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A bartender pouring a cocktail Albert Law

25 Top-Shelf Cocktail Bars in San Francisco

The best places to belly up for a strong drink

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The pandemic continues, but these days most of San Francisco’s top bars have resumed shaking and stirring cocktails to rival any of the best watering holes in the country. And good news: the bar scene is this city is incredibly deep. There are more options than ever for low-proof drinks and aperitifs, while the city’s classic cocktail dens continue to execute on the highest levels. If you’re looking for something specific — say, a hot new cocktail option, a time-tested dive, or a rooftop on which to imbibe — there are plenty of choices across each category. But let this be your first stop, a guide to getting to know San Francisco’s best cocktail bars.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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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. Red Window

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500 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 757-0600
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With a prime location on Columbus in North Beach, Red Window and its Spanish-inspired menu of cocktails can bring a little Iberian sunshine to even the foggiest of San Francisco days. There’s a tapas menu to pair with drinks like the Oops I Dropped the Coconut, an almost tropical cocktail served in an actual coconut. Also of note: the entire menu is low-ABV featuring cocktails built on aperitifs like vermouth and sherry instead of stronger spirits. 

4. 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

5. 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.

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

Find the celestial and stylish Moongate Lounge, directly above the Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning restaurant Mister Jiu’s. The bar’s cocktails draw inspiration from 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.

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.

Scenes, House of Shields

10. Kona's Street Market

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32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Head to this second bar from the Pacific Cocktail Haven team for a globe-trotting menu filled with intriguing ingredients like date molasses and ube-coconut cream. Inspired by street markets from around the world, at this dark cocktail den 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.

A purple cocktail in a short glass topped with cream. Allison Webber

11. Bourbon & Branch

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501 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 346-1735
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The 1920s-inspired self-described speakeasy cocktail bar trend may have faded into the rearview mirror these days, but Bourbon & Branch remains one of the top places to indulge your wildest whiskey dreams in the city. It’s everything you imagine: leather-wrapped, dark and moody, and, yes, accessed only if you have the password. Hint: it’s on the bar’s website.

12. 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

13. 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. 

14. 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. There’s now a long parklet out front, too, and, as always, a food menu with everything from snacks like duck fat fries to full meals like a double cheeseburger on a sesame seeded brioche bun.

Horsefeather
Horsefeather
Patricia Chang

15. The Alembic

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1725 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 666-0822
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Of all the bars on Haight, the Alembic remains your strongest option for great cocktails — and that’s whether you’re craving some craft like a brown butter washed old fashioned or something classic like an excellent whiskey sour capped with a frothy head of egg whites. Slide past the long bar and into one of cozy two-person booths or pull up a chair at a table in the back.

Two cocktails on a table at the Alembic. Lauren Saria

16. 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. Happy hour from 5-8 p.m. means $10 select cocktails and wine but any time you swing through you’ll find a respectable list of drink options.

17. 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 San Francisco 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

18. Chezchez

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584 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 237-1834
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Bon Voyage bid adieu to Valencia during the pandemic, but the change-up made space for Chezchez, the latest offering from Bon Vivants Hospitality. If you’re looking for that one-size-fits-all drinking experience, this might be your best bet. The drink menu breaks out into sections built around familiar classics — think, daiquiris, negronis, and even bloody marys — offering several riffs on each.

A 50/50 martini from Chezchez Tiago Russo

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.

Beer, shot, jerky at Third Rail Third Rail

20. 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.

21. 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. Bonus: it’s home to one of the coolest back patios in the Mission, with graffiti-covered walls encasing a rowdy space with tables, heaters, and (oftentimes) live music.

Cocktail at Casements Patricia Chang

22. Trick Dog

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3010 20th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 471-2999
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Trick Dog is a creative cocktail powerhouse, known for a menu that changes every sixth months. Past iterations include a record album, Zodiac wheel, and SF tourist map, as well as a children’s book called “Rhymes with Trick Dog.” It’s also the home of Quik Dog, a favorite for hot dogs and buttermilk brined chicken nuggets.

Trick Dog
Trick Dog

23. buddy

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3115 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94110

What do you get when you combine the skills of a handful of cocktail industry veterans with a familiar Mission space and a bevy of fried mortadella sandwiches? Buddy, the neighborhood bar powered by Alvaro Rojas (Elda), Nicolas Torres (True Laurel), Nora Furst (Uma Casa), and Claire Sprouse (Hunky Dory in Brooklyn). Step into the buttoned-up space for expertly-crafted cocktails, well above-average bar food, and a flood of natural wine.

Interior of the bar Albert Law

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, drinkers can get cozy with a strong drink after a beach walk.

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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. Red Window

500 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

With a prime location on Columbus in North Beach, Red Window and its Spanish-inspired menu of cocktails can bring a little Iberian sunshine to even the foggiest of San Francisco days. There’s a tapas menu to pair with drinks like the Oops I Dropped the Coconut, an almost tropical cocktail served in an actual coconut. Also of note: the entire menu is low-ABV featuring cocktails built on aperitifs like vermouth and sherry instead of stronger spirits. 

500 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

4. 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

5. 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

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

Find the celestial and stylish Moongate Lounge, directly above the Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning restaurant Mister Jiu’s. The bar’s cocktails draw inspiration from 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.

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.

39 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

10. Kona's Street Market

32 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103
A purple cocktail in a short glass topped with cream. Allison Webber

Head to this second bar from the Pacific Cocktail Haven team for a globe-trotting menu filled with intriguing ingredients like date molasses and ube-coconut cream. Inspired by street markets from around the world, at this dark cocktail den 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.

32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

11. Bourbon & Branch

501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

The 1920s-inspired self-described speakeasy cocktail bar trend may have faded into the rearview mirror these days, but Bourbon & Branch remains one of the top places to indulge your wildest whiskey dreams in the city. It’s everything you imagine: leather-wrapped, dark and moody, and, yes, accessed only if you have the password. Hint: it’s on the bar’s website.

501 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94102

12. 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

13. 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

14. Horsefeather

528 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Horsefeather
Horsefeather
Patricia Chang

This laidback tavern on Divisadero usually pours pretty gin and bourbon drinks in that sunny terrarium of a front patio. There’s now a long parklet out front, too, and, as always, a food menu with everything from snacks like duck fat fries to full meals like a double cheeseburger on a sesame seeded brioche bun.

528 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117

15. The Alembic

1725 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Two cocktails on a table at the Alembic. Lauren Saria

Of all the bars on Haight, the Alembic remains your strongest option for great cocktails — and that’s whether you’re craving some craft like a brown butter washed old fashioned or something classic like an excellent whiskey sour capped with a frothy head of egg whites. Slide past the long bar and into one of cozy two-person booths or pull up a chair at a table in the back.

1725 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117

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16. Blackbird

2124 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Blackbird is the neighborhood watering hole of Duboce Triangle, serving strong cocktails and craft beer. Happy hour from 5-8 p.m. means $10 select cocktails and wine but any time you swing through you’ll find a respectable list of drink options.

2124 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

17. 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 San Francisco 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

18. Chezchez

584 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
A 50/50 martini from Chezchez Tiago Russo

Bon Voyage bid adieu to Valencia during the pandemic, but the change-up made space for Chezchez, the latest offering from Bon Vivants Hospitality. If you’re looking for that one-size-fits-all drinking experience, this might be your best bet. The drink menu breaks out into sections built around familiar classics — think, daiquiris, negronis, and even bloody marys — offering several riffs on each.

584 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

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.

628 20th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

20. True Laurel

753 Alabama St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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.

753 Alabama St
San Francisco, CA 94110