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25 Top-Shelf Cocktail Bars in San Francisco

SF's most influential cocktail bars are still pouring strong drinks

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Coronavirus may have temporarily shut down the bars in this city, but they are coming back strong and reopening for the summer, bringing the roaring ’20s back to San Francisco. During the crisis, the powers that be eased the rules around alcohol delivery, and restaurants and bars can continue to serve cocktails to go, extended at least through the end of 2021. But also, with San Francisco and California fully reopened on June 15, many long-shuttered bars are reopening for indoor and outdoor drinking. So for those looking to shake it up, here are some of the strongest cocktails in San Francisco.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Interval at Long Now

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Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 496-9187
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By far one of the most interesting cocktail bars in San Francisco, the Interval is part museum, part cafe, part (best part!) cocktail bar. The menu is extensive, but thoughtful and unique. While you’re picking up, wave hello to prototypes of the 10,000 Year Clock and the floor-to-ceiling library that houses thousands of books.

2. Tony Nik's

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1534 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 693-0990

A true, 87-year-old North Beach classic, where the neighborhood gathers over Fernet and whiskey cocktails. The fading neon sign will guide you inside, where each table has an actual, flickering candle on it. Settle in at the long bar for a beer and a shot or drink a very good old fashioned.

3. 15 Romolo

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15 Romolo Pl
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 398-1359
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A North Beach hideaway, 15 Romolo is located down an alley off Broadway's neon row of strip clubs. Excellently curated cocktails and an extensive sherry list have always made it a bright spot in a neighborhood filled with vodka sodas and thongs. Try the Pimm’s cup, laced with ginger syrup and loaded with cucumber and mint.

Pimm’s Cup at 15 Romolo 15 Romolo

4. Cold Drinks Bar

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644 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 788-8188
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China Live, the massive multi-level dining emporium, does have good drinks hidden away in an upstairs room. Cold Drinks is the cocktail bar on the second floor, and it’s a secluded lair, gilded in black and gold. The cocktails rely on whiskey, including an old-fashioned washed in duck fat, and plenty of pebbled ice, young coconut, and fresh pineapple.

5. Tosca Cafe

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242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-9651
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Tosca Cafe, the historic Italian-American restaurant and bar in North Beach, has finally reopened with a warm menu of Tuscan fried chicken, shaved truffle pasta, and of course, the “house cappuccino.” Longtime fans can’t wait to belly up the century-old bar and see the back room again, but in the meantime, takeout negronis and spritzes will have to see us through.

Cappuccino cocktails at Tosca Cafe Tosca Cafe

6. Macondray

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2209 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 829-3464
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Macondray transformed a standard bar into a space washed with green paint, studded with warm metal, and filled with plants. Owners Aaron Paul and Jake Roberts are local industry pros who happen to have grown up in Maine, so in addition to spicy margaritas and other colorful drinks, there’s a serious lobster roll on the menu.

Bar at Macondray Ashley Wacker

7. Moongate Lounge

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28 Waverly Pl
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 857-9688

Mister Jiu’s is finally reopened the celestial Moongate Lounge, located directly above the Michelin-starred restaurant, on July 24. The bar will be bringing back the dim sum and cocktails inspired by the lunar calendar, such as the deimos, made with bourbon and oolong topped with green walnut foam and brined black sesame honey.

8. The Snug

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2301 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 562-5092
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Pac Heights got lucky when a team of industry pros opened this cozy neighborhood bar in 2017. It’s named after the little nooks and crannies in an Irish pub, but even if you can’t curl up in their Irish nook at the moment, it’s worth cozying out with these cocktails at home. 

9. The House Of Shields

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39 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 769-8109

House of Shields is a cocktail institution, more than a hundred years old, dating back to 1908. It’s lined with wood panels and brass hardware, including the original floors, chandeliers, and many other details. The cocktails are classic, the bartenders have worked there for years, and it’s a trip back to another era of San Francisco. House of Shields reopened in June of 2021, after being closed for more than a year, along with the Sentinel, the sandwich shop that stands guard just next door.

Scenes, House of Shields

10. Novela

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662 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 896-6500
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This glam downtown bar has a literary theme, with shelves lined with colorful books, and a bar stocked with strong punch, to soothe that happy hour crowd. And even though SoMa was as hushed as a library at the beginning of the pandemic, Novela is open and mixing it up.

Cocktail from Novela Novela

11. Kona's Street Market

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32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

While Pacific Cocktail Haven is recovering from their recent fire, the team recently opened this new cocktail bar in SoMa. Inspired by street markets from around the world, cocktails include a “Boracay old fashioned” with gin, vermouth, coconut water, calamansi, and makrut bitters, and “save me a piece of that corn!” with tequila, falernum, averna, atola de elote, and horchata. Food partner Pinoy Heritage is still offering their popular Filipino dishes alongside.

