The G50: San Francisco's top bars

From splashy dives to upscale classics (and everything in between) — our favorite spots to grab a drink

|
()
Happy hour at Smuggler's Cove

virginia@bayguardian.com

Choosing 50 best bars in this city of ours is no easy feat. Historically one of the groundbreaking drinking towns, in the 1800s we nurtured wild Barbary Coast saloons and Professor Jerry Thomas (the first and ultimate bartender to elevate and publicize the craft), and were the first to import and bring pisco to fame. American wine, craft beer (Anchor Steam), and craft spirits first entered public consciousness in our region. Breathtaking views, a legacy of boundary-pushing entrepreneurs, avant-garde cultures, and a pioneering food movement decades old — how could we not be a drinking town? Whether you long to hit the town old school like Nick & Nora, play tunes on the jukebox with rounds of beers, taste the latest in cocktail experimentation, compare wine flights, or linger over conversation with friends... SF has something to suit every mood. Out of hundreds, these 50 have set standards, become beloved favorites, shaped city culture, or just serve a damn good drink.

PS For this list we concentrated specifically on bars (including those at restaurants and hotels), leaving you to judge the cocktails at music venues and dance clubs on their own merits.

>>SEE THIS LIST ON ONE PAGE

 

PRICE RANGE KEY:

$ (cocktails generally under $10)

$$ (cocktails generally $10-14)

$$$ (cocktails generally $15 and above)

 

 

NOTABLE KEY:

Cocktail Destination: Noteworthy cocktails

Spirits Selection: Extensive or well-curated spirits selection

Memorable Atmosphere: Worth drinking here for the atmosphere

Wine Sanctuary: Exceptional wine list

Beer Haven: Exceptional beer list

Gourmet Bites: Notable food

Dive: Classic, standout dive bar

Classic: An SF staple, standard-setter

Mellow: Particularly laid back, good for conversation

Music: Live music destination

 

 

15 ROMOLO

North Beach, $–$$

Cocktail Destination, Gourmet Bites, Spirits Selection

Consistently one of SF's best cocktail bars, 15 Romolo commands an uphill alley in North Beach with some of the most balanced and inventive drinks in town. The laidback, dim space (with fab jukebox), reflects pre-Prohibition spirit but isn't obnoxiously theme-y. Many of our city's top bartenders started here, going on to launch other bars. Romolo's brunch — boozy waffle shots! — and food menu rank among the most satisfying bar food in existence. Hello, peanut butter bacon burgers!

15 Romolo, SF. (415) 398-1359, www.15romolo.com

 

ALEMBIC

Upper Haight, $–$$

Cocktail Destination, Gourmet Bites, Spirits Selection

As Alembic currently faces significant changes (bar manager Daniel Hyatt's exit after nearly seven years, expansion into the Red Vic space next door), time will tell if it remains the iconic bar it has been for the past 7 years. Still serving impeccable New Orleans classic cocktails, Hyatt's unique, forward-thinking cocktails, and underrated, gourmet food, Alembic's spirits collection, particularly American whiskey, has been one of its key strengths since day one.

1725 Haight, SF. (415) 666-0822, www.alembicbar.com

 

AQ

SoMa, $$

Cocktail Destination, Gourmet Bites, Spirits Selection, Memorable Atmosphere, Wine Sanctuary

Related articles

  • Our 50 favorite San Francisco bars -- all on one page!

  • Drifting by

    THE WEEKNIGHTER Taking it all in over cocktails at Driftwood

  • Straight shooter

    THE WEEKNIGHTER Hunting big game -- and primo cocktails -- at Bloodhound

  • Also from this author

  • Our 50 favorite San Francisco bars -- all on one page!

  • Fresh sips

    Cocktail, food on the side: What to eat when you're sipping around town

  • Latin highs

    A new chef livens up beloved Italian tradition Oliveto, and sexy Gitane intensifies its regional Spanish focus