules” and hidden exit tunnels. The location has actually been dolling out spirits since the late 19th century.
The Upper Haight neighborhood's legendary watering hole is known as much for its former owner Bruno Mooshei as for its rounded bar and dimly-lit, Persian-inspired aesthetics. Mooshei was San Francisco's own version of Seinfeld's “Soup Nazi,” except his focal point was martinis. While he passed away in 2000, his mystique remains—though these days the vibe is much more relaxed. You can even sit at the tables without worrying about Mooshei tossing you out.
A solid addition to the NOPA neighborhood's increasingly popular Divisadero Corridor, Emporium SF has transformed the city's long blighted Harding Theater into a multi-floor arcade with everything from air hockey and skee ball to pinball machines and video games. There are also a couple of stand-alone bars serving up a selection of craft beers and cocktails—not to mention a huge whiskey list. Food is BYO or delivery(!), and DJs spin on weekends.
The Mint Karaoke Lounge
Ready to belt out your killer rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody?" The Mint—a local institution since 1993—is karaoke for people who don't mind performing on stage, and even working the room. With more than 25,000 songs to choose from, chances are you'll find something that fits your bill—and don't worry: the crowd is always supportive. There's a two-drink minimum, though it typically takes that long to work up the nerve to sing.
One of a new wave of hotel bars that are attracting locals in droves, Gibson is a bar and lounge restaurant that opened in the Tenderloin's boutique Hotel Bijou in fall, 2017. This Art Deco-style space is reminiscent of an old movie palace, both glamorous and elegant but in true SF fashion, still 100% casual. Drinks run the gamut from the Japanese-inspired Sea Gibson, with nori gin, kelp, and sea salt, and the mouthwatering White Tai, featuring pretzel rum and white chocolate pistachio orgeat.
The Beehive SF
Sip on picture-perfect libations with '60s-era-names like Honeypenny and Bikini Drifter at the Mission's own mid-century-inspired cocktail lounge, a fun new addition to Valencia Street's already hopping food and drink scene. Retro décor includes decorated mirrors and Sputnik chandeliers, ideal for sitting back and savoring an amped-up menu of bar bites ranging from tri-tip sliders to gourmet fondue. Highballs have their own menu section.
Opened on New Year’s Day 2015 by two San Francisco Drag legends, OASIS is one non-stop party with a roster that includes cabaret performances, late-night discos, and “Sexy Good Time” wrestling shows. The nightclub occupies an 8,000-square-foot space that had once been a gay bathhouse, and now features an exotic Fez Room for happy hour cocktails and a stage for one-of-a-kind productions like Drunk Drag Broadway and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Live! Don't even think of bringing your bachelorette party here.
A newer addition to San Francisco's boutique-centric Hayes Valley neighborhood, Anina channels the Caribbean with its floral-decorated walls, light-strewn outdoor beer garden, and a menu that ranges from beers in a can to white rum and Prosecco-filled punch bowls with hints of cucumber, mint, and lime. It's an ideal place for enjoying an early evening aperitif or a sugary Sunday afternoon Caipirinha—just one of the many easy-drinking libations at this bright and airy space.
Twin Peaks Tavern
When this revolutionary tavern opened as a gay bar more than 45 years ago, it was the first such place in the country to have huge plate-glass windows—letting the whole world see inside. These days, the “Gateway to the Castro” is an SF institution, attracting a bevy of long-time regulars, local residents (both LGBTQ and straight), and visitors who stop in for the bar's relaxed vibe, street views, and history. A bevy of classic cocktails has also been drawing in crowds for decades.
ENO Wine Bar
What's better than wine? Cheese and chocolate to go with it. Situated in the heart of downtown's Union Square, this casual and cozy 55-seat wine room features 150+ wines by the bottle nearly 50 by the glass, along with a selection of international and locally crafted handmade truffles and chocolate bars. Couples are especially drawn to the space and its offerings, which include the “Eno Experience 'Taster,'” complete with rotating cheeses, charcuterie, olives, and Boudin bread.
Madrone Art Bar
Whether it's a dance party celebrating the music of Prince and Michael Jackson or a Sunday afternoon chillin' to R&B and chowing down on fresh-off-the-grill ribs, there's a little something for everyone at Madrone Art Bar—a multi-media space that's always in-flux. The bar doubles as an exhibit space for an ever-changing display of paintings, photographs, sculptures and more, and while one night may include sketching nude models to live Punk-Blues, another may focus entirely on DJ-spun Motown tunes.
Both beer aficionados and anyone who likes a good brew have a penchant for this Lower Haight stalwart, a low-key spot noted for its endless beer paraphernalia, loud music, and a vast beer selection that includes more than 40 on tap and 100 in total. Choose from brews made with strawberries and sea salt, cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels, and run in extremely limited editions, like Russian River Brewing Company's Pliny the Younger, a copper-colored triple IPA available for two weeks each February.
A throwback to the days of Big Band crooners and endless martinis, Deluxe has gone through a bit of flux but come out on top—with a live calendar that's filled to the max with jazz quintets, Hawaiian instrumental bands, and belly dance and swing performers. Its divey interior hasn't changed much over the years, though its scattering of cocktail tables and vinyl booths make it feel like you're in another era—one where great music and fresh-squeezed Greyhounds are the norm.
Bender’s Bar & Grill
There's so much to love about this scruffy spot, with its daily happy hour and drinks specials like Whiskey Wednesdays, serving up ice cold cans of PBR paired with a shot of Jim Beam for only five bucks. Take your drinks out to the back patio, or slip into the photo-booth for a few drunken pics. Along with a couple of pool tables, entertainment ranges from “Punk Rock n Schlock Karaoke” to live Zeppelin tribute bands, and a dedicated food counter serves up burgers, mac n' cheese, and some of the best tater tots in town.
Join the throngs of sports lovers chowing down on spicy wings while sweating out a match between Manchester United and Liverpool—or a playoff game between the Warriors and LeBron James. With something of an Irish pub feel, the space draws in crowds as much for its 20+ TVs as for its Over-the-Pond-inspired menu (think bangers and mash, and fish & chips) and vast beer selection. There's even breakfast on weekends.
Sip barrel-aged Manhattans and Whiskey Sunshine Foxtrots while enjoying unobstructed 360-degree views, all from the 46th floor of downtown’s towering Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The hotel's upscale bar and lounge recently received a complete revamp, and is not only Instagram-worthy, but a great spot for lingering.