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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.

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Balboa Cafe

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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

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. 

The Snug

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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.

The Interval at Long Now

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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.

Macondray

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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.

Chezchez

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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.

The Buena Vista

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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

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. 

Red Window

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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.

15 Romolo

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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.

Tosca Cafe

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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

Kona's Street Market

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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. 

Sobre Mesa

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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

Friends & Family

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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. 

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.

Espresso martinis at Balboa Cafe Balboa Cafe

Wilder

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. 

The Snug

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.

The Interval at Long Now

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.

Macondray

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.

Chezchez

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.

The Buena Vista

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

Abacá

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. 

Red Window

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.

15 Romolo

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.

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.

Cappuccino cocktails at Tosca Cafe Tosca Cafe

Kona's Street Market

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. 

Sobre Mesa

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

Friends & Family

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. 

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