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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.

1. Local Edition

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691 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 795-1375
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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.

2. Comstock Saloon

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155 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 617-0073
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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.

3. The Alembic

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1725 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 666-0822
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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.

4. Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen

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401 Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 775-7979
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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.

5. Tradition

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441 Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 474-2284
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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.

6. Churchill

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198 Church St.
San Francisco, CA 94114

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.

7. Smuggler’s Cove

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650 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 869-1900
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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.

8. Elixir

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3200 16th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 552-1633
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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.

761 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94102

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.

10. Rye

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688 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 474-4448
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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.

11. Blackbird Bar

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2124 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 503-0630
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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.

12. Alchemist Bar & Lounge

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679 3rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 746-9968
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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.

13. Trick Dog

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3010 20th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 471-2999
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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.

14. Tribune Tavern

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401 13th Street
Oakland, CA

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.

15. Hard Water

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Pier 3
San Francisco, CA 94105

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.

16. Coqueta

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Pier 5 - The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA
(415) 704-8866
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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.

17. Kronnerburger

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2379 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 656-9871
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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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1. Local Edition

691 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105

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.

691 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105

2. Comstock Saloon

155 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

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.

155 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

3. The Alembic

1725 Haight St., San Francisco, CA 94117

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.

1725 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117

4. Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen

401 Taylor St., San Francisco, CA 94102

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.

401 Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

5. Tradition

441 Jones St., San Francisco, CA 94102

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.

441 Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

6. Churchill

198 Church St., San Francisco, CA 94114

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.

198 Church St.
San Francisco, CA 94114

7. Smuggler’s Cove

650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102

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.

650 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102

8. Elixir

3200 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94103

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.

3200 16th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

9. Big

761 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94102

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.

761 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94102

10. Rye

688 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102

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.

688 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

11. Blackbird Bar

2124 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114

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.

2124 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94114

12. Alchemist Bar & Lounge

679 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

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.

679 3rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

13. Trick Dog

3010 20th St., San Francisco, CA 94110

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.

3010 20th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

14. Tribune Tavern

401 13th Street, Oakland, CA

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.

401 13th Street
Oakland, CA

15. Hard Water

Pier 3, San Francisco, CA 94105

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.

Pier 3
San Francisco, CA 94105

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16. Coqueta

Pier 5 - The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

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.

Pier 5 - The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA

17. Kronnerburger

2379 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

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.

2379 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Related Maps