If you like whiskey, this is your spot. It’s right along the Embarcadero (just north of the Ferry Building) and its wide-open warehouse windows allow the city lights to spill into its low-lit space. The back interior is wall-to-wall glass shelving that holds endless amber bottles, subtly backlit to give them that extra glow. Bartenders use a sliding aluminum ladder to reach whichever bottle you point at. A personal favorite is High West’s Double Rye, but chances are if you’re whiskey drinker they’ll have your favorite too.
Come early to avoid the line, as this hidden Hayes Valley tiki lounge is a hit amongst cocktail enthusiasts. The outside is nondescript, with blacked out windows and only a small sign that looks like a pirate map, but inside you’re transported to an exotic land filled with waterfalls, bamboo structures and lots of nautical rope. Still, 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 along some friends.
Transporting you to another era is Horsefeather on Divisadero Street, in the heart of SF's buzzy Nopa neighborhood. The sleek wood paneling and art deco accents are reminiscent of the 1930s, as is the glassware. However, thriving flora and a modern indoor/outdoor patio bring you straight back to the 21st Century. 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 like chicken wings or pulled pork tacos to balance out the booze, then if it's still early in the evening, catch some live music at the nearby Independent or go old-school video games at Emporium SF.
A Haight-Ashbury staple, The Alembic serves up all sorts of mouthwatering cocktails, including a mint julep over perfectly shaved ice. Its food is equally as worthy, with options such as polenta fries and soft pretzels with beer cheese to munch on. The bar underwent new ownership and a revamp in 2018, complete with a refreshed menu and reading material for sale, because let's face it: there's nothing better than imbibing with a good book in hand.
Cole Valley's beloved Mexican restaurant is worth staying around for dinner, but if your time is limited stick to cocktails like the La Copa Verde. Its combination of smoky mezcal, cilantro, and chipotle powder is about as green as a cocktail can get, and makes for a somewhat spicy (though at the same time refreshing) pre- or post-meal beverage. If your not a lover of cilantro, not to worry: there are still plenty of other Mexican-inspired cocktails on the menu to entice you.
This Mission bar is known for doing 'tricks' by changing up the menu and theme every few months. It might mean all the cocktails are inspired by Pantone paint colors, or it might be a roundup of tiki drinks or libations based on a dogs-of-the-month calendar (yes, it was once inspired by that). The cocktails are always deliciously inventive, and the go-to bar food is actually a kale salad, 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 can soothe any craving. The space, created by the Long Now Foundation, is just as intriguing as its cocktails, with kaleidoscopic artworks and a chalk wall that seemingly draws on itself.
Right in the heart of the action, this casual Mission neighborhood 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.
Address441 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA
Sit down to a menu of labor-intensive libations served by highly skilled (and dapperly-dressed) bartenders at San Francisco's original nuevo speakeasy, which first opened its unmarked door back in 2005. Both a reservation and password are required to enter this secretive corner space, which is located on the cusp of the Tenderloin and Union Square and where 'House Rules' and hidden exit tunnels set help the overall tone. The location has actually been dolling out spirits since the late 19th century.