Three cocktails in a row Andrew Chun

12. Charmaine's Rooftop Bar & Lounge

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1100 Market Street Entrance, 45 McAllister St at
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 786-3467
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The Proper Hotel boasts one of the most breathtaking rooftop bars in the city, shaped like the slim triangle corner building. The cocktails are carefully crafted by BVHospitality (also behind Trick Dog), and the menu is now courtesy of chef Jason Fox (of the late Commonwealth). Cozy up to a fire pit with a “proper cup” poured tall with Pimm’s and a curl of cucumber, and stave off hunger with above-average hotel snacks.

13. Tommy's Mexican Restaurant

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5929 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 387-4747
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This Outer Richmond Mexican restaurant is an institution for two reasons: the best tequila selection in San Francisco and pitchers of Tommy’s margaritas. Still, as long as you’re ordering, get an enchilada and taco combination plate. You’ll need it if the margaritas do their job properly.

Exterior neon sign of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in the Richmond neighborhood

14. Smuggler's Cove

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650 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 869-1900
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Smuggler’s is a tiki bar that looks like the belly of a pirate ship, narrow but three stories tall, so drinkers can climb up into ropes hung with nautical gear, or descend down to a second bar filled with barrels. And it’s a rum authority, pouring hundreds of varieties, with a thick cocktail list. The indoor experience has been closed for months, but Smuggler’s has finally cracked open the door for takeout and delivery, serving zombies and painkillers to go, along with crushed ice by the bag and ceramic mugs. 

15. Linden Room

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292 Linden St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 829-7565
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This cozy, carpeted, and teeny tiny bar is hidden behind chef Kim Alter’s tasting menu restaurant Nightbird. The cocktails are based off American classics, with drinks like the Kentucky 75 (bourbon, cucumber, ginger, Pimms, anise hyssop, lemon) served in vintage glassware collected by the chef. (Note: Due to its diminutive size, save this for an intimate occasion, rather than a large group outing.)

Linden Room
Linden Room
Patricia Chang

16. Horsefeather

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528 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 817-1939
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This laidback tavern on Divisadero usually pours pretty gin and bourbon drinks in that sunny terrarium of a front patio. But for now, you can pick up pony cocktail bottles, fried chicken boxes, and duck-fat fries.

17. Blackbird

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2124 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 872-5310
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Blackbird is the neighborhood watering hole of Duboce Triangle, serving strong cocktails and craft beer. These days, they’ve opening up the Dutch door on Market Street to sell bottles to go, as well as outdoor seating on the patio.

18. ABV

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3174 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 294-1871
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ABV owners Ryan Fitzgerald, Todd Smith, and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerd, are all longtime veterans of the SF bar scene, so it only makes sense that the cocktails at their Mission bar are some of the best in the city. The menu is divided by spirit, a move that makes so much sense it’s a wonder more bars haven’t adopted it. You can’t go wrong with the Whiskey in Church and “the burger.”

Pimm’s at ABV ABV

19. Third Rail

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628 20th St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 252-7966
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This bar from the team behind Range — former bar manager Jeff Lyon and owner-chef Phil West — has a subtle railway theme and cocktails that feature seasonal ingredients and hand-cut and hand-crushed ice. The cocktails are all affordable, and don’t miss the beer, shot, and bite of homemade jerky. These days, they’re teaming up with a neighbor to comply with liquor license laws, so Wooly Pig is providing the food, and Third Rail is bottling up the cocktails to go.

Beer, shot, jerky at Third Rail Third Rail

20. Wildhawk

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3464 19th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 830-9444
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Wildhawk, that lady-run lounge in the Mission, has kept the vermouth cabinet open. Favorite cocktails include the “Breakfast Negroni,” infused with Cocoa Puffs, and the “Ninja Princess,” featuring Japanese whiskey and passionfruit. 

21. True Laurel

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753 Alabama St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 341-0020
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Cocktails and food are equally matched at this creative Lazy Bear spinoff. Bar manager and partner Nicolas Torres is behind the creative list, which incorporates a variety of non-traditional cocktail ingredients like the Fungus Among Us, made with truffle vodka, candy cap mushroom, oxidized wines, lemon, and pet-nat. Right now, the mid century–inspired bar has a to-go menu with cocktails, wine, and exciting snacks.

22. Casements Bar

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2351 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 658-7320
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A trio of friends opened this modern cocktail bar, which defies American expectations for what an Irish bar should look and taste like. Drinkers can sample the collection of Irish whiskey and gin, get a smooth pint of draft Guinness, and chase it all down with fish and chips.

