The Kentucky Derby isn't the only time to enjoy a great whiskey drink, especially when cocktails made with the potent spirit are going off in San Francisco right this minute. The craft cocktail movement doesn't look to be going anywhere and we've ventured into different parts of town to bring you nine of our favorites. Take a look below for everything from modern takes on classics, to ambitious concoctions and even an old reliable whiskey cocktail recipe here and there. Get those checklists ready.Read More
9 Whiskey Cocktails in San Francisco to Drink Right Now
For when you're not feeling "neat"
The Jackel at ABV
The jackel is a new-school riff on a Sweet & Sour. Made with Rittenhouse Rye, Lemon, Cardamom and Pineapple gum, it has the right amount of tartness and the cardamom aroma is prominent. The foaminess here actually comes from the flavorful pineapple gum ever since ABV’s bartenders noticed that the drink didn’t need egg white to achieve the effect. (Pro Tip: Get an order of foie gras stuffed olives to pair with this bad boy.)
The Banker's Bouquet at Big 4 Restaurant
At the top of California St in Nob Hill, facing Grace Cathedral, sits the regal Big 4 in The Scarlet Huntington hotel. And the Banker’s Bouquet cocktail is just as elegant as the bar & dining room where it’s served. The essence and oils of the orange twist riff on the addition of mesquite to create a caramel-y quality that mellows out the bold Wild Turkey 101. Combier, Graham’s Port and bitters make this like an embellished Manhattan on the rocks, but the mesquite renders this a must-try cocktail. And if you listen closely to the smooth piano player in the lounge, you’ll hear everything from Louis Armstrong renditions to Sting's "Fields of Gold."
The Imperial Eagle at Bourbon & Branch
Watching Bar Manager Luis Ramos make his way through dozens of ingredients as he mixes cocktails is a site to behold and with their 10th Anniversary coming up in October, Bourbon & Branch has become nothing short of a SF craft cocktail institution. The Imperial Eagle starts with Eagle Rare bourbon, giving this highball an inherent vanilla essence that, when fused with peach bitters and foamy egg white, is reminiscent of peaches and cream (the flavor, not the R&B song.) A hint of Averna is a quirky Italianization of the drink and every element does something delightful, all the way down to the lemon and house made ginger syrup.
The Rye Grin at Cabin Bar
Cabin Bar has a much classier look than the divey Bigfoot Lodge that once occupied the same space and quite frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air on oft-hectic Polk St. The Rye Grin combines two very San Francisco elements into a well-executed cocktail: Bender’s Rye Whiskey, blended bottled on Treasure Island, and on-site barrel-aged Fernet, an SF fave that’s aged in American Oak Barrels. It’s then mixed with mint, lemon, house simple syrup and served on the rocks.
The Cherry Bounce at Comstock Saloon
There’s a cool history behind this tart and sparkly cocktail of Bourbon, Cherry Brandy, Lemon, Angostura and Champagne. Back in the late 1700’s, when punch bowl drinks were a tradition, there was a reference to the Cherry Bounce in Martha Washington’s diary. The bubbles and the lemon create a delicious juxtaposition with the cherry brandy and bourbon and there’s nothing like sipping one of these while people watching on Columbus St.
Manhattan at Lone Palm
This is the best no BS Manhattan in San Francisco. Maybe it’s the white tablecloths on every table of the loungey, candle-lit Lone Palm on the edge of the Mission, or maybe it’s the way the bartenders twirl away at their stir spoons when mixing this classic cocktail at the high-toned dive. But you know what to expect when you walk through the door here: A well-mixed Manhattan, with perfect ratios of bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters, served straight up with a cherry. The way it should be.
Wealth at Mister Jiu's
Mister Jiu’s ambitious efforts at modernizing the classic Chinatown experience don't stop in the kitchen. Bar director Danny Louie’s cocktails all have a decidedly Chinese spin to them and with the Wealth, combines the flavors of Scotch, Rye, Cardamaro, Lapsang Tea and Apple. The smoky scotch is prominent on the nose and the flavors going down are sweet from the apple, with the cardamaro's bitterness while the essence of the Lapsang black tea opens up gradually. Ultimately, Mister Jiu’s fuses the tradition of an upscale Chinatown spot with decor touches like the beautiful fish tanks behind the long stone bar top, but it’s modern enough to rock Fela Kuti & D'Angelo on the speakers.
The Illuminati at Trick Dog
This cocktail is a perfect example of why Trick Dog was one of Drinks International’s "50 Best Bars In The World" for a second year in a row, showing how Bar Manager Kim Rosselle and company take something simple and make it truly remarkable. Illuminati uses Bulleit Rye and Lo-Fi Dry Vermouth as its backbone and the flavor profile is built on the subtle bitter orange aromas of Gran Classico. But the final addition of Grapefruit bitters smoked with licorice root, give it that unique Trick Dog touch.
Chamomile Old Fashioned at Two Sisters Bar & Books
It’s a classic Old-Fashioned, but made with the soft and calming herbaceousness of Chamomile infused Bourbon. In a truly classic fashion, the bourbon is then mixed with honey, bitters, muddled with orange and a cherry, served on the rocks in quaint glassware. This humble and cozy Hayes Valley space is an inviting depart from the influx of flashier joints in the neighborhood, with a community book exchange shelf and even a $5 Manhattan at Happy Hour.