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Top 5 Mixology Bars In San Francisco

What is the difference between a bartender and a mixologist?

There is no punchline. This is not an “x walks into a bar” type of joke. There is an actual difference.

Think of a mixologist as a chemist, while a bartender is closer to a pharmacist. Mixology relies on the art of mixing drinks. It is a craft that requires extended knowledge of a vast amount of drinks, as well as the result of mixing every imaginable combination.

The two roles are always intertwined, so it is not uncommon for mixologists to work behind a bar, or a bartender to have the knowledge of a savant mixologist. Usually, a mixologist is a level up from bartending, as it requires years of experience.

In fact, mixologists are responsible for creating unique and uncommon cocktails, thus contributing to the innovation of the art. As innovators, researchers, and downright artists, mixology is an interesting field to explore, especially in the form of sampling. Luckily, there is an abundance of mixology bars to sample from in San Francisco.

 

Cocktail Mixology Bars In SF

San Francisco might not have a vibrant clubbing or dancing nightlife. But who says you can’t break out your best Drake “Hotline Bling” moves impersonation in one of San Francisco’s top mixology bars? Ok, some might find it a bit awkward, but the drinks are good enough for everyone to forget the moment ever happened…or remember it forever as part of an epic night out.

The visual aspect and aesthetic of a bar are at least equally important to the drinks. You can also fit in the staff attitude, the speed of receiving your order, and other factors that make a good mixology bar.

When going out, you don’t want to be swamped with choices, but you also may not want to become a regular at the same bar like in a “Friends” scenario. Sometimes it’s fun to change the setting, to meet new people, to try new drinks. San Francisco offers all of that, and 5 bars in particular will definitely stimulate you to take a closer look at why mixology is where it’s all at, now.

 

620 Jones

When it comes to visual aspect, staff hospitality, mixology quality, location, and overall atmosphere, 620 Jones knocks all of these out of the ballpark. Its tropical greenery and exotic architecture lay the perfect grounds for a perfect night out.

620 Jones puts a heavy accent on having fun. Sure you can always enjoy a drink on your own during the day, but would you buy a bald eagle with majestic wings just to keep it caged? The place oozes with a general jovial and colorful feel. It would be a pity not to go and enjoy its full capacity.

The menu includes a plethora of creatively mixed cocktails that you can’t find anywhere else, as well as the classics…prepared in pure 620 Jones style. With drinks like the Purple Jasmine Hard Lemonade which contains Ketel One vodka, blue butterfly pea-purple jasmine syrup, or the Almond Joy – think of the chocolate bar turned into beverage form, with added Grey Goose vodka, amaretto, and coconut foam – picking just one favorite cocktail is a challenge!

The lead mixologist in charge of the bar’s magic potions is a Bay Area native with almost 20 years experience in bartending. As an active member of USBG, an esteemed judge at the US Spirits Ratings, and even as a mixologist actively involved with WSET, the drinks are guaranteed to be liquid works of art.

 

Horsefeather

One of the bars that has the warmest, coziest atmospheres in San Francisco is the Horsefeather. With its blonde wooden motifs mixed with dreamy shades of dark blue cushions and M.C. Escher-esque floor tiles, you will almost feel like in a lounge that belongs in an alternate universe of Twin Peaks.

The location’s sunny front patio awaits customers that are not in a hurry, as the mixology game is strong and worth the wait. Take for instance the Daywalker: it mixes Reposado tequila and Cappelletti aperitivo with mango, smoked chipotle, tiki tincture, lemon, and tepache foam. It sounds like someone picked out the most unrelated ingredients, but if you only knew the science behind how well they all blend together…you wouldn’t believe it. And it is hard to believe until you actually try it.

Other cocktails use ingredients that are just as untraditional, such as cinnamon toast crunch, spiced raspberry, toasted coconut japanese whiskey, cucumber juice, and celery. It doesn’t hurt that their food menu is just as exotic. Sometimes nothing goes better before a glass of Kukui Highball than a platter of Gochujang Crispy Wings, or other vegan friendly items such as the Moroccan Spiced Carrots.

 

Cold Drinks Bar

Imagine being in the setting of a scene from Inception, or even one of the Kill Bill movies, where they have the big fighting scenes. Except the only fighting that goes on is between your taste buds, as they strive to each get a taste of the heavily Scotch-infused cocktails at the Cold Drinks Bar.

This modern Shanghai-meets-retro-San-Francisco bar bursts with elegance.The entire staff wears tuxedos, and from the way the lighting falls on the interior colors, even the whole place itself seems to be suited up. This black and gold experience is complete with the most exquisite whiskey- and Scotch-filled drinks.

Would you try black pepper and mushroom in a drink? You probably would, for the sake of curiosity, if it also contained Peking Duck Fat-Washed Glenmorangie X, George Dickel Rye, Angostura Bitters, and Lemon Bitters.

The prices lean towards high-end, but then again this makes the whole experience at the Cold Drinks Bar complete. The mixology element in the menu is worth a reservation (or more). The bar has recently been recognized in the top 25 top-shelf cocktail bars in San Francisco by EasterSF. And you know their judgment is strict…but fair.

 

Novela

Every now and then, you read a book so enticing that you feel like you suddenly live inside of it. At the Novela, you will feel like you are simultaneously living in hundreds of books, as this is the bar’s theme.

The colors in the Novela are set by the book edges on the stacked shelves surrounding the tables. It looks like a very hip library where drinks are allowed. Not only are they allowed, and not only are they just any ol’ drinks.

You can choose from the triad of punches (Mango Rum punch, Hemingway’s “Code Hero” and Strawberry Mezcal punch) or the 9 cocktails named after some of the most well-known literary protagonists. Judging by the ingredients, they are mixed based on the complexity of these characters as well.

Despite its strong theme, the drinks and the food have very friendly prices, and are guaranteed to make you spend more time around books…except you will turn out to be the protagonist in your own story about a fun night out.

 

Charmaine’s Rooftop & Bar Lounge

Hot weather is approaching fast, so there is no way we didn’t also consider a romantic night out on a rooftop bar. Namely, the rooftop on top of San Francisco’s Proper Hotel, Charmaine’s Rooftop & Bar Lounge.

What makes Charmaine’s one of the most elegant bar lounges in the neighborhood is its breathtaking panoramic view. Enjoy the result of luxuriously prepared cocktails while taking in the whole San Francisco skyline that a rooftop on Market Street has to offer.

The same mixology agency that is behind the famous Trick Dog is responsible for ensuring that your drinks are to your mouth what a soundtrack is to an Academy Award-winning movie. Some cocktails are prepared with honey, while others rely heavily on lime. Some are served cold, while others have to be served hot. Some drinks contain nuts, while others are made with a signature spicy tomato juice. The one thing they all have in common? They are all delicious.

 

Mixology: The Science Behind a Good Time

So trying new things at a bar is the highlight of a night out for you. In this case, think of a mixology bar as being a lab in which you get to ask scientists everything you ever wanted to know about science. They will demonstrate to you all the chemical reactions, all the element combinations on the periodic table. Except, all the elements contain a hint of alcohol which is only put in a classier light by the delicious and diverse ingredients that mix with it.

You also get to be the judge of everything new you try, and decide whether it’s the last time you ever want to taste that combination, or if your taste buds found the holy grail. Our choices of San Francisco’s top 5 mixology bars are the best start for your journey into becoming a true cocktail connoisseur…or simply enjoying a bit more than what regular bars have to offer.

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