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Cappuccino cocktails at Tosca Cafe Tosca Cafe

14 Buzzy Coffee Cocktails Around San Francisco and the East Bay

San Francisco loves an espresso martini but the caffeinated cocktail fun doesn’t stop there

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There are some who would argue that espresso martinis — yes, the confounding combination of uppers (caffeine) and downers (alcohol) that’s best known for being “boozy, creamy, [and] cloying,” at least according to the New York Times — are experiencing a renaissance. But on behalf of all coffee-loving San Franciscans, we’d like to alert the Internet that this city has always loved the espresso martini and has a long history of making excellent coffee cocktails.

To underscore the point, and to encourage you to experience the breadth of this city’s coffee-tinged cocktails for yourself, we’ve gathered up a selection of the city’s most intriguing ones, from local favorites to playful riffs to entirely inventive takes. Here are 14 choice coffee cocktails around San Francisco and the East Bay.

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.

1. Balboa Cafe

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3199 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 921-3944
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Balboa Cafe is a cocktail institution and brunch scene in the Marina dating back a century. Due to wild demand, espresso martinis are now on a nitro tap, pouring out an ultra smooth mix of Top Hat Provisions condensed coffee, Stoli vanilla vodka, and Kahlua coffee liqueur. By request, they’ll also do a made-to-order version with a hot shot of espresso, which can be made decaf. And they’re selling canned espresso martinis to go over the bar.

Espresso martinis at Balboa Cafe Balboa Cafe

2. Wilder

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3154 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 741-6605
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From the same owners as Westwood country bar, Wilder sister bar is into brunch, happy hour, and martinis, from big flamingo bowls to mini tinis. The Wilder Espresso-Tini is a good shake of Tito’s vodka, Kahlua coffee liqueur, and cold brew, and the pleasant surprise is the cinnamon-scented addition of horchata. 

3. The Snug

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2301 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115

The favorite craft cocktail bar of Pac Heights, the Snug has many excellent concoctions on the list, but in the dead of winter only the Brown Buttered Coffee will do. It’s a real belly warmer and eye opener: strong coffee, strong bourbon, roasted chestnut, and salted amaro whipped cream, to set off the buttery and sweet flavors.

4. The Interval at Long Now

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Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Boulevard, 2 Marina Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 496-9187
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The Rhythm & Knowledge is double the fun — caffeinated and served hot — and embodies “the grown-up version of the breakfast you always wished your mother would make,” per the Interval’s social media. Warm up with the blend of bourbon, banana, and coffee topped with a caramel whipped cream.

5. Macondray

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2209 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 829-3464
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Macondray is that lush bar on Polk that’s downright dripping with plants, and usually known for spicy margaritas and chicken tenders. But espresso martinis have been upsetting the menu of late. Veteran bartender Aaron Paul calls his version the Midnight Mookie, and it’s a creamy shake-down of Humboldt Distillery vodka, Philz coffee, coconut milk, and Angioletto hazelnut liqueur, with a nostalgic sprinkle of Folgers speckling the top.

6. Chezchez

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584 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 237-1834
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As with most things on the Chezchez menu, the espresso martini is classically built and expertly executed, courtesy of the Trick Dog team. It’s a basic blend of Grey Goose, Mr. Black coffee liqueur, and cold brew that’s offered up in a frosty martini glass. Sip one on the outdoor terrace while taking in the energy of Valencia or step inside the high-ceiling modern space.

7. The Buena Vista

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2765 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 474-5044
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This San Francisco institution isn’t just a place to get a great Irish coffee, it’s the place to get the best one in the country. Bartenders in crisp white coats make hundreds of whiskey-laced coffee cocktails every day, allegedly using the same recipe developed by then-owner Jack Koeppler and travel writer Stanton Delaplane way back in 1952. It’s a simple drink but the secret is the technique

Ellen Fort

8. Abacá

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2700 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 486-0788
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Bartender-about-town Kevin Diedrich gets two mentions on this list, because not only is he serving a mean coffee cocktail at his own bar Kona’s, but he also consulted on the excellent drinks list over at Abaca, the new Filipino restaurant inside the Kimpton Alton Hotel. Under the skylight rimmed with ferns, sip on the Amadeo, a cool mix of vodka, coffee liqueur, cold brew, and pandan. 

