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Cocktails at La Bande La Bande

The Hottest New Cocktail Bars in San Francisco and Oakland, September 2021

Where to sip the freshest cocktails in the bay

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Welcome back to the cocktail heatmap, where drinkers can expect inventive takes on classic cocktails, unique spirits, garden-inspired ingredients, and all the latest in beverage trends. The pandemic interrupted and complicated many new openings, but bars are finally back, and if there’s one thing San Franciscans require after this past year, it’s a damn good drink.

Some of these spots are also restaurants, but if they have a roomy bar and cocktails of high caliber, they can make the cut. If you’re looking for something a little more established, check out this list of the city’s essential cocktail bars, to which these places might someday graduate. Want to know the city’s hottest restaurants? Head to the aptly-named restaurant heatmap.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mr. Digby's Bar & Restaurant

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1199 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 896-4973
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Mr. Digby’s is a handsome new black-and-white tavern in Noe Valley, a neighborhood that was in desperate need of a good drink, along with loaded deviled eggs and spinach dip reimagined as hasselback sourdough. Wife-and-husband owners Kristen Gianaras McCaffery (Novy) and Mike McCaffery (Mission Rock Resort) live nearby, and true to Noe, toddlers and puppies are welcome. 

Cocktails at Mr. Digby’s Patricia Chang

2. Chezchez

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584 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 658-7878
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The Trick Dog team strikes back. Bon Voyage has sadly set sail, but it was replaced with the new Chezchez in August. Which is honestly ideal timing for serving up tinned fish and cool spritz for real San Francisco summer.

A blood Mary from Chezchez Tiago Russo

3. LUNA American Brasserie

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694 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 737-0908
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Luna took over Luna Park on Valencia, bringing roast chicken and cocktails to the long-vacant space. Partner Tony Marcell and chef Scott Quinn both came through Wayfare Tavern, and they’re into meaty brasserie fare paired with classic cocktails with a twist, including a “new” fashioned with bourbon and apricot liqueur, and a vesper spritz that’s almost a lighter martini.

Cocktail at Luna Patricia Chang

4. Propagation

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895 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94109

Propagation swung open in Lower Nob Hill this spring, unexpectedly revealing a lush space filled with plant wallpaper, actual plants, and even putting plants in the drinks. The wife-and-wife team has Heather Hoffman (Jones, Public Works) mixing the drinks and Lauren Nguyen envisioning interiors. 

5. La Bande at SF Proper Hotel

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1100 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 735-7777
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La Bande, that gorgeous green triangular space at the tip of the Proper Hotel, is reopening as a gin-soaked tapas bar on September 21. Pull up a barstool for grilled squid, tomato toast, and gin and tonics.

Tapas plates and cocktails at La Bande La Bande

6. Persona

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685 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 400-4598
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A trio of industry veterans has opened a subterranean party hideout in the Tenderloin. Persona bar opened in August, and is now serving intriguing cocktails in an underground space inspired by erotica cinema.

Dark neon entrance to Persona bar Nikki Ritcher/Persona

7. Red Window

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500 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 757-0600
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Red Window burst open in April as a colorful tapas bar sprawling out of a skinny sidewalk corner of North Beach. Chef Adam Rosenblum (Causwells) is serving Spanish-inspired pintxos and patatas bravas, and bartender Elmer Mejicanos (Tony’s Pizza Napoletana) is pairing them with vermouth and sherry cocktails, so less hard alcohol, and more spritzes and sangria.

8. Empress by Boon

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838 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 757-0728
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The Empress of China reopened as Empress by Boon in June, welcoming guests back into the historic banquet hall with sweeping views of Chinatown. The main draw is the full tasting menu experience from chef Ho Chee Boon (Hakkasan), but the bar and lounge area are beautiful. Bar manager Emily Parian is shaking a Blue Rose rum cocktail with a touch of rose and tint of aqua from curacao; and a Nanjing Cocktail with rye washed in duck fat, sweetened with plum, and spiced with Sichuan bitters.

