Five spots to drink an amazing cocktail and pretend you're a real San Franciscan
If San Francisco does anything well, it's cocktails. This city is a master of throwing together eclectic libations that you won't find in most podunk cities across the country. Snobby San Franciscans scoff at so-called drinks like the Greyhound, the Cape Cod and the old standby, the rum and coke. If you visit the City by the Bay, you better stop by one of the spots below, where you can order an amazing drink and pretend like you live here. Cause you wish you did.
When you walk into this bar in Hayes Valley, you feel like you stepped into Disneyland, or more specifically, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. You almost expect Johnny Depp to swagger through. Two levels of this bar feature hanging glass balls, netting, and photos of the Caribbean. The bar says it has the largest rum list in the world. Try a Hibiscus Rum Punch with rum, house-made spiced sorrel (hibiscus) liqueur, fresh lime, edible hibiscus flower, or a Royal Bermuda Yacht Club with rum, fresh lime, orange curacao, falernum (a liqueur from Barbados with notes of cloves, almond, ginger, and nutmeg).
If you want a blast from the past, head downstairs into the gaping maw of Local Edition, where Hearst used to print its newspapers. This dimly lit bar is inspired by the newspaper days of the 50s and 60s, and you can still see old editions of the San Francisco Chronicle in glass cases on the walls. Try the Fidel and Che, which is aperol, yerba mate syrup, lime, mint, soda water, or the Brass Knuckle, full of Japanese whiskey, spiced blood orange liqueur, maraschino, angostura bitters.
Rickhouse is in the heart of the city's Financial District, which means it's a favorite of high-powered businessmen and women after work. The slot-shaped bar has a bustling brick room up front, and wood-paneled seating room in back that makes you feel like you're in the 1920s. This place is known for its Old Fashioned, made with a gigantic ice cube that never seems to melt. If whiskey isn't your jam, try the Plymouth, which has fresh lemon and grapefruit juice, fresh basil and bitters.
Bourbon and Branch
This speakeasy near Union Square is a hidden secret in San Francisco. And it is just that, a speakeasy. You can't just walk into this place; you have to make a reservation and get a secret password for that night. Inside the bar, fancy people sit in dark booth, an ambiance reminiscent of Prohibition. Sometimes, a jazz band plays in the background. While there's no drink list listed online, this place exposes you to alcohol you won't see anywhere else, including hand-numbered batch whiskeys and scotch.
Comstock Saloon is a beautiful old-school bar in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood. Sit at the high bar while wooden fans rotate luxuriously above. There's live music every night at 8pm, and the musicians sit on a platform high above the drinking fools below. This place has a turn-of-the century vibe and some amazing libations. Try the Scofflaw Cocktail - Rye, dry vermouth, lemon, house grenadine, orange bitter, or the Blood & Sand - Scotch, sweet vermouth, orange, cherry liqueur11.
Kristin Hanes is a writer and frugal adventurer who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. She's frequently published in SF Gate. Follow her on Twitter @KristinHanes