The Best Cocktail Bars of Union Square

September 24, 2015

Tired of Tourists? Take back the ‘hood with these top 5 best cocktail bars of Union Square where San Francisco locals love to imbibe. 

Burritt Room and Tavern cocktail bar in Union Square

1. Burritt Room

Burritt Room, neatly nestled inside the Mystic Hotel, takes its name from The Maltese Falcon, after the alley where Sam Spade’s partner Miles is gunned down. The decor takes its cues from film noir as well, with dim lighting and curtains making for an intimate setting. The drinks on the other hand have a decidedly modern twist. The Poquito Picante (that’s “a little spicy” for all you gringos out there) kicks things up a notch (Bam!) by slipping a serrano tincture in alongside tequila, aperol, and lime. Too adventurous for you? Try the Mass Appeal, with your choice of vodka or gin, elderflower ginger, lime, and grapefruit bitters. In the mood for something a little more classic? The Mark Twain #2 subs out the gin in a Bee’s Knees for Scotch for a smoky-sweet treat. 417 Stockton St, (415) 400-0561

Tradition Cocktail Bar in Union Square

2. Tradition

Oh Tradition! It’s a lofty goal to try to reclaim an American bar tradition in a country barely old enough to have real traditions of its own, but somehow, it succeeds. Like the national American identity, Tradition is a melting pot, drawing influences from all corners of the globe and throughout history. When was the last time you saw a Singapore Sling look so comfortable on a menu alongside the Sazerac and Shrunken Skull? As a matter of fact, when was the last time you ever saw those three on a menu together at all? Just don’t try to tackle all three in a night, or your hangover will leave you feeling like it’s your skull that’s been shrunk. 441 Jones St (415) 474-2284

bartender pouring cocktails at Cantina in Union Square

3. Cantina

If you like margaritas, come to Cantina. If you don’t like margaritas, come to Cantina. Get a regular one, or try the five-spice version, by the glass, or by the pitcher. You got options, man. I can’t palate even the thought of a tequila shot, but they’re both good enough to trick me into thinking that I’m a tequila drinker. If you still don’t want to hop on the tequila train, never fear. Caipirinhas, Hemingway daquiris, and pisco punch are here! Each as deliciously deadly as the last. You’ll be grooving along to the DJ in no time. 580 Sutter St (415) 398-0195

Best Cocktail Bars in Union Square

4. Library Bar

For those of you who feel that the Library at Bourbon and Branch doesn’t take the theme far enough, there’s Library Bar inside the Hotel Rex. It has the calm quiet of a library without the bother of all those old librarians walking up to your table to shush you. It’s a cute little spot right next to Cantina, great for those with more introverted tendencies, or for catching up with old friends over a G&T. 562 Sutter St (415) 915-9865

lounge at Hawthorn Cocktail Bar in Union Square

5. Hawthorn

Hawthorn earns some points in my book, just because I’m a fan of anywhere that has the chutzpah to put an Aviation on their menu. It’s not an especially complicated drink to make, nor is it even my favorite. But when a bartender can deliver on the promise of gin, lemon, and maraschino liqueur, with just the right amount of the beautifully purple creme de violette, she wins me over, having sufficiently assured me of her skills behind the bar. For those of you wondering what I’m going on about, grab a Spinning Wheel (apple brandy plus champagne equals YUM) or a Firebird (tequila plus ancho liqueur plus port equals ALSO YUM) and then hit the dance floor and shake what ya mama gave ya. 46 Geary St (415) 693-9255

Want to learn more about the San Francisco Craft Cocktail scene in San Francisco? Join us on our Craft Cocktail Tour in Union Square. Come Drink with Us!