Empress by Boon Patricia Chang

9. Nightingale Bar

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239 Kearny St
San Francisco, CA 94108

The team behind Bourbon & Branch opened a new fern bar just before the pandemic descended, throwing it back to the ’70s with wild wallpaper, purple lighting, and lots of frilly plants. The cocktail menu leans pretty and pink, filled with grapefruit and vodka, as well as Aperol spritzes and dirty martinis. Don’t miss the disco punch, served in a big bowl for six people, or a single serving “glitter ball.”

The bar at Nightingale Nightingale Bar

10. Kona's Street Market

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32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

The Pacific Cocktail Haven team sadly lost their original space in a fire this winter, but opened their new bar Kona’s Street Market in SoMa in February. The drinks are just as strong, inspired by street markets from around the world, and it’s a cool space, strung with lights and lanterns and glowing multi colors.

11. Traveler at 25 Lusk

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25 Lusk St
San Francisco, CA 94107

In addition to the whole rooftop scene, 25 Lusk also opened a new bar on the ground floor in August. Traveler aims to whisk drinkers away with rotating menus inspired by different destinations, starting with tlayuda and tequila from Mexico

A cocktail topped with edible flowers from the new Traveler bar at 25 Lusk Anne-ClaireThieulon/Traveler

12. Tribune

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401 13th St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 285-6499
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Tribune is a new brasserie within the Tribune building that once housed the eponymous newspaper. Opening its doors in August, it brought mid-century style to those historic digs, and a booze-friendly menu, pairing twists on classic cocktails with trout amandine and steak au poivre.

A spread of plates at Tribune in Oakland Adahlia Cole

13. Palmetto

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1900 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 817-4002
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Fans of the Kon-Tiki were thrilled when Palmetto finally thundered open in May 2020, pandemic be damned. The tropical cocktail bar and steakhouse is pastel-colored rum-and-ribeye dream, and the team has been strict about enforcing mask rules and asking for proof of vaccination, so diners can feast with a little more peace of mind.

Palmetto Tarik Kazaleh

14. Sobre Mesa

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1618 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 858-7544
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Star chef Nelson German of Alamar seafood restaurant opened the new Sobre Mesa cocktail lounge only nine days before the pandemic shut down the bay. But the bar reopened this March after a year, and is now finally serving Afro-Latino drinks and dishes, including the eponymous Sobre Mesa with light rum, dark rum, mamajuana, and citrus; there’s also a Zombie Reviver with gin, sherry, passionfruit, and a wash of coconut oil and spritz of absinthe.  

The Sobre Mesa, a take on a Dominican Mamajuana Thomas Kuoh

15. Friends & Family

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468 25th St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 225-0469
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Blake Cole (Hopscotch, Hot House pop-up) and Kimberly Rosselle (Trick Dog, Bon Voyage) opened Friends & Family for to-go cocktails in April 2020, but now drinkers can wander back through the light and airy space in Uptown Oakland. The very reasonably priced cocktails arrive in vintage glassware, and there are fun snacks in the form of marinated beans, house pickles, and fancy grilled cheese. 

16. Viridian

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2216 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 350-8713
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When Oakland locals and childhood friends William Tsui (Lazy Bear) and Raymond Gee (Noodle Theory Provisions) found out that the Plum Bar space was opening up in Uptown, they had one response: “fuck yeah.” Viridian opened in February 2020 with the metallic sheen of greens, pinks, and purples. They started with Asian American cocktails and desserts, but are now serving a full savory menu, meaning whiskey and tequila drinks alongside crispy rice tuna tartare, allium milk bread, and a Thai tea boba bowl.

17. Low Bar

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2300 Webster St
Oakland, CA 94612

Chef-and-bartender buddies Matt Meyer and Daniel Paez finally opened Low Bar in February after many pandemic delays. The Chicano-owned bar features agave cocktails, quesabirria tacos, and a glorious Scotch egg rolled in chorizo, still crispy on the outside, but jammy in the center.

