From splashy dives to upscale classics (and everything in between) — our favorite spots to grab a drink
North Beach, $
Classic, Memorable Atmosphere
What would North Beach be without Tosca? Surviving Prohibition with its "house cappuccinos" (brandy and hot chocolate), Tosca's Italian-only jukebox and elegantly faded decor have worn the better part of a century with grace. Saved from tragically closing, it will be given new life at the hands of NY chef April Bloomfield. Here's praying Tosca's one-of-a-kind space, sacred celebrity back room, and espresso machine remain as is, though food and new-and-improved cocktail menu are predicted to be part of Bloomfield's take-over.
242 Columbus, SF. (415) 986-9651, www.toscacafesf.com
Cocktail Destination, Gourmet Bites, Memorable Atmosphere
The new kid on the Mission block feels like it has been around awhile, both from the years anticipating its opening and the crew behind it: SF's great barmen, The Bon Vivants. Fan through a Pantone color swatch menu of original cocktails, impeccably made, and chow on Chester Watson's winning food (Peruvian popcorn or Fernet ice cream?) Just get there at early if you want to avoid the crowds.
3010 20th St., SF. (415) 471-2999, www.trickdogbar.com
TWO SISTERS BAR & BOOKS
Hayes Valley, $–$$
Cocktail Destination, Gourmet Bites, Mellow
Like the ultimate European neighborhood bar, two actual sisters modeled this spot after all day café-bars from their European travels. Closet-sized and lined with books, there's always jazz playing on the stereo and a warm greeting. Affordable, homey food is as lovely as the cocktails featuring local and small batch spirits.
579 Hayes, SF. (415) 863-3655, www.2sistersbarandbooks.com
North Beach, $
Classic, Dive, Memorable Atmosphere
Beat poet hangout, eclectic mishmash of creaky wood booths, nooks, knick-knacks and colorful personalities, Vesuvio is not so much about the drinks as the character. Just like Tosca and Specs across the street (three completely different vibes), Vesuvio has been around for decades, drawing longtimers and tourists alike. It maintains a bar personality all its own, a historical landmark that remains alive and vibrant today.
255 Columbus, SF. (415) 362-3370 www.vesuvio.com
Beer Haven, Dive
Service can be downright gruff. Lines can snake down the block. Just to enter a biker-friendly dive mobbed with bike messengers, black-clad rockers, and scruffy hipsters? Hell, yes. The punk-spirited biergarten out back is one of SF's legendary gathering places where locals and visitors alike assemble around communal picnic tables over Bloody Marys, basic burgers, brats, and beers.
199 Valencia, SF. (415) 255-7505, www.zeitgeistsf.com
83 Proof, SoMa
Bar 888, SoMa
Barrel Room, Union Square
Barrique, Financial District
City Beer Store, SoMa
Connecticut Yankee, Potrero Hill
Green's Sports Bar, Russian Hill
Harry Denton's, Union Square
Hidden Vine, Financial District
Horseshoe Tavern, Marina
Iron & Gold, Bernal Heights
La Mar, Embarcadero
La Trappe, North Beach
Li Po, Chinatown
Napper Tandy, Mission