It's hard to remember exactly when bars in San Francisco started charging $14 or $15 for a drink and even harder to remember when imbibers stopped flinching at their checks. But, while it's true there are some excellent craft cocktails worth the high prices, it's perhaps even more true that sometimes a guy or gal just wants to get a couple of good, stiff drinks for less than twenty bucks. Which is where the bars on this list come in, all of which serve boozy beverages that cost anywhere from $5.50 to $10. And no: you don't have to be there during an obscure happy hour; these bars, which range from divey to less divey to not really that divey at all, serve cheap cocktails on the reg. Great drinks at affordable prices? We'll drink to that.Read More
San Francisco Cheap Cocktails: Where To Drink Up
Because you shouldn't be punished for only want to spend $20 on drinks.
1. Bar Basic
Bar Basic doesn't serve PSLs, froyo, green juice, or air episodes of "The Real Housewives." But it is basic in every other sense. Just your standard bar with plenty of seating, a good juke box, and $7 "Basic Favorites" that include a Moscow Mule, Kentucky Mule, and Mangotini and $9 specialty cocktails. Go during the five hour happy hour (4 to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday) for $5 martinis.
2. Blackbird Bar
Yeah, this popular neighborhood bar has a few drinks on its creative cocktail menu that are $12, but the majority of them will only set you back between $9 and $11, which ain't too shabby, especially considering the happy kick you'll get from the Strong Island (bourbon, rye, pineapple rum, ancho reyes, limoncello, house-cola) and the Cool as Ice (white whiskey, amaro nonino, vanilla, aveze).
3. Doc's Clock
It's always "cocktail time" at Doc's Clock, a very laid back bar in the Mission with shuffleboard, a decent board game collection, and a good juke box. Even better? The drinks are strong and cheap, even outside of happy hour (5 to 9 p.m., every single day of the week).
4. El Rio
This friendly bar boasts an outside patio, ping pong, pool, shuffleboard, and reasonably priced drinks every single day of the week, but it's seven hour happy hour (1 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday) is when you'll get the best bang for your buck with $3 well drinks on Mondays and $4 wells Tuesday through Friday.
5. Gold Cane Cocktail Lounge
San Francisco, CA 94117
The Gold Cane is not for everyone, but if you like strong drinks, playing pool, always being able to find a seat, and friendly locals, then you'll be a fan. It's almost shocking that Gold Cane has a legit cocktail menu, but it does and they all run 9 bucks. Booze and a single mixer will cost you even less.
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6. Harper & Rye
San Francisco, CA 94109
All of Harper & Rye's highballs and cocktails are ten bucks, which is one more thing to love about this attractively designed Polk Street bar with tons of seating and a pool table in back. Try the Victor & Nancy, a cocktail that pairs mezcal with carrot juice and is not only delicious, but a good way to get your daily dose of vitamin A.
7. Hi-Lo Club
Hi-Lo Club is an unpretentious neighborhood joint that has a great list of specialty beers, 12 beers on tap that rotate but usually run between $5 and $8, and... the thing you're most excited about: $9 cocktails. Try the Gold Rush (bourbon, fresh lemon, honey syrup) or the Manhattan Project (bourbon, sweet vermouth, genepy des alpes, bitters) or ask the bartender about the cocktail of the week.
8. Holy Water
Leaving Holy Water off of this list would be a sin due to their extensive craft cocktail menu. Most drinks have three or four ingredients. All of 'em are ten bucks. Favorites include the Mexican Firing Squad (tequila, grenadine, lime) and the Frisco Cocktail (bourbon, benedictine, lemon).
9. R Bar
R Bar is probably best known for selling more Fernet Branca than anywhere in the United States, but while it's worth ordering a shot of that ($5), R Bar also serves up $6 well drinks and $7 Sailor Jerry cocktails. For less than twenty bucks, you can get a great buzz that will be easily maintained with the $2 cans of Olympia.
10. Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe
San Francisco, CA 94133
There are people in SF who mistakenly refer to Specs as a dive bar. While it may have some dive bar characteristics — plenty of characters, dim lighting, cash only — Specs is so much more than that. It's truly an SF institution. BUT, it's an SF institution with cheap drinks (nothing costs over $10 and most drinks will run you $6 or $7; just don't expect anything too fancy), which makes it one of the worthiest additions to this list.
11. Stock in Trade
It was a sad day for San Francisco when La Barca closed, but the pain is nothing a few $10 cocktails at Stock in Trade, which took over the cavernous space in 2013, can't cure. The young crowd that hangs out at this (very) Marina bar enjoy La Diabla (tequila, cointreau, jalapeno, agave syrup, lime, paprika) and the Basil Gin Gimlet (Hendrick’s cucumber gin, basil, fresh lime, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur) almost as much as they enjoy the $5 happy hour drinks (Sunday through Tues, 5 - 10 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday, 5 to 7 p.m.) they sip while playing indoor bocce.
12. Trad'r Sam
San Francisco, CA 94121
Trad'r Sam was San Francisco's first Tiki bar. True, it's now got a whole dive bar/sports bar thing going on, but it's still worth a visit to the Outer Richmond if you're in the mood to sip on some very affordable tropical drinks. How affordable? Like $6 to $7 affordable. If it sounds too good to be true, that's because, thanks to the sugar, you'll likely have a headache the next day. Still, with prices like that, you can afford some Advil and a good cup of coffee.
There are a few reasons to love Zoe's. One is the poutine, which is undeniably one of the best drinking foods to exist. Another is the cozy atmosphere. But the thing to love most? The affordable cocktails, many of which are $10, and one of which (the margarita) is only $6. They also have a stellar happy hour (3 to 7 p.m.; and 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week).