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Where to Drink in San Francisco Right Now, Spring 2013

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It's been a while since we updated the Eater Cocktail Heatmap, and so here we are, bringing you the very best of new bars and restaurant bar programs that have debuted in the winter and early spring, mixed in with the mixology standard-bearers that continue to ring our bells. Consider it your back-pocket guide to the new and old essential bars of San Francisco. As always, state your proposed additions and subtractions in the comments, or send us a good old-fashioned e-mail.


Additions and Subtractions:
· April 22, 2013: added The Alchemist, Trick Dog, Tribune Tavern, Hard Water, Coqueta, Kronnerburger
· September 12, 2012: added Tradition, Mission Bowling Club, Big, Jasper's Corner Tap
· April 20, 2012: added Raven, Local Edition

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Local Edition

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The Bourbon & Branch people are getting away from the reservation-only stigma with Local Edition, a subterranean bar that marries sexy to vintage typewriters in the Hearst Building with a stage for live music. The team's usual serious cocktails are also available with a noticeable lean towards mod era classics.

Comstock Saloon

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Comstock's address has housed a bar of some description since 1907, and it feels like it. Think classic cocktails, abundant antiques, maybe some live jazz, and the dress code is, blessedly, Fedora optional.

The Alembic

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The Alembic is one of those bars where the drinks take time to make, but they're also hands-down the best in the hood, perhaps in the city. The kitchen's spiced duck hearts are a great foil for something boozy.

Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen

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Kevin Diedrich is widely regarded as one of the best bartenders in town, and when you throw in one of the city's only cocktail on tap programs and a rare Perlini carbonated cocktail maker, you get a must hit in the SF bar circuit. Menus change seasonally, but the Wiessen Sour bourbon-beer cocktail is a fail-safe choice.

Tradition

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From the barmen behind Bourbon & Branch/Rickhouse guys (again), comes the revamped Mr. Lew's, complete with its own proprietary bottled, aged spirits, and a lengthy drinks bible divided into various genres of drinking: tiki, Irish pub, speakeasy, dive bar, etc.

Churchill

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The back bar is whiskey-centric here, but the bartenders are open-minded enough to mix up anything you want. The designer did a solid job, making the bar feel like the belly of a WWII war ship.

Smuggler’s Cove

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Bet you never thought a crazy kitschy den of all things tiki could actually serve high-fructose-corn-syrup-free, all-natural drinks. This one can, and the cocktails hold up to the best in town.

Elixir looks like your average, unassuming "saloon," but just take a look at the cocktail list and you'll understand the wizardry that goes on behind the stick.

With no sign, no menus, and not even a phone number, this tiny Tenderloin speakeasy-like spot lives up to its name with big flavors. Drinks are made to your specifications with housemade bitters, tinctures and more.

The godfather of the market-fresh cocktail movement in San Francisco, situated in an unexpected nook of the TenderNob, with a pool table, a smoking patio and some flattering soft lighting, to boot.

Blackbird Bar

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An easy breezy Castro-bordering spot to rely on for a solid, sometimes rather inventive, cocktail. Blackbird has super-nice bartenders, and a fun-loving mixed crowd that rarely gets out of control.

Alchemist Bar & Lounge

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This sultry SOMA lounge from a Gitane alum will satisfy drinking needs both straightforward (their Room with a Vieux adds tequila to the classic Vieux Carre) and obscure (a mezcal-cherry Heering fizz with IPA—believe it). Bar snacks from the Thai spot downstairs and a 12-foot shuffleboard table add to the pleasure.

Trick Dog

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Everything at the Bon Vivants' long-awaited home base is meticulously thought out, from the Pantone color scheme and menus to the innovative drinks (beet juice! banana cordial! Moxie highballs!) to the inventive bar food. The result? Crowds like you would not believe. Plan on grabbing a bottled beverage (we like the buttermilk punch) or dining at prime time so you can snag a table.