9. Red Window

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500 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 757-0600
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There’s probably no better place to escape San Francisco’s notoriously foggy weather than at Red Window, a North Beach restaurant and bar that’s always a splice of sunshine. Decked out in plants and vibrant colors, its like stumbling upon a hidden Spanish paradise just off Columbus, and to really seal the deal, sip on the Spanish Chilled Coffee made with rum-spiked cold brew that’s lifted with cardamom, vanilla, and sherry.

10. 15 Romolo

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15 Romolo Pl
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 398-1359
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The back-alley and up-hill bar in North Beach has a reputation for a deceptively simple espresso martini starring only three ingredients: cold brew espresso, vodka, and sherry. But that cold brew is an Italian dark roast espresso from Caffe Trieste, a North Beach coffee legend in its own right, and infused with vanilla, mint, cinnamon, orange zest, star anise, and cacao. While the sherry is specifically dark and inky Pedro Jimenez, which makes for an intriguing sweetener.

11. Tosca Cafe

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242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-9651
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North Beach’s infamous drinking den reopened in 2021 with a loving restoration, and it’s better than ever, bullet holes and all. Of course, they kept the House Cappuccino, which might be a controversial inclusion on this list, because as true San Franciscans know – it does not include any coffee. But with bourbon, cognac, chocolate, and steamed milk, it’s a warm and cozy comfort.

Cappuccino cocktails at Tosca Cafe Tosca Cafe

12. Kona's Street Market

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32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Clarified to a warm golden hue, the Milk Was A Bad Choice is, somewhat ironically, an excellent choice at Kona’s Street Market, the latest opening from the Pacific Cocktail Haven team. It blends gin, apple brandy, and floral Italian liqueur with cold brew in a cocktail that’s both silky smooth and tart thanks to the inclusion of sumac and makrut lime. 

13. Sobre Mesa

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1618 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 858-7544
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Fittingly, the espresso martini riff at Sobre Mesa — chef-owner Nelson German’s swanky Afro-Latin cocktail lounge in Oakland — gets a South African twist from Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree. It lends nuttiness and citrus flavors to the otherwise familiar combo of vodka and espresso. 

A view of the main bar at Sobre Mesa. Thomas Kuoh

14. Friends & Family

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468 25th St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 225-0469
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Coconuts and coffee rub elbows in the For Rei, a deceptively simple-looking number on the Friends & Family cocktail list. Not only does Toki Japanese Whisky get a coconut wash, there’s also a coconut water “popsicle” at the heart of this drink. Coffee notes, meanwhile, come from infused Cynar. 

1. Balboa Cafe

3199 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Espresso martinis at Balboa Cafe Balboa Cafe

Balboa Cafe is a cocktail institution and brunch scene in the Marina dating back a century. Due to wild demand, espresso martinis are now on a nitro tap, pouring out an ultra smooth mix of Top Hat Provisions condensed coffee, Stoli vanilla vodka, and Kahlua coffee liqueur. By request, they’ll also do a made-to-order version with a hot shot of espresso, which can be made decaf. And they’re selling canned espresso martinis to go over the bar.

3199 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94123

2. Wilder

3154 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

From the same owners as Westwood country bar, Wilder sister bar is into brunch, happy hour, and martinis, from big flamingo bowls to mini tinis. The Wilder Espresso-Tini is a good shake of Tito’s vodka, Kahlua coffee liqueur, and cold brew, and the pleasant surprise is the cinnamon-scented addition of horchata. 

3154 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94123

3. The Snug

2301 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

The favorite craft cocktail bar of Pac Heights, the Snug has many excellent concoctions on the list, but in the dead of winter only the Brown Buttered Coffee will do. It’s a real belly warmer and eye opener: strong coffee, strong bourbon, roasted chestnut, and salted amaro whipped cream, to set off the buttery and sweet flavors.

2301 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115

4. The Interval at Long Now

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

The Rhythm & Knowledge is double the fun — caffeinated and served hot — and embodies “the grown-up version of the breakfast you always wished your mother would make,” per the Interval’s social media. Warm up with the blend of bourbon, banana, and coffee topped with a caramel whipped cream.

