This city has a lot of bars. Some are old, some are brand spanking new. Some are really divey and some are ridiculously swanky. Point is, our city runs the gamut. There are bars dedicated to cider here, specifically cider. (It’s Upcider, check it out). But of course, there are bests for everything. Here’s our top 9.
If you like whiskey, this is your spot. It’s right along the Embarcadero and its wide-open warehouse windows allow the city lights to spill into its low-lit space. The back wall is wall-to-wall glass shelving holding amber bottles upon amble bottles, subtly backlit to give them that extra glow. Bartenders us a sliding aluminum ladder to reach whichever bottle you point to. A personal favorite is High West’s Double Rye, but chances are if you’re whiskey drinker they’ll have your favorite too.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley
Come early to avoid the line, as this hidden tiki lounge is a hit amongst cocktail enthusiasts. It’s non-descript from the outside with blacked out windows and nothing but a small sign that looks like a pirate map, but inside you’re transported to an exotic land with waterfalls, bamboo structures and lots of nautical rope. But the real star of this joint are the cocktails. Opt for a Volcano, a combination of rum, pineapple, lime, and passion fruit juice that comes to your table aflame. Note: it’s meant to be shared so bring some friends too.
Transporting you to another era is Horsefeather on Divisadero. Its sleek wood paneling and art deco accents remind you of the 1930s, as will the glassware. But hanging plants and a modern indoor/outdoor patio remind you that you’re really in San Francisco circa 2016. Cocktails are dainty but pack a lot of power, like the Nighttrain with espresso whiskey and bourbon all in one drink. Make sure to grab some bar fare to balance out the booze like chicken wings or pulled pork tacos.
A staple of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, The Alembic serves up all sorts of cocktails, including a mint julep over perfectly shaved ice. And the food is just as good with options such as bacon cracker jacks and pulled pork sliders.
Neighborhood: Cole Valley
This Mexican restaurant is worth staying for dinner, but if you only have an hour at least pop in to try La Copa Verde, which is about as green as a cocktail can get. Its combination of smoky mezcal, cilantro, and chipotle powder makes for a somewhat spicy but at the same time refreshing drink. If your not a lover of cilantro, don’t worry there’s still plenty of other Mexican-inspired cocktails on the menu.
Neighborhood: North Beach
This bar is a San Francisco classic that has recently been remodeled to include a restaurant by New York hotshot chef April Bloomfield. But you can still hang by the old cappuccino machine and order a “House Cappuccino” which is really a combination of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Marie Duffau Bas Armagnac, Dandelion Chocolate Ganache and milk. It’s a classic for a reason.
This bar is known for doing tricks and changing up the menu and theme every few months. That might mean all the cocktails are inspired by Pantone paint colors or it might be a roundup of tiki drinks or inspired by a dogs-of-the-month calendar (yes, it was once inspired by that). The cocktails are always inventive and delicious and believe or not the go-to bar food is the kale salad, which comes out piled high with nuts and a creamy avocado dressing.
Tucked away in the Fort Mason Center, you can enjoy this spot by day with a coffee and amazing ice cream sandwiches, or by night with a very length cocktail list that will soothe any craving. The space, created by the Long Now foundation, is just as intriguing as the cocktails with kaleidoscopic artworks and a chalk wall that seemingly draws on itself.
Right in the heart of the action, this casual bar serves up inventive cocktails like a Tarragon Collins, which pairs the herb with your classic Collins for a subtle earthy taste. But before you order, flip through the menu. It’s a piece of art in and of itself. Get there early though – the place can really pack up once the post-work crowd shows up.