San Francisco is one of the main cities that represents a fun and vibrant life in the U.S. Globally!
Being the international sought-after tourist destination it is, only motivates bar owners to be competitive in what they have to offer. From the visual aesthetic, spotless hygiene, impeccable customer service, and hands-on staff, to delicious and stimulant cocktails…bars in San Francisco have to be at the top of their game at all times.
The pressure to stay on top is fierce. When you decide you want to go out for cocktails but want to explore your choices first, your standards and expectations are high – as they should be. You go out to have a good time, otherwise it is not worth the effort to prepare and look your best.
That’s why we chose the top 10 cocktail bars in San Francisco for you. We know the high standards you have, we know what you look for, and we know the great time you deserve to enjoy! All you have to worry about is bringing your best sass walk along, as you enter any of these carefully chosen cocktail bars.
1. 620 Jones
A scrumptious cocktail lures you into ordering it by its visual aspect first. By that principle , the way a cocktail bar looks should be alluring enough to draw you in.
620 Jones is like the most flamboyant drink on a cocktail menu. Its regal yet tropical exterior fosters a modern and lively interior that will have your bar tab kept open for a while. The classic and signature cocktail menu is sure to titillate the tastebud palette of any cocktail aficionado.
Take for instance the Purple Jasmine Hard Lemonade; made with Ketel One vodka and blue butterfly pea-purple jasmine syrup. Have you ever tasted heaven? This might give you an idea.
Besides, 620 Jones is also the largest outdoor restaurant in San Francisco, so you can visit the place for any cravings you might have, at any time of the day – or night. With the 3 on-site bars, garden patio, breathtaking architecture, and friendly staff and clientele…there is no need to search for a better place. In our opinion, there is no better place in San Francisco than the urban oasis that is 620 Jones.
2. The Interval at Long Now
If visual stimulants help you get in the feel-good zone faster, the Interval at Long Now is the perfect prelude for a good time. This cocktail bar might just as well draw a crowd by how it looks. This museum-styled cocktail bar and cafe is backed by the Long Now Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that “fosters long-term thinking and responsibility” for a long time to come.
If that sounds interestingly weird, it’s because it was co-founded by brilliant musician and composer Brian Eno. Eno revolutionized electronic music in the 70’s, worked with such artists as David Bowie, Devo, Coldplay, U2, and even created the classic Windows ‘95 startup music. Naturally, the Interval is an extension of his creative and tasteful manifestation.
Located in the Fort Mason area, the Interval at Long Now opens on some days as early as 10 AM and closes at either 10 or 11 PM. Make sure to inspect their schedule, and especially their impressively extensive cocktails menu. Since its creators also rely on concept, some of the cocktails on the menu are among the earliest cocktails ever invented, while the rest give you a taste of the best cocktails around the world.
The space has an early 20th century vibe because it used to be a forge and machine shop, built in the 1930s. Props such as ancient clock prototypes and chime generators will make you feel like you’re having a drink in a time machine. The bar’s marvelous and at times abstract aspect and architecture are the perfect background for you to enjoy delicious cocktails, such as Improved Calvados Cocktail or the I’ve Grown to Love Life Too Much.
Curious about these names? Their menus have long descriptions beneath each available choice, which only adds to the authenticity of the place. If you are hosting a group of people who are visiting San Francisco for the first time, taking them to this place will definitely make you a hero.
The three owners of ABV have been in the game long enough to know what cocktail lovers look for in an ideal bar. The hip, modern industrial interior implies the perfect laid back atmosphere for grabbing some afterwork cocktails with your colleagues, or enjoying a night out with your buds.
The songs that stand the test of time are the ones you can play on an acoustic guitar and manage to mesmerize everyone at a get-together. A good cocktail doesn’t need bells and whistles, and the skilled bartenders at ABV know that well. Three or four ingredients are enough to make your taste buds yearn for more.