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

5. Macondray

2209 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Macondray is that lush bar on Polk that’s downright dripping with plants, and usually known for spicy margaritas and chicken tenders. But espresso martinis have been upsetting the menu of late. Veteran bartender Aaron Paul calls his version the Midnight Mookie, and it’s a creamy shake-down of Humboldt Distillery vodka, Philz coffee, coconut milk, and Angioletto hazelnut liqueur, with a nostalgic sprinkle of Folgers speckling the top.

2209 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109

6. Chezchez

584 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

As with most things on the Chezchez menu, the espresso martini is classically built and expertly executed, courtesy of the Trick Dog team. It’s a basic blend of Grey Goose, Mr. Black coffee liqueur, and cold brew that’s offered up in a frosty martini glass. Sip one on the outdoor terrace while taking in the energy of Valencia or step inside the high-ceiling modern space.

584 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

7. The Buena Vista

2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Ellen Fort

This San Francisco institution isn’t just a place to get a great Irish coffee, it’s the place to get the best one in the country. Bartenders in crisp white coats make hundreds of whiskey-laced coffee cocktails every day, allegedly using the same recipe developed by then-owner Jack Koeppler and travel writer Stanton Delaplane way back in 1952. It’s a simple drink but the secret is the technique

2765 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109

8. Abacá

2700 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94133

Bartender-about-town Kevin Diedrich gets two mentions on this list, because not only is he serving a mean coffee cocktail at his own bar Kona’s, but he also consulted on the excellent drinks list over at Abaca, the new Filipino restaurant inside the Kimpton Alton Hotel. Under the skylight rimmed with ferns, sip on the Amadeo, a cool mix of vodka, coffee liqueur, cold brew, and pandan. 

2700 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94133

9. Red Window

500 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

There’s probably no better place to escape San Francisco’s notoriously foggy weather than at Red Window, a North Beach restaurant and bar that’s always a splice of sunshine. Decked out in plants and vibrant colors, its like stumbling upon a hidden Spanish paradise just off Columbus, and to really seal the deal, sip on the Spanish Chilled Coffee made with rum-spiked cold brew that’s lifted with cardamom, vanilla, and sherry.

500 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

10. 15 Romolo

15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

The back-alley and up-hill bar in North Beach has a reputation for a deceptively simple espresso martini starring only three ingredients: cold brew espresso, vodka, and sherry. But that cold brew is an Italian dark roast espresso from Caffe Trieste, a North Beach coffee legend in its own right, and infused with vanilla, mint, cinnamon, orange zest, star anise, and cacao. While the sherry is specifically dark and inky Pedro Jimenez, which makes for an intriguing sweetener.

15 Romolo Pl
San Francisco, CA 94133

11. Tosca Cafe

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

North Beach’s infamous drinking den reopened in 2021 with a loving restoration, and it’s better than ever, bullet holes and all. Of course, they kept the House Cappuccino, which might be a controversial inclusion on this list, because as true San Franciscans know – it does not include any coffee. But with bourbon, cognac, chocolate, and steamed milk, it’s a warm and cozy comfort.

242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

12. Kona's Street Market

32 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Clarified to a warm golden hue, the Milk Was A Bad Choice is, somewhat ironically, an excellent choice at Kona’s Street Market, the latest opening from the Pacific Cocktail Haven team. It blends gin, apple brandy, and floral Italian liqueur with cold brew in a cocktail that’s both silky smooth and tart thanks to the inclusion of sumac and makrut lime. 

32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

13. Sobre Mesa

1618 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94612
A view of the main bar at Sobre Mesa. Thomas Kuoh

Fittingly, the espresso martini riff at Sobre Mesa — chef-owner Nelson German’s swanky Afro-Latin cocktail lounge in Oakland — gets a South African twist from Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree. It lends nuttiness and citrus flavors to the otherwise familiar combo of vodka and espresso. 

1618 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612

14. Friends & Family

468 25th St, Oakland, CA 94612

Coconuts and coffee rub elbows in the For Rei, a deceptively simple-looking number on the Friends & Family cocktail list. Not only does Toki Japanese Whisky get a coconut wash, there’s also a coconut water “popsicle” at the heart of this drink. Coffee notes, meanwhile, come from infused Cynar. 

468 25th St
Oakland, CA 94612

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