Seize the day with drinks before dawn
RUGGY'S YELP On my 21st birthday, I wanted to suck every single ounce of inebriated enjoyment out of the milestone occasion and tipped back my first airplane bottle of 99 Bananas schnapps at 5:45 a.m. outside one of San Diego's premiere 20-hour bars, the Silver Fox. Before arriving, I was convinced I'd be the only patron crazy enough to enter when its doors opened at 6 a.m., but I found myself among 10 to 15 others queued up, awaiting an 80-proof wake-me-up with trembling hands.
It was an eclectic bunch I was rubbing elbows with: one gentleman wore military fatigues and downed a quick pint before reporting for duty at 0700 hours. Two others were just getting off the graveyard shift — at a local graveyard. Another middle-aged man with hints of gray at the temples, who sported a midnight blue three-piece wool suit, was there to whet his whistle before entering court to act as a fiduciary in a public defense case.
As a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed souse-in-training, this heterogeneous bunch was exactly the cluster of oddballs I'd been hoping to share my first alcoholic beverage with as an adult. Now, many years later with weakened internal organs, I still occasionally find myself atop a bar stool before the crack of daylight. For you, I've highlighted a few early morning standouts on the front lines of cock's crow intoxication.
Consider a pre-work stop at Vesuvio as less of a giant leap toward self-diagnosed alcoholism, and more of an "only in San Francisco" moment. As you probably know, the great Jack Kerouac spent many a day and night throwing back hooch at this notorious North Beach watering hole. Things turned out pretty well for him — they even named the street outside after the guy! Maybe that won't happen in your case, but the connection between boozing at Vesuvio and success is duly noted. Staff know how to pour fantastically stiff drinks, there's a robust array of beers on tap, and the deep-red, second-story mezzanine interior is just the thing to offset the lights of Broadway's sinful adult institutions staring you in the face as night turns to day, or vice versa.
Opens at 6 a.m. 255 Columbus, SF. (415) 362-3370, www.vesuvio.com
Judging from the denizens entering through this bar's rear door, there's a reason regulars refer to that particular point of entry as the "Sutter gutter." However, we're talking FiDi here — it's not uncommon to observe dedicated drunks doing 12-ounce curls alongside well-groomed day traders en route to the office. Cocktails aren't much to write home about, but the daring can pair their glass of firewater with a bowl of Orville Redenbacher's from the popcorn machine that rests idly near the north end of the bar. There's no telling when that popcorn was made, but it's there for you if you're hankering for a complimentary continental breakfast.
Opens at 7 a.m. 554 Market, SF. (415) 434-4768
GOLD DUST LOUNGE
Sadly, Gold Dust's camp-tastic cover crew Johnny Z and the Camaros aren't firing away on the encumbered bandstand at this aboriginal hour — even the hardest working men in local showbiz deserve some distance from the oldest bar in Union Square from time to time. Irish coffees are the name of the game at this mature rathskeller, and they'll only set you back $3.50. You'd drop more cash on a venti caramel macchiato (extra whip!) at the Starbucks across the street, but until the 'Bucks starts subbing the sugar for plastic bottle bourbon, guess where I'd rather spend my hard-earned dollars.
Opens at 7 a.m. 247 Powell, SF. (415) 397-1695