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Best Places to Drink Punch for the Holidays

Bowls of cheer are sloshing around town

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Depending on the level of your cocktail connoisseurship, you might either associate the word “punch” with something Jungle Juice-esque served from a dorm room recycling bin, or something your mom does in a crystal bowl for the holidays involving Champagne.

TL;DR on punch: Back in the days of roadside taverns, when roads were occupied only by horse-drawn vehicles, many barkeeps kept a large supply of a house punch on hand, both as a way to make their liquor go farther and as a way to mask or soften the flavors of harsh hooch. Over the centuries, various Old and New World bars came up with their own punch styles, some involving teas or added liqueurs, and fancier ones involving the addition of Champagne or Port.

Around San Francisco, you can sample punches like these at a few bars year-round, in addition to plenty of large-format punches made in a less traditional fashion, and some other spots are offering special punches specifically for the holidays. Consider this a create-your-own punch-crawl guide.

Note: map points are listed geographically West to East, not ranked.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. ANINA

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482 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102

While Anina’s large-format punches are all pretty summer-y, this is San Francisco, after all, and bundled with a scarf on a sunny December afternoon on Anina’s heated patio you might not be able to tell the difference between this and August. The Southern Hospitality punch will fit the bill well enough for the holidays, made with bourbon, black tea, peach, and lemon, topped with some soda. Be aware: one bowl is not really enough to get four people tipsy, and yet it will run you $46.

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2. Whitechapel

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600 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 292-5800
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Within the cozy, steampunkish confines of Whitechapel — designed to look like a London tube station from the days of Jack the Ripper — lies the most Dickensian holiday drink of all. The Warm Winter Bowl is adapted from Charles Dickens’ own hot gin punch recipe, circa 1850, and includes Tanqueray dry gin, malmsey madeira, brown sugar, honey, lemon, and winter spices ($56).

A warm winter cocktail at Whitechapel
Whitechapel SF/Facebook

3. Bar Agricole

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355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 355-9400
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The cocktail list at Bar Agricole gives its nod to the season with a couple of punches: there’s the Brandy Milk Punch, made with Jamaican rum, egg, and nutmeg, plus the traditional Alsatian Christmas tipple known as Gluwein, a warm drink of mulled wine, brandy, and Maraska (a cherry liqueur).

4. Miracle at Pacific Cocktail Haven

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580 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 398-0195
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For the month of December, Pacific Cocktail Haven’s regular menu is out and a full-on holiday menu is in. As part of a holiday pop-up, the place is decked to the hilt with wrapped presents, Christmas lights climbing the walls, and a whole lot of tinsel. While there isn’t an actual bowl of punch on offer there is the very punch-like mule variation called the Muletide, made with mezcal, Amontillado sherry, allspice dram, lemon, and ginger beer; and a mulled wine drink called the Bad Santa, served hot and made with tawny port and spices. (When the holidays are over, head over for their regular menu of punches served in giant crystal containers for five to eight people.)

Alison Weber

5. 15 Romolo

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15 Romolo Pl
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 398-1359
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For a few years now they’ve been doing “Punch Drunk Brunch” at 15 Romolo where a seasonal punch can be had by the $6 cupful — about half the price of their regular cocktails. That tradition continues, and you’ll also find some holiday-themed concoctions on the menu like the Jerry Good Milk Punch (at brunch) with armagnac, cherry brandy, creme de noyaux, and cacao nibs; and the Christmas Cobbler on their Sherry Christmas menu, made with Palo Cortado sherry, pineapple rum, persimmon, cardamom, and orange.

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6. Fog City

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1300 Battery St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 982-2000
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Clarified milk punches have been a trendy addition to cocktail menus for a few years now, and Fog City does a great version that feels holiday-appropriate, featuring bourbon, brandy, rum, sugar, and spices. It’s not milk-y, despite the name — the milk solids are filtered out, leaving the drink with just a slightly creamy mouth-feel.

Milk punch at Fog City
Janice C./Yelp

7. Novela

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662 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 896-6500
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This SoMa after-work spot features proper punches on tap year-round. Those swap out seasonally, and right now they’re offering six, including one made with rum, lychee, persimmon, lemon, and a five-spice mix, and one with bourbon, blueberry, apricot, green tea, and grapefruit. Get them by the six-ounce cup ($11), or by the 32-ounce pitcher ($50), or if you’re throwing a party and feeling lazy, purchase their bottled punch bases to go. Just add booze and water.

Novela

8. The Treasury

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115 Sansome St #101
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 578-0530
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In addition to punch, this FiDi hang is offering a couple of Xmas-themed cocktails, including the Partridge in a Pear Tree, featuring 209 Gin, Manzanilla sherry, rosemary, baking spices, bosc pear, lemon, and celery bitters.  There’s also a vegan milk punch/egg nog variation called Reindeer Hooch that features Santa Teresa rum, coconut milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. It would probably pair well with some Pigs in a Blanket, or their walnut- and goat cheese-stuffed Medjool dates.

