Travel 2 minutes 24 June 2017

Bottoms Up: Where To Have Cocktails in San Francisco

Five bars you can't miss the next time you're in this city.

cocktail USA

When it comes to cocktail bars in San Francisco, there is no shortage of options. With talented mixologists whipping up homemade tinctures, liqueurs, syrups, and more, there's never been a better time to drink in the City by the Bay. Here are five incredible cocktail bars that should be on every aficionado's radar.

Alembic
Backed by the same people who gave us nearby Magnolia Brewery, Alembic is a narrow cocktail den teeming with artsy folk who've come in search of creative drinks spiked with odd ingredients like rose hips and kabocha spice. Try the Sourdough, a strong concoction of Hamilton 86 Demerara rum, amaro Ramazzotti, sweet Mandarine Napoleon, sourdough, and house-made grapefruit and celery bitters. Hungry? Order the sprouted lentil croquettes dressed with cilantro yogurt and Calabrian chili off the small plates menu.1725 Haight Street (The Haight)

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The spirits at Alembic. Photo credit: Alembic.
The spirits at Alembic. Photo credit: Alembic.
The Devil’s Acre
From the owners of Bourbon & Branch comes The Devil’s Acre in the heart of North Beach. Make a reservation, because it’s always packed, and for good reason. This dimly-lit, apothecary-styled bar attracts hordes of North Beachers who flock here for throwback cocktails and a vibe that lands somewhere between a saloon and old-school pharmacy. The Three Sworn Enemies cocktail will cure what ails you, with velvety Cyrus Noble bourbon, floral Grand Poppy liqueur, vanilla syrup, Angostura and orange bitters, and a flourish of twinkling gold dust. 256 Columbus Ave (North Beach)

Novela
Novela is the perfect drinking spot for literature nerds. This book-themed bar has walls lined with classic literature and library furniture straight out of the 1970s, including giant leather lounge chairs and retro hanging lamps. The cocktails, all named for great literary characters, are fantastic. We love the Jay Gatsby, an earthy number of bourbon and smoky Islay Scotch enriched with a trio of liqueurs: herbal calisayar, walnut-spiked nocino, and sweet almond-flavored amaretto. But don't leave without exploring the oft-changing punch menu, which currently features a fresh, fruit-forward swirl of strawberry, blood orange, chai tea, and fresh tarragon, which lends a punch of anise flavour. 662 Mission Street (SOMA)

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The drinks at Novela. Photo credit: Novela.
The drinks at Novela. Photo credit: Novela.
Farmer Brown
There’s plenty of seating at Farmer Brown's expansive, brass-topped bar, here set against a rustic country atmosphere perfect for soul-food cuisine and cocktails. Begin with the Old-Soul Fashioned, a play on the classic bourbon-based cocktail spiked with brown sugar, sage, raspberry jam, and house-made ginger nectar. (It tastes like breakfast toast smothered in jam and doused with bourbon!) Move on with the Front Porch Iced Tea, a sunny mix of bourbon, molasses, house-made ginger nectar, and fresh iced tea. But don't leave without trying the Farmer Brown's classic Southern fried chicken, perfectly executed with oh-so-tender meat and a thick, crispy coating. 25 Mason Street (Market).

Smuggler’s Cove
This quirky pirate-themed tiki bar is heavy on kitsch, but its expansive rum-based cocktail list is no joke. Descend into the subterranean bar's darkly-lit depths kitted out with ropes, anchors, and rum barrels before tucking into drinks like the Captain’s Grog, a balanced concoction of multiple rums, treacly maple syrup, spiced falernum, curaçao, vanilla and almond extracts, and a tart jolt of fresh lime and grapefruit juices. Before leaving, consider joining the Rumbustion Society, which gets you access to rare, off-menu rums and a totally rad members-only fez. 650 Gough Street (Hayes Valley).

Recommended reading: View all cocktail stories here

This article first appeared on Robert Parker Wine Advocate in February 2017. Click here for more stories from Wine Journal.

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