Cocktail at Casements Patricia Chang

23. Lone Palm

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3394 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-0109

Step under the neon sign and into the low-light interior, and the Lone Palm is a dark and moody cocktail bar with Deco details and strong martinis. It’s not exactly a dive, it’s a classic, complete with candles and white table clothes. Food trucks have been parking out front, so these days, you can pair pastor tacos or porchetta sandwiches with those drinks.

Interior of Lone Palm Lone Palm

24. The Royal Cuckoo

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3202 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 550-8667
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At the top of Mission bordering on Bernal, the Royal Cuckoo has a devoted fan following, and a certain dark and mysterious bohemian charm. A self-described organ lounge, it has church pews for seats and an actual organ, and often hosts small live jazz groups. The bar pours a stiff Manhattan and keeps prices reasonable. Head all the way to the back to snag a coveted seat on the cozy patio.

25. White Cap

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3608 Taraval St
San Francisco, CA 94116
(415) 682-4215
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A cocktail pro and a surfer teamed up to open White Cap, which is succeeding in warming up the Outer Sunset, a neighborhood in need of more watering holes. Filled with driftwood and a fireplace, usually drinkers can get cozy with a strong drink after a beach walk, but now the drinks are available to go.

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1. The Interval at Long Now

Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94123

By far one of the most interesting cocktail bars in San Francisco, the Interval is part museum, part cafe, part (best part!) cocktail bar. The menu is extensive, but thoughtful and unique. While you’re picking up, wave hello to prototypes of the 10,000 Year Clock and the floor-to-ceiling library that houses thousands of books.

Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94123

2. Tony Nik's

1534 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

A true, 87-year-old North Beach classic, where the neighborhood gathers over Fernet and whiskey cocktails. The fading neon sign will guide you inside, where each table has an actual, flickering candle on it. Settle in at the long bar for a beer and a shot or drink a very good old fashioned.

1534 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94133

3. 15 Romolo

15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133
Pimm’s Cup at 15 Romolo 15 Romolo

A North Beach hideaway, 15 Romolo is located down an alley off Broadway's neon row of strip clubs. Excellently curated cocktails and an extensive sherry list have always made it a bright spot in a neighborhood filled with vodka sodas and thongs. Try the Pimm’s cup, laced with ginger syrup and loaded with cucumber and mint.

15 Romolo Pl
San Francisco, CA 94133

4. Cold Drinks Bar

644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

China Live, the massive multi-level dining emporium, does have good drinks hidden away in an upstairs room. Cold Drinks is the cocktail bar on the second floor, and it’s a secluded lair, gilded in black and gold. The cocktails rely on whiskey, including an old-fashioned washed in duck fat, and plenty of pebbled ice, young coconut, and fresh pineapple.

644 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

5. Tosca Cafe

242 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
Cappuccino cocktails at Tosca Cafe Tosca Cafe

Tosca Cafe, the historic Italian-American restaurant and bar in North Beach, has finally reopened with a warm menu of Tuscan fried chicken, shaved truffle pasta, and of course, the “house cappuccino.” Longtime fans can’t wait to belly up the century-old bar and see the back room again, but in the meantime, takeout negronis and spritzes will have to see us through.

242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

6. Macondray

2209 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Bar at Macondray Ashley Wacker

Macondray transformed a standard bar into a space washed with green paint, studded with warm metal, and filled with plants. Owners Aaron Paul and Jake Roberts are local industry pros who happen to have grown up in Maine, so in addition to spicy margaritas and other colorful drinks, there’s a serious lobster roll on the menu.

2209 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109

7. Moongate Lounge

28 Waverly Pl, San Francisco, CA 94108

Mister Jiu’s is finally reopened the celestial Moongate Lounge, located directly above the Michelin-starred restaurant, on July 24. The bar will be bringing back the dim sum and cocktails inspired by the lunar calendar, such as the deimos, made with bourbon and oolong topped with green walnut foam and brined black sesame honey.

28 Waverly Pl
San Francisco, CA 94108

8. The Snug

2301 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Pac Heights got lucky when a team of industry pros opened this cozy neighborhood bar in 2017. It’s named after the little nooks and crannies in an Irish pub, but even if you can’t curl up in their Irish nook at the moment, it’s worth cozying out with these cocktails at home. 

2301 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115

9. The House Of Shields

39 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Scenes, House of Shields

House of Shields is a cocktail institution, more than a hundred years old, dating back to 1908. It’s lined with wood panels and brass hardware, including the original floors, chandeliers, and many other details. The cocktails are classic, the bartenders have worked there for years, and it’s a trip back to another era of San Francisco. House of Shields reopened in June of 2021, after being closed for more than a year, along with the Sentinel, the sandwich shop that stands guard just next door.

