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Best Cocktail Bars in San Francisco

By: Cityseeker
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Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

While the mythical and much-hyped liqueur after which this establishment is named is not served here, many equally potent concoctions are. Specialty drinks, such as the Perfect Pear and the Ginger Rogers, seem to contain pure alcohol, and even a standard margarita packs an unbelievable wallop. If you're looking for something to help mitigate the effects of a strong drink, then ditch the regular bar peanuts for Absinthe's bar snacks. This bar offers bread with a smooth fig spread, croque monsieur and more. The menu changes daily, but any antipasto platter of cured meats is sure to please, as will the particularly rich duck confit. You can enjoy your meal in the main room or at a cafe-style table on the sidewalk, but if you're looking for a quieter spot, book a table in the private dining room.

398 Hayes Street, At Gough Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94102
Smuggler's Cove

If the name Smuggler's Cove conjures pictures of pirates singing, "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum," well rest assured that's no mistake. This bar specializes in rum-based drinks, specifically Havana Probation-era, traditional Caribbean and tiki bar concoctions. The decor echoes the menu, providing comfortable seating in a tiki bar-inspired atmosphere. Smuggler's Cove makes sure to maintain a relaxed atmosphere by keeping the bar from getting too crowded and keeping music at a low level so everyone can talk while sipping their drinks. This means there's sometimes a line at the door, but don't let that scare you away from stepping into the cove.

650 Gough Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94102
Bourbon & Branch

Bourbon & Branch is the talk of the town. Perched inconspicuously on a corner in San Francisco's Tenderloin, Bourbon & Branch has no signage and the door is closed tight. When you ring the buzzer, the door swings open and you are asked for the password. If you do not have the password, the door slams shut. It sounds barbaric, but once you have taken the time to register on their website, make a reservation, and receive a password, you will be graciously ushered into a world of boozy delight. The atmosphere is an homage to Prohibition-era speakeasies, albeit with a dash of modern urban swank. The drink menu is extensive and innovative. Featured fare includes not just one, but a whole selection of hand-numbered craft bourbons. A list of rare scotches, rums, and tequilas round out the offerings. Bartenders here are master mixologists, incorporating such sought-after liquors into equally tantalizing, boundary-busting cocktails. See the website for online reservations and a complete list of house rules.

501 Jones Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94102

This nondescript bar conveniently located in the Tendernob looks quite staid from its facade, however inside, the bartenders expertly craft cocktails to San Franciscans in the know. The atmosphere is casual. A couple of featured cocktails are the the Hemingway Daiquiri and the Basil Gimlet, both are delicious or you can order a perfect Martini or Manhattan just the same. They have a pool table as an added bonus or if you prefer, you can relax at the wood paneled bar.

688 Geary Street, Between Jones Street & Leavenworth Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94102
620 Jones

A chic evening spot, Jones features trendy decor, plenty of outdoor seating, and a lovely rooftop setting, perfect for a warm summer evening out. The roof deck is especially lovely, with its wooden tables and potted trees. Don't worry about the chill on windy evenings, as the heated lamps will keep your toes toasty. The bar has a lively ambiance and is a good place to enjoy a sophisticated after-work cocktail or a light meal with friends. The menu features a good selection of drinks, from well-prepared cocktails to whiskeys, craft beers, and wines. Looking for a more substantial meal? The food menu has plenty of options, like panninis, pizzas, pastas, salads, and sides. For information on private events and parties, visit the website.

620 Jones Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94102
Madrone Art Bar

A bar and an art gallery don't always form a good pair, but Madrone is a completely one of its kind "Art Bar". A paradise for art lovers, the place invites you to take a leisurely stroll through their entire gallery, sipping on the drinks, from their large and fully supplied bar. Madrone Lounge also holds exhibitions under several categories ranging from sculpting to photography. Run by artists of fine taste, you will never feel any monotony here, for the exhibits are updated regularly with new works from different art forms. Live music and other social celebrations like the Halloween Night also find a place at this gallery.

500 Divisadero Street, At Fell Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94117
Trick Dog

The brains behind Rio Grande have come up with yet another ace from their sleeve with a quirky little cocktail joint in Mission District. Named Trick Dog, this twin story watering-hole exudes an old rustic warehouse charm accentuated by the vintage cast iron plates, banister posts and vintage marbles. Walk in here and take a pick from its cocktail list that is laid out on a Pantone-color-palate style menu. Apart from cocktail, the bar also has plenty of ales and beers to keep you company. Situated next to the fine dining restaurant Central Kitchen, the spot is perfect for a pre-dinner or post dinner drinks and a quick late-night bite with your pals.

3010 20th Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94110
Top Of The Mark

You have not seen the city until you have seen its glittering lights from Top of the Mark, where you can bask in one of the best 360-degree views of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Sip a drink or nibble on a gourmet delicacy in this posh and classic spot while enjoying nightly entertainment that ranges from salsa to swing. The elevated mahogany dance floor is surrounded by conversational seating areas featuring comfortable modern sofas, classic settees, club chairs, and wood frame bistro chairs.

999 California Street, 19th Floor, Inter-Continental Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94108
Local Edition

Once you walk in through the doors of the Local Edition, you will be transported to a whole different era. This cocktail bar recreates a newspaper office from the 1950s and 1960s, and is a perfect tribute to the space that was once the printing room of San Francisco's popular publication, The Examiner. The walls are adorned with newspaper articles of the mid-20th Century, and the bar counter even has typewriters as embellishments. Classic concoctions and contemporary variations are well represented here. Do try the Bloody Mary and Highball, or the Fidel and Mojito for a new flavor.

691 Market Street, Hearst Building, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94105
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Located within SF's historic Fairmont Hotel, Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a kitschy bamboo lounge that is for anyone who always wanted to visit the set of “Fantasy Island.” During the happy hours, indulge in some fruity umbrella drinks, the simulated tropical storm (yes, it really rains), and the intentionally cheesy soft-rock house band to lull you away to that paradise cruise you never took. Snacks and meals are both pricey, but the food's not the main reason for coming here. The Kalua pork is a highly recommended menu item, but you had best order them with a round of Mai-Tais; they're rumored to be the city's finest.

950 Mason Street, The Fairmont San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94108
House of Shields

This place has been around forever, or so it seems, but current management has changed it from a working-class bar into one for Financial District types and dot-comers wanting to unwind in a studiously unpretentious atmosphere. The look hasn't changed though, with dark wood and brass everywhere, albeit polished to a shiny perfection never seen before. The usual libations are served here to the sounds of a piano playing by request and people joining in for some impromptu karaoke!

39 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94105

Rickhouse was the name for warehouses where whiskeys were stored to age. Now, the name is used for a chic and very trendy bar. The decor is rustic, with a fireplace and wooden barrel design. Their cocktails are especially good, but they also have a very impressive selection of beers, wines, and rare liquors.

246 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94108
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