Written by Zack Kaplan, Avital Tours
Next time you’re looking for a tasty tipple and have no clue where to go (because we’re spoiled for choice, not lacking) try one of these 5 Amazing Cocktail Bars in San Francisco for a killer drink.
Photo by Matt Roth
Comstock Saloon – Next Friday, take a long lunch and come to Comstock. They’ll give you a free meal, provided you order at least two cocktails. It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. You can’t miss with the classics like the Manhattan or Pisco Punch, and for as many cocktail bars as there are in this town, I love that I can count on the Saloon to serve me up a real Sazerac. If day drinking isn’t your thing, come in the evening and throw back an order of oysters along with your libations. 155 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, 415-617-0071
Bourbon & Branch – I love this place. I would live there if I could. Forget the buzzer at the entrance on Jones and walk into the back entrance of the Library on O’Farrell. Put your phone away, wait patiently in line, and marvel at the precision with which your bartender is crafting cocktails. As pretentious as it might seem, the focus is all the drinks. No food, no band, just you, your friends, and your cocktail. You can’t go wrong with one of their drinks off the menu, but if you’re patient, start a chat with your bartender about your favorite flavors, and they’ll whip up something that might not even have a name, but will be sure to delight to the last drop. 501 Jones Street, San Francisco, (415) 346-1735
Harper & Rye – Every time my friends drag me out to the Polk St. Gulch, I insist we go to Harper & Rye. It’s a bastion amongst all the bars and lounges that inevitably offer Fireball specials. Their cocktail program is small, but inventive, featuring drinks like the Dante & Diego, concocted from rum, banana, benedictine, and vermouth. It’s as weirdly delicious as it sounds. However, the real star is their assortment of punches, served up in mason jars, ready to share. Try the Kentucky Punch, but be careful. You’ll realize halfway into your second round that you probably should have slowed down. 1695 Polk Street, San Francisco
Smokestack (at Magnolia Brewing Company) – Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “I thought this was a list of cocktail bars? Not a list of breweries. Or barbecue joints.” You’re right. If you’ve been to Smokestack, it was probably to chow down on some brisket and wash it down with a freshly brewed beer. But you’d be doing yourself a serious disservice by not checking out their cocktail menu. Their spirit list is surprisingly comprehensive, and not just for whiskey, but rum, gin, tequila, and mezcal as well. Next time try out the Crying at Daybreak, a darker twist on the classic Manhattan. 2505 3rd Street, San Francisco, 415-864-7468
Devil’s Acre – The latest SF installation from the boys behind Bourbon & Branch is an homage to the city’s Barbary Coast, and its name hearkens back to the neighboring stretch of Kearny between Pacific and Broadway. It’s got atmosphere for days and a cocktail menu to match. The Clover Leaf beautifully blends jonge genever (think a maltier, slightly sweeter gin) with dry vermouth, lemon, and grenadine before being fluffed up with an egg white for a silky mouthfeel. The Call A Treuse, one of their “Barbary Coast Originals,” boasts both Green and Yellow Chartreuse, married with vermouth, lemon, vanilla, and thyme, and yep, you guessed it, an egg white. I’m obsessed, and I won’t apologize for it. 256 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, 415.766.4363
Want to learn more about finding amazing cocktail bars in San Francisco? Join us on our Union Square Craft Cocktail Tour. Come Drink with Us!