Haute Top 5: Best Cocktail Bars in San Francisco 2017

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There are many excellent craft cocktail bars in San Francisco—so many that it’s hard to select only five that we love. Older establishments like Rye, Elixir, 15 Romolo, and Comstock Saloon are on our list of best bars of all time. However, the places mentioned below are newer hot spots that we frequent for excellent cocktails, lively atmosphere, and friendly bartenders.

1 Wildhawk

When the PlumpJack Group announced that they were taking over the Lexington Club, a longtime lesbian haunt in the Mission, many people were worried. However, Wildhawk pays tribute to the women of the space’s past. Although the libation list was developed by bar stars Jacques Bezuidenhout and Ken Luciano, the bartenders who run Wildhawk nightly are female. The decor, by Jay Jeffers, is inspired by Lola Montez, a local colorful figure from SF’s gold rush days. They make magnificent martinis as well as other specialty drinks like a Breakfast Negroni, with cocoa-puff infused Campari, gin, Cinzano 1757, and chocolate salt bitters.

2 Pacific Cocktail Haven

Kevin Diedrich is one of the city’s star mixologists. He developed a following while working at different hotel bars, but only recently set up his own space, Pacific Cocktail Haven, on Sutter Street downtown. Diedrich is a master of hospitality and he prominently displays the pineapple (the international sign of hospitality) as a symbol of his commitment to serve his guests. Plus, for friends and regulars, he has special monogrammed cocktail napkins! His drinks are innovative and often feature unusual ingredients. The Oh Snap has gin, sugar snap peas, manzanilla sherry, absinthe, citrus, and tonic. It’s a refreshing, vegetal drink that works wonderfully.

3 The Douglas Room

The Douglas Room is a brand new bar at the Tilden Hotel in the Tenderloin. This not-to-be missed lounge from Brian Felley and Mo Hodges (the duo behind the superb Benjamin Cooper) is masculine and moody, but warm and welcoming at the same time. These two mixologists create new concoctions based on the seasons, what ingredients are available, and what spirits they are into, but trust that you’ll enjoy a potent and well-balanced drink. Right now we’re loving the Tele Novela—a tequila refresher with celery, strawberry, Chareau, aquavit, lemon, habanero, and tonic. The Douglas Room also has a delicious selection of upscale bar bites—order rich duck rillettes with pickled shallots or a cheesesteak sandwich made with thinly sliced ribeye, caramelized onions, and cheese whiz.

4 The Treasury

The Treasury is located in the historic Standard Oil Building, which was built in downtown San Francisco in 1912. There is an old world glamour to the space which has a long P-shaped bar. Since many professionals in the building work market hours, it’s one of the few places that is happening come 4 p.m. on a weekday. Grab a seat at the bar and order a perfectly made old-fashioned, glass of sherry from the extensive selection, or housemade slushy. In fact, everything at the Treasury from the simple syrup to the grenadine is made in house by the bartenders.

5 Pagan Idol

Future Bars is the team behind many haute spots, including Bourbon and Branch (the bar that started the speakeasy craze), and their latest focuses on the tiki trend. Pagan Idol is a tropical themed bar complete with a working indoor waterfall, thatched huts, and wooden totem poles. The drinks are riffs on island classics like piña coladas, daiquiris, and mai tais with elaborate garnishes. Sometimes the wait for a cocktail can be lengthy, but it’s worth it for the masterpiece of a craft cocktail.
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