The San Francisco bar scene is thriving. The influx of residents after the tech boom left the city with some of the most innovative and passionate bartenders in the craft cocktail industry. Here, there's a bar for everyone - dive bars, tap and pour houses, wine tasting rooms, and fine craft cocktail lounges. It's hard to go wrong when choosing a bar in SF so don't feel overwhelmed in your pursuit of the perfect drink. Use this guide to discover some of the lesser known San Francisco joints serving up trendy craft cocktails.
The Alembic cocktail bar has been getting it right for decades – crafting drinks as interesting and diverse as the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. As a pioneer in the SF cocktail scene, Alembic was one of the city’s first bars to curate unique (and delicious) craft cocktails. It didn’t take much to win over locals, tourists, or Thrillist, who named it one of the best 33 bars in the country. Alembic sits in upper Haight and can be easily missed if you’re not paying attention. The Alembic is a must if you find yourself in the area.
What to order: The Blackberry Cobbler – alvear medium dry sherry, lemon, blackberry.
Also located in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is cocktail and music lounge, Club Deluxe. Love the sweet sounds of old time jazz? Then this is your spot. Club Deluxe offers live music 7 nights a week while serving up beautiful craft cocktails. The Club puts out classic cocktails with a twist, like their Ashbury Russian, Spa Collins, and Antica Manhattan, which are all only $7 during happy hour.
What to order: The Espolon Paloma – Espolon Resposado tequila, fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave & soda.
Killowatt is dive bar perfection. They have beer on tap, well drinks, ciders, great happy hour prices, and even better people. Killowatt is beloved by many San Franciscans because it’s inexpensive and always a good time. This is the place if you’re looking to grab a casual drink with your friends after work, or, the best place to start and end a night of going out. Located a few blocks away from Mission Dolores Park, a local favorite, Killowatt is a great option for drinking in SF on a budget.
What to order: Anthem Pear Cider - $5.5 during Happy Hour.
San Franciscans go to Padrecitos for the tacos but stay for the tequila infused craft cocktails. You won’t find any traditional margaritas here. Instead, sip on a Caballero, Gaucho, or Negroni Centenario made to order and perfectly pair with your food. Padrecitos cocktails are carefully planned out according to their menu and are guaranteed to keep you coming back for more. The restaurant/bar sits in the Cole Valley neighborhood near the UC San Francisco campus, so expect to see large crowds of college students and families. However, this place comes highly recommend as a brunch spot, even including a separate brunch cocktail menu. ¡Salud!
What to order: Dia De Los Muertos – blended scotch, yellow chartreuse, fortified wine, blood orange, lemon.
A tropical themed Tiki bar and restaurant inside the Fairmont Hotel, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is an experience one must try. With Union Square, Nob Hill and the Financial district all close by, it’s a good spot to enjoy a meal and award winning happy hour. Drinks come in all shapes in sizes, including fish bowls bigger than your plate. Go for the late night eats and two-paged cocktail menu and trade city life for island life.
What to order: A Monk Walks into A Luau – cachaça, fresh herbal liqueur, pineapple, grapefruit, lime, coconut, pomegranate. Serves 2-4 people.
The Tipsy Pig is not only one of the best food spots in San Francisco, it’s also creating new and traditional cocktails that are irresistible to customers. The two cocktails that keep the people coming are the French Lemonade and Mariposa Gimlet. The Tipsy Pig takes these refreshing old favorites and brings them back to life. The cocktails here speak for themselves, and while they may not be as exciting as some other craft cocktails in SF, they are sure to hit the spot. The Tipsy Pig is always happening but the best time to go is during happy hour with friends or for a romantic dinner. Either way, the food and drink at Tipsy Pig will always be hard to pass over and the atmosphere will always please.
What to order: Lazy Sunday – four Rose’s bourbon, smashed lemon, bitters, honey, soda & gingerale.
Special thanks to Isabella Conrad for sharing her insider tips and helping put this together. Cheers!