39 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

10. Novela

662 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Cocktail from Novela Novela

This glam downtown bar has a literary theme, with shelves lined with colorful books, and a bar stocked with strong punch, to soothe that happy hour crowd. And even though SoMa was as hushed as a library at the beginning of the pandemic, Novela is open and mixing it up.

662 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

11. Kona's Street Market

32 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Three cocktails in a row Andrew Chun

While Pacific Cocktail Haven is recovering from their recent fire, the team recently opened this new cocktail bar in SoMa. Inspired by street markets from around the world, cocktails include a “Boracay old fashioned” with gin, vermouth, coconut water, calamansi, and makrut bitters, and “save me a piece of that corn!” with tequila, falernum, averna, atola de elote, and horchata. Food partner Pinoy Heritage is still offering their popular Filipino dishes alongside.

32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

12. Charmaine's Rooftop Bar & Lounge

1100 Market Street Entrance, 45 McAllister St at, San Francisco, CA 94102

The Proper Hotel boasts one of the most breathtaking rooftop bars in the city, shaped like the slim triangle corner building. The cocktails are carefully crafted by BVHospitality (also behind Trick Dog), and the menu is now courtesy of chef Jason Fox (of the late Commonwealth). Cozy up to a fire pit with a “proper cup” poured tall with Pimm’s and a curl of cucumber, and stave off hunger with above-average hotel snacks.

1100 Market Street Entrance, 45 McAllister St at
San Francisco, CA 94102

13. Tommy's Mexican Restaurant

5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121
Exterior neon sign of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in the Richmond neighborhood

This Outer Richmond Mexican restaurant is an institution for two reasons: the best tequila selection in San Francisco and pitchers of Tommy’s margaritas. Still, as long as you’re ordering, get an enchilada and taco combination plate. You’ll need it if the margaritas do their job properly.

5929 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121

14. Smuggler's Cove

650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Smuggler’s is a tiki bar that looks like the belly of a pirate ship, narrow but three stories tall, so drinkers can climb up into ropes hung with nautical gear, or descend down to a second bar filled with barrels. And it’s a rum authority, pouring hundreds of varieties, with a thick cocktail list. The indoor experience has been closed for months, but Smuggler’s has finally cracked open the door for takeout and delivery, serving zombies and painkillers to go, along with crushed ice by the bag and ceramic mugs. 

650 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102

15. Linden Room

292 Linden St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Linden Room
Linden Room
Patricia Chang

This cozy, carpeted, and teeny tiny bar is hidden behind chef Kim Alter’s tasting menu restaurant Nightbird. The cocktails are based off American classics, with drinks like the Kentucky 75 (bourbon, cucumber, ginger, Pimms, anise hyssop, lemon) served in vintage glassware collected by the chef. (Note: Due to its diminutive size, save this for an intimate occasion, rather than a large group outing.)

292 Linden St
San Francisco, CA 94102

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16. Horsefeather

528 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

This laidback tavern on Divisadero usually pours pretty gin and bourbon drinks in that sunny terrarium of a front patio. But for now, you can pick up pony cocktail bottles, fried chicken boxes, and duck-fat fries.

528 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117

17. Blackbird

2124 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Blackbird is the neighborhood watering hole of Duboce Triangle, serving strong cocktails and craft beer. These days, they’ve opening up the Dutch door on Market Street to sell bottles to go, as well as outdoor seating on the patio.

2124 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

18. ABV

3174 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Pimm’s at ABV ABV

ABV owners Ryan Fitzgerald, Todd Smith, and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerd, are all longtime veterans of the SF bar scene, so it only makes sense that the cocktails at their Mission bar are some of the best in the city. The menu is divided by spirit, a move that makes so much sense it’s a wonder more bars haven’t adopted it. You can’t go wrong with the Whiskey in Church and “the burger.”

3174 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

19. Third Rail

628 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Beer, shot, jerky at Third Rail Third Rail

This bar from the team behind Range — former bar manager Jeff Lyon and owner-chef Phil West — has a subtle railway theme and cocktails that feature seasonal ingredients and hand-cut and hand-crushed ice. The cocktails are all affordable, and don’t miss the beer, shot, and bite of homemade jerky. These days, they’re teaming up with a neighbor to comply with liquor license laws, so Wooly Pig is providing the food, and Third Rail is bottling up the cocktails to go.

628 20th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

20. Wildhawk

3464 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Wildhawk, that lady-run lounge in the Mission, has kept the vermouth cabinet open. Favorite cocktails include the “Breakfast Negroni,” infused with Cocoa Puffs, and the “Ninja Princess,” featuring Japanese whiskey and passionfruit. 

3464 19th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

21. True Laurel

753 Alabama St, San Francisco, CA 94110