Whether you sip on a mix of citrusy gin with manzanilla Sherry, or the simple yet refreshing Gin & Celery, you’ll be sure to stick around at the bar. The spirits selection is on fleek, which is why they are also every cocktail’s secret ingredient. The knowledgeable bartenders will recommend the best choice.
The menu is easy to go through since it is arranged by spirit category. So if you’re in the mood for something that contains tequila, agave, whiskey, or mezcal, you’ll see the listed choices in a logical order. You have plenty of time to try more options out, since the bar opens at 4 PM and closes at 2 AM.
4. 15 Romolo
If you’re wandering about in the flashy neon-lit North Beach area of San Francisco, you’ll stumble on a pleasant Spanish-inspired hideaway known as 15 Romolo.
The classic, dark, woody-motif of this cocktail bar boasts a warm atmosphere that serves as a perfect ornament for any occasion. Whether it’s a date night, a tell-your-friends-how-your-date-went night, or just a mellow cocktail to clear your thoughts, the 15 Romolo is ideal.
Their main forte is their Sherry selection, and has been for over 20 years. But their authentic wine selection spreads further, so if you want to try other Iberian wines like the Verdejo or the Tempranillo, they are impeccable choices as well.
Being the authoritative place when it comes to Sherry, of course 15 Romolo also serves Sherry cocktails. The tequila- and manzanilla-infused Velvet Jukebox is simply to die for! Besides the Spanish-specific cocktails, you can opt for cups or pitchers of Pimm’s or even delicious and thirst-quenching frozen daiquiris. Their doors are open between 5 PM and 2 AM, so take as much time to get in the mood as you need.
5. Smuggler’s Cove
It’s ok, not many of us have managed to visit the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. But you can be sure it wouldn’t be as fun as spending time at the Smuggler’s Cove. It has the pirate ship/tiki bar aesthetic, lighting that covers the whole RGB spectrum, and the most exquisite drinks that any ship would love to foster.
As any bar that has tiny wooden barrels as glasses, rum-infused drinks have a strong presence here. Have you ever seen a shelf with 550 rums? Take it one step at a time, with trying out the 80+ cocktails on their menu.
When it’s open indoors, the bar is rather tall than wide, making for a cozy atmosphere that tends to feel crowded at more than 40 people. But the fun to be had inside is absolutely memorable. It truly is an escape; an amusement park for the eyes, as well as for the parched throat.
On Market Street, there is a neighborhood bar that hosts a warm and cozy atmosphere, as well as a wide selection of cocktails that taste just right. The interior is very elegant and old-timey. You can relax in the red-leather booths and pretend you’re sipping a strong cocktail in the 1940s.
Whiskey ginger ales or vodka sodas are always good choices if you don’t know what more complex cocktail you are in the mood for. Don’t worry, the Blackbird has those as well; the Oath of Glory, for instance, blends bounty dark rum with oat milk, Brucato Amaro, cacao and cinnamon to give it a surprisingly balanced taste.
Their cocktail menu is extensive and includes all your favorite spirits to infuse into drinks: tequila, bourbon, scotch, gin, brandy…you name it. You can even create your own party kool aid, by choosing any of the available spirits and mixing them with fresh citrus, fruit punch cordial, clove, pomegranate, and cardamom.
With opening hours fluctuating between 2 and 4 PM and closing times being midnight on some days and 2 AM on others, there is plenty of time to take in the atmosphere. There is also a functioning pool table, and occasional art shows that can keep your interest afloat, so that the mood never gets dull.
7. True Laurel
Now here is a cocktail bar that holds no bars when it comes to creativity!
The True Laurel is a spinoff of the famous Lazy Bear restaurant, and it carries on the classy aesthetic the restaurant is known for. With a strong concept behind it, the bar is mid-century inspired and it also serves food items, which always come in handy if you’re looking to get your drink on and not tap out after the first few.
The true catch is the myriad of non-traditional drinks the bartenders can prepare for you. The ingredient combinations are carefully thought out to bring out the fun in every drink, mirrored also in the names. Take for instance the Fungus Among Us, which contains truffle vodka, oxidized wines and candy cap mushrooms. Sounds weird, tastes amazing.