9. Third Rail

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628 20th St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 252-7966
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There are a handful of holiday-themed options at Dogpatch’s Third Rail, including their ever-changing Drink of the Week (this week’s features vodka, Averna, lemon, orange, vanilla, and Orleans bitters, and it’s called the Mall Santa). For maximum caloric intake in these winter months, go for their Fresh Nog, made with bourbon, sherry, nutmeg, vanilla, allspice, and one whole egg.

1. ANINA

482 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

While Anina’s large-format punches are all pretty summer-y, this is San Francisco, after all, and bundled with a scarf on a sunny December afternoon on Anina’s heated patio you might not be able to tell the difference between this and August. The Southern Hospitality punch will fit the bill well enough for the holidays, made with bourbon, black tea, peach, and lemon, topped with some soda. Be aware: one bowl is not really enough to get four people tipsy, and yet it will run you $46.

482 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102

2. Whitechapel

600 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102
A warm winter cocktail at Whitechapel
Whitechapel SF/Facebook

Within the cozy, steampunkish confines of Whitechapel — designed to look like a London tube station from the days of Jack the Ripper — lies the most Dickensian holiday drink of all. The Warm Winter Bowl is adapted from Charles Dickens’ own hot gin punch recipe, circa 1850, and includes Tanqueray dry gin, malmsey madeira, brown sugar, honey, lemon, and winter spices ($56).

600 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94102

3. Bar Agricole

355 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

The cocktail list at Bar Agricole gives its nod to the season with a couple of punches: there’s the Brandy Milk Punch, made with Jamaican rum, egg, and nutmeg, plus the traditional Alsatian Christmas tipple known as Gluwein, a warm drink of mulled wine, brandy, and Maraska (a cherry liqueur).

355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

4. Miracle at Pacific Cocktail Haven

580 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Alison Weber

For the month of December, Pacific Cocktail Haven’s regular menu is out and a full-on holiday menu is in. As part of a holiday pop-up, the place is decked to the hilt with wrapped presents, Christmas lights climbing the walls, and a whole lot of tinsel. While there isn’t an actual bowl of punch on offer there is the very punch-like mule variation called the Muletide, made with mezcal, Amontillado sherry, allspice dram, lemon, and ginger beer; and a mulled wine drink called the Bad Santa, served hot and made with tawny port and spices. (When the holidays are over, head over for their regular menu of punches served in giant crystal containers for five to eight people.)

580 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94108

5. 15 Romolo

15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

For a few years now they’ve been doing “Punch Drunk Brunch” at 15 Romolo where a seasonal punch can be had by the $6 cupful — about half the price of their regular cocktails. That tradition continues, and you’ll also find some holiday-themed concoctions on the menu like the Jerry Good Milk Punch (at brunch) with armagnac, cherry brandy, creme de noyaux, and cacao nibs; and the Christmas Cobbler on their Sherry Christmas menu, made with Palo Cortado sherry, pineapple rum, persimmon, cardamom, and orange.

15 Romolo Pl
San Francisco, CA 94133

6. Fog City

1300 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Milk punch at Fog City
Janice C./Yelp

Clarified milk punches have been a trendy addition to cocktail menus for a few years now, and Fog City does a great version that feels holiday-appropriate, featuring bourbon, brandy, rum, sugar, and spices. It’s not milk-y, despite the name — the milk solids are filtered out, leaving the drink with just a slightly creamy mouth-feel.

1300 Battery St
San Francisco, CA 94111

7. Novela

662 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Novela

This SoMa after-work spot features proper punches on tap year-round. Those swap out seasonally, and right now they’re offering six, including one made with rum, lychee, persimmon, lemon, and a five-spice mix, and one with bourbon, blueberry, apricot, green tea, and grapefruit. Get them by the six-ounce cup ($11), or by the 32-ounce pitcher ($50), or if you’re throwing a party and feeling lazy, purchase their bottled punch bases to go. Just add booze and water.

662 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

8. The Treasury

115 Sansome St #101, San Francisco, CA 94104

In addition to punch, this FiDi hang is offering a couple of Xmas-themed cocktails, including the Partridge in a Pear Tree, featuring 209 Gin, Manzanilla sherry, rosemary, baking spices, bosc pear, lemon, and celery bitters.  There’s also a vegan milk punch/egg nog variation called Reindeer Hooch that features Santa Teresa rum, coconut milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. It would probably pair well with some Pigs in a Blanket, or their walnut- and goat cheese-stuffed Medjool dates.

115 Sansome St #101
San Francisco, CA 94104

9. Third Rail

628 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

There are a handful of holiday-themed options at Dogpatch’s Third Rail, including their ever-changing Drink of the Week (this week’s features vodka, Averna, lemon, orange, vanilla, and Orleans bitters, and it’s called the Mall Santa). For maximum caloric intake in these winter months, go for their Fresh Nog, made with bourbon, sherry, nutmeg, vanilla, allspice, and one whole egg.

628 20th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

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