July 2011

Bay Watch Bars



Comstock Saloon / comstocksaloon.com

This bar pays tribute to the turn-of-the-century Barbary Coast in both design and libations. The bartenders excel at improvisational mixology, and they’re at the ready from lunch onward for that head start on happy hour.
Cocktail: The Old Pal

15 Romolo / 15romolo.com

Tucked in an alley around the corner from a North Beach strip club, you’ll find drinks with exotic ingredients in surprising arrangements. Fittingly, the crowd wavers between cocktail geeks and yahoos.
Cocktail: Breakfast of Champions

Rickhouse / rickhousesf.com

Milk-glass punch bowls glow against the deconstructed bourbon barrels that line this themed bar. High-octane classic drinks are served to besuited Financial District workers at rapid-fire speed, especially at happy hour.
Cocktail: The Laphroaig Project

The Burritt Room / crescentbh.com/#sanfrancisco-bar

This egalitarian bar in Union Square’s Crescent Hotel is one of the few local hot spots with space for big groups. There’s a jazz trio on Thursdays—and great cocktails, always.
Cocktail: The Kerouac

Clock Bar / westinstfrancis.com/dining/clock-bar

With the attached Michael Mina Bourbon Steak kitchen to make ingredients for the bar, the cocktails in this jet-setting, chic space in the Westin St. Francis consistently boast unique house-made syrups, reductions and infusions.
Cocktail: Chartreuse Swizzle

Bourbon & Branch / bourbonandbranch.com

The Branch is S.F.’s original, still-progressive speakeasy-themed bar. Avoid the cattle-call standing room by making a reservation: The tables offer a quiet place to drink, complete with soft jazz soundtrack.
Cocktail: The Frank Lloyd Wright

Blackbird / blackbirdbar.com

A neighborhood hangout, gay bar and ultra-lounge at the edge of the Castro, Blackbird offers a surprisingly progressive array (mezcal, aquavit, bitters) in the land of the enduring appletini.
Cocktail: Barrel-Aged Drink of the Month

Zero Zero / zerozerosf.com

A slew of cocktail-driven restaurants with the energy (and noise) level of a nightclub have opened to feed folks who are mid barhop rather than at the end. Here, classics are updated with modern ingredients.
Cocktail: Negroni Bianco

Heaven’s Dog / heavensdog.com

The drinks here, executed by quirky but skilled bartenders, know no nation—they’re based on Charles H. Baker’s writings, including a colorful 1939 recipe book and travelogue, The Gentleman’s Companion.
Cocktail: Gin Fizz Tropical

Bar Agricole / baragricole.com

With several spirits distilled specifically for the bar, some organic ingredients and influential bartender Thad Vogler at the helm, this spot is the apex of the farm-to-glass movement.
Cocktail: Moonraker

The Hideout at Dalva / 415-252-7740

While the front bar serves up shots, beers and simple drinks, the space in the back is probably the tiniest cocktail bar in town, with one of the best independently bottled whiskey selections, staffed by some of the city’s top mixologists.
Cocktail: Grapefruit Soda

Prospect / prospectsf.com

At many top bars in San Francisco, the drinks skew dark and bitter, but Brooke Arthur’s often bright and delightful libations belie her tenure at Range, where the cocktails change with the produce of the day.
Cocktail: The Whaler

PHOTOS: Bourbon + Branch: Justin Lew; Bar Agricole: Allison Bank; Prospect: Mariko Reed