Other curaçao- and dark rum-based drinks such as the Mai o Mai bring a zesty kick to an already rich mix of flavors. Some of their ingredients are homemade combinations, such as the orgreat syrup – made of pistachios and orange flowers. With such detail-oriented mixes, there is no way you won’t want to try out everything on the menu.
The drinks are all Michelin-approved and the food is delicious enough to get you to visit the True Laurel just for that, in case the Lazy Bear restaurant is all booked up. Since the menu is always updated with new cocktails, consider trying as many drinks as possible while you are there. Opening times vary between 11 AM and 4 PM, whereas closing times are either 10 or 11 PM.
If you think of yourself as a cocktail connoisseur, you might want to give craft-cocktails a try. By using high-quality ingredients that make the most delicious cocktails personalized for your liking, a craft-cocktail bar like the Alembic has catered to a growing clientele since 2006.
Just like their cocktails, the bar has all the necessary ingredients for a fun night out. It is classy, roomy, clean, and is the number one hang-out place on Haight Street. The cocktail choices on the menu will give you a hard time while deciding which one to try first. Eventually, you’ll have to go through all of them and pick your favorite in the end.
We really enjoy the Golden Child, made with Brugal Anejo rum, turmeric, ginger, coconut cream, on which the golden sweetness of honey and bee pollen is added to round off a perfect-tasting beverage. The Pet Sounds is also interesting – besides the musical reference to the iconic Beach Boys album – mixing Aquara Peruvian agave spirit, bergamot, and lapsang souchong tea.
The bartenders will gladly chat to you about the best whiskey, gin, or tequila options on hand. Unleash your curiosity every Thursday till Sunday, from 4 PM to midnight.
9. Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
On the outside, it might look easily unnoticeable. But Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant fosters over 300 types of tequila. Plus, nothing says fun like the colorful culinary tendencies of a Mexican restaurant. Especially one as good as Tommy’s.
Located in Outer Richmond, Tommy’ Mexican Restaurant is an authority when it comes to tequila and margaritas. You can enjoy pitchers of delicious margaritas prepared after traditional recipes that have never disappointed. Because of the talented chefs, you’d be hard pressed to find better accompanying food than the enchilada and taco combination plate.
Not sure what to order out of the myriad of tequila choices? The bartenders will be happy to suggest what they think would be the best fit for you.
10. Linden Room
A small yet cozy and classy bar is sometimes all you need for an intimate night out to clear your thoughts and socialize. As an offshoot from the upscale restaurant Nightbird, the Linden Room offers a generous selection of cocktails mainly focused on American classics.
Although we weren’t kidding when we specified the place is tiny (is a room of 8 chairs intimate enough for you?), waiting to get in is totally worth it, due to the mouth-watering cocktails on the menu. The green-juice cocktail alone is worth the wait.
Indulge yourself in such choices as the Ralphie Boy – a whiskey-based cocktail whose fruit syrup changes according to the season – or the Kentucky 75. The 75 adds the vegetable freshness of cucumber and ginger to bourbon, and mixes Pimms, anise hyssop, and lemon to give it the final kick that makes it a customer favorite.
Due to the Linden Room not accepting reservations, keep an eye out for a vacant spot Thursdays till Saturdays, from 5 PM to as late as 1 AM.
Finding the Best Cocktail Bar in San Francisco
Some of the experiences we go through happen in the most random of places, at the most random times. Sometimes with the least likely people to have around.
A fun night (or day) out is not something you can procure like a Dreyer’s ice cream from an aisle at Safeway. It’s not something that is guaranteed. If it happens, it happens. What you can do to at least establish a starting point is to find a safe place that is pleasing to the eye and is highly recommended by others that have sought the same good time, and found it.
These are the top 10 cocktail bars in San Francisco that have a thick portfolio in granting great times to their customers, and we encourage you to pick any one of them and take it from there. Any choice will be memorable, but most importantly, you can be pleasantly surprised and relieved to have found a new place to be a regular at.