18. Snail Bar

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4935 Shattuck Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 879-7678
Visit Website

Snail Bar is a petit natural wine bar and bottle shop that popped open in Temescal in July. Come for the natty wine, but stay for the escargots stuffed with kumquats and miso cashew butter, as well as other seasonal market-sourced snacks. 

1. Mr. Digby's Bar & Restaurant

1199 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Cocktails at Mr. Digby’s Patricia Chang

Mr. Digby’s is a handsome new black-and-white tavern in Noe Valley, a neighborhood that was in desperate need of a good drink, along with loaded deviled eggs and spinach dip reimagined as hasselback sourdough. Wife-and-husband owners Kristen Gianaras McCaffery (Novy) and Mike McCaffery (Mission Rock Resort) live nearby, and true to Noe, toddlers and puppies are welcome. 

1199 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94114

2. Chezchez

584 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
A blood Mary from Chezchez Tiago Russo

The Trick Dog team strikes back. Bon Voyage has sadly set sail, but it was replaced with the new Chezchez in August. Which is honestly ideal timing for serving up tinned fish and cool spritz for real San Francisco summer.

584 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

3. LUNA American Brasserie

694 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Cocktail at Luna Patricia Chang

Luna took over Luna Park on Valencia, bringing roast chicken and cocktails to the long-vacant space. Partner Tony Marcell and chef Scott Quinn both came through Wayfare Tavern, and they’re into meaty brasserie fare paired with classic cocktails with a twist, including a “new” fashioned with bourbon and apricot liqueur, and a vesper spritz that’s almost a lighter martini.

694 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

4. Propagation

895 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Propagation swung open in Lower Nob Hill this spring, unexpectedly revealing a lush space filled with plant wallpaper, actual plants, and even putting plants in the drinks. The wife-and-wife team has Heather Hoffman (Jones, Public Works) mixing the drinks and Lauren Nguyen envisioning interiors. 

895 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94109

5. La Bande at SF Proper Hotel

1100 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Tapas plates and cocktails at La Bande La Bande

La Bande, that gorgeous green triangular space at the tip of the Proper Hotel, is reopening as a gin-soaked tapas bar on September 21. Pull up a barstool for grilled squid, tomato toast, and gin and tonics.

1100 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

6. Persona

685 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Dark neon entrance to Persona bar Nikki Ritcher/Persona

A trio of industry veterans has opened a subterranean party hideout in the Tenderloin. Persona bar opened in August, and is now serving intriguing cocktails in an underground space inspired by erotica cinema.

685 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94102

7. Red Window

500 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Red Window burst open in April as a colorful tapas bar sprawling out of a skinny sidewalk corner of North Beach. Chef Adam Rosenblum (Causwells) is serving Spanish-inspired pintxos and patatas bravas, and bartender Elmer Mejicanos (Tony’s Pizza Napoletana) is pairing them with vermouth and sherry cocktails, so less hard alcohol, and more spritzes and sangria.

500 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

8. Empress by Boon

838 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108
Empress by Boon Patricia Chang

The Empress of China reopened as Empress by Boon in June, welcoming guests back into the historic banquet hall with sweeping views of Chinatown. The main draw is the full tasting menu experience from chef Ho Chee Boon (Hakkasan), but the bar and lounge area are beautiful. Bar manager Emily Parian is shaking a Blue Rose rum cocktail with a touch of rose and tint of aqua from curacao; and a Nanjing Cocktail with rye washed in duck fat, sweetened with plum, and spiced with Sichuan bitters.

838 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108

9. Nightingale Bar

239 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108
The bar at Nightingale Nightingale Bar

The team behind Bourbon & Branch opened a new fern bar just before the pandemic descended, throwing it back to the ’70s with wild wallpaper, purple lighting, and lots of frilly plants. The cocktail menu leans pretty and pink, filled with grapefruit and vodka, as well as Aperol spritzes and dirty martinis. Don’t miss the disco punch, served in a big bowl for six people, or a single serving “glitter ball.”