Tribune Tavern

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Paul Christensen's cocktail program at this new Oakland spot has its own kitchen, and the drinks are appropriately ambitious; you'll see ingredients like black lime tincture, kumquat bitters, almond-milk foam, and bourbon sous-vide with satsuma mandarins and angelica root on the menu.

Hard Water

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Whiskey aficionados could die happy delving into Erik Adkins' deep selection of American brown spirits at this waterfront bar. (That $100 flight of different Pappy van Winkles may lighten your pockets, but it'll also light up your life.) The cocktail selection is small, New Orleans-influenced, and on point, and the raw bar and Cajun plates are tasty.

Coqueta

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Barman Joe Cleveland, who logged time with Jose Andres, may take home the prize for most ambitious cocktail menu of 2013 so far: he's got separate sections for gin and tonics, sherry drinks, porrones, SF-inspired tipples, molecular-gastronomy creations like liquid-nitrogen sangria and frozen gin meringue...we could go on. Getting a seat on the tiny bar patio is a tough ticket right now, but these drinks merit the attention.

Kronnerburger

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What Gabe Lowe's menu lacks in breadth, it more than makes up for in depth. The scotcholate milk is a revelation, and the "carbonated motherfucking margarita" may be worthy of the expletive. And considering that the matching bar bite is the city's most buzzed-about burger in years, you'd be hard-pressed to go wrong here.

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Local Edition

The Bourbon & Branch people are getting away from the reservation-only stigma with Local Edition, a subterranean bar that marries sexy to vintage typewriters in the Hearst Building with a stage for live music. The team's usual serious cocktails are also available with a noticeable lean towards mod era classics.

Comstock Saloon

Comstock's address has housed a bar of some description since 1907, and it feels like it. Think classic cocktails, abundant antiques, maybe some live jazz, and the dress code is, blessedly, Fedora optional.

The Alembic

The Alembic is one of those bars where the drinks take time to make, but they're also hands-down the best in the hood, perhaps in the city. The kitchen's spiced duck hearts are a great foil for something boozy.

Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen

Kevin Diedrich is widely regarded as one of the best bartenders in town, and when you throw in one of the city's only cocktail on tap programs and a rare Perlini carbonated cocktail maker, you get a must hit in the SF bar circuit. Menus change seasonally, but the Wiessen Sour bourbon-beer cocktail is a fail-safe choice.

Tradition

From the barmen behind Bourbon & Branch/Rickhouse guys (again), comes the revamped Mr. Lew's, complete with its own proprietary bottled, aged spirits, and a lengthy drinks bible divided into various genres of drinking: tiki, Irish pub, speakeasy, dive bar, etc.

Churchill

The back bar is whiskey-centric here, but the bartenders are open-minded enough to mix up anything you want. The designer did a solid job, making the bar feel like the belly of a WWII war ship.

Smuggler’s Cove

Bet you never thought a crazy kitschy den of all things tiki could actually serve high-fructose-corn-syrup-free, all-natural drinks. This one can, and the cocktails hold up to the best in town.

Elixir

Elixir looks like your average, unassuming "saloon," but just take a look at the cocktail list and you'll understand the wizardry that goes on behind the stick.

Big

With no sign, no menus, and not even a phone number, this tiny Tenderloin speakeasy-like spot lives up to its name with big flavors. Drinks are made to your specifications with housemade bitters, tinctures and more.

Rye

The godfather of the market-fresh cocktail movement in San Francisco, situated in an unexpected nook of the TenderNob, with a pool table, a smoking patio and some flattering soft lighting, to boot.

Blackbird Bar

An easy breezy Castro-bordering spot to rely on for a solid, sometimes rather inventive, cocktail. Blackbird has super-nice bartenders, and a fun-loving mixed crowd that rarely gets out of control.

Alchemist Bar & Lounge

This sultry SOMA lounge from a Gitane alum will satisfy drinking needs both straightforward (their Room with a Vieux adds tequila to the classic Vieux Carre) and obscure (a mezcal-cherry Heering fizz with IPA—believe it). Bar snacks from the Thai spot downstairs and a 12-foot shuffleboard table add to the pleasure.

Trick Dog