239 Kearny St
San Francisco, CA 94108

10. Kona's Street Market

32 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

The Pacific Cocktail Haven team sadly lost their original space in a fire this winter, but opened their new bar Kona’s Street Market in SoMa in February. The drinks are just as strong, inspired by street markets from around the world, and it’s a cool space, strung with lights and lanterns and glowing multi colors.

32 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

11. Traveler at 25 Lusk

25 Lusk St, San Francisco, CA 94107
A cocktail topped with edible flowers from the new Traveler bar at 25 Lusk Anne-ClaireThieulon/Traveler

In addition to the whole rooftop scene, 25 Lusk also opened a new bar on the ground floor in August. Traveler aims to whisk drinkers away with rotating menus inspired by different destinations, starting with tlayuda and tequila from Mexico

25 Lusk St
San Francisco, CA 94107

12. Tribune

401 13th St, Oakland, CA 94612
A spread of plates at Tribune in Oakland Adahlia Cole

Tribune is a new brasserie within the Tribune building that once housed the eponymous newspaper. Opening its doors in August, it brought mid-century style to those historic digs, and a booze-friendly menu, pairing twists on classic cocktails with trout amandine and steak au poivre.

401 13th St
Oakland, CA 94612

13. Palmetto

1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
Palmetto Tarik Kazaleh

Fans of the Kon-Tiki were thrilled when Palmetto finally thundered open in May 2020, pandemic be damned. The tropical cocktail bar and steakhouse is pastel-colored rum-and-ribeye dream, and the team has been strict about enforcing mask rules and asking for proof of vaccination, so diners can feast with a little more peace of mind.

1900 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94612

14. Sobre Mesa

1618 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94612
The Sobre Mesa, a take on a Dominican Mamajuana Thomas Kuoh

Star chef Nelson German of Alamar seafood restaurant opened the new Sobre Mesa cocktail lounge only nine days before the pandemic shut down the bay. But the bar reopened this March after a year, and is now finally serving Afro-Latino drinks and dishes, including the eponymous Sobre Mesa with light rum, dark rum, mamajuana, and citrus; there’s also a Zombie Reviver with gin, sherry, passionfruit, and a wash of coconut oil and spritz of absinthe.  

1618 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612

15. Friends & Family

468 25th St, Oakland, CA 94612

Blake Cole (Hopscotch, Hot House pop-up) and Kimberly Rosselle (Trick Dog, Bon Voyage) opened Friends & Family for to-go cocktails in April 2020, but now drinkers can wander back through the light and airy space in Uptown Oakland. The very reasonably priced cocktails arrive in vintage glassware, and there are fun snacks in the form of marinated beans, house pickles, and fancy grilled cheese. 

468 25th St
Oakland, CA 94612

Related Maps

16. Viridian

2216 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

When Oakland locals and childhood friends William Tsui (Lazy Bear) and Raymond Gee (Noodle Theory Provisions) found out that the Plum Bar space was opening up in Uptown, they had one response: “fuck yeah.” Viridian opened in February 2020 with the metallic sheen of greens, pinks, and purples. They started with Asian American cocktails and desserts, but are now serving a full savory menu, meaning whiskey and tequila drinks alongside crispy rice tuna tartare, allium milk bread, and a Thai tea boba bowl.

2216 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

17. Low Bar

2300 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94612

Chef-and-bartender buddies Matt Meyer and Daniel Paez finally opened Low Bar in February after many pandemic delays. The Chicano-owned bar features agave cocktails, quesabirria tacos, and a glorious Scotch egg rolled in chorizo, still crispy on the outside, but jammy in the center.

2300 Webster St
Oakland, CA 94612

18. Snail Bar

4935 Shattuck Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Snail Bar is a petit natural wine bar and bottle shop that popped open in Temescal in July. Come for the natty wine, but stay for the escargots stuffed with kumquats and miso cashew butter, as well as other seasonal market-sourced snacks. 

4935 Shattuck Ave
Oakland, CA 94609

Related Maps