Food by VICE

These Are the Best Places to Grab a Cocktail in San Francisco

From pre-prohibition saloons to rum-drenched tiki bars, San Francisco is the home to every sort of cocktail bar your thirst-addled gourd could imagine.

by Munchies Staff
Dec 2 2016, 6:00pm

Astonishingly expensive rent aside, the city of San Francisco is undoubtedly a gleaming beacon of infinite possibilities. Whether you're looking for some staggeringly good rabbit salame; a dessert made from peach, cherry, and cherry blossom that looks like a hot dog; or peanut muscovado milk that could one day save the world, The City by the Bay has got you covered.

Luckily, nowhere is this city's panoply of options more apparent than in its glorious cocktail scene. From pre-Prohibition saloons to rum-drenched tiki bars, San Francisco is the home to every sort of cocktail spot your thirst-addled gourd could imagine.

Alas, navigating through such a dizzying cornucopia of libations can be a grueling task. That's precisely why MUNCHIES has painstakingly searched high and low for the best cocktails San Francisco has to offer.

Click here for the complete MUNCHIES Guide to San Francisco.

So before you end up drinking shitty Mai Tais with a bunch of Wisconsin soccer moms at the lounge of a Holiday Inn Express, click through our MUNCHIES Guide to San Francisco and see what our "Cocktail Bar" filter has for you.

Trust us, it will most certainly be time well spent.

Comstock Saloon: In a giant space right down the block from Mr. Bing's, Comstock Saloon makes stiff drinks that make North Beach feel positively romantic again. Pre-Prohibition era from head to toe, this bar also has solid bites like lemon icebox cake and chicken liver mousse.

Pagan Idol: A newcomer to SF's bustling tiki scene, Pagan Idol has earned its keep among the local tropical-cocktail hotshots like Tonga Room and Smuggler's Cove. Pineapple wedges, paper umbrellas, and orchids garnish pretty much everything here, and the Rum Monkey bowl tastes like a banana smoothie (but will totally light you up).

Smuggler's Cove: Behind a nondescript edifice on Gough Street is an incredible cocktail bar disguised as a tiki bar, or vice versa. Beware the deliciousness of the Painkillers, Tradewinds, and Batidas—they're all potent as hell and taste like coconuts, magic, and vacation. The indoor waterfall is 100 AF, too.

Holy Water: On Cortland Avenue is Holy Water, which—like a few other Bernal Heights spots—somehow succeeds at being both a neighborhood bar and a cocktail destination. They keep their ingredients list short and their pours long.

Trick Dog: If you can get over the somewhat bougie clientele, the cocktails here will blow your mind. Lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and mystery plants are incorporated into the strong drinks, and the menu's always wildly inventive. Drink up.

dalva/hideout: This bar is a reverse mullet: divey in the front (think karaoke and cheap beers), with heavy cocktail hitters (think classics like Blood & Sands and Boulevardiers) in the dark, cozy back. Bring a date and choose your own adventure.

Alembic: Nestled in all of the hippie-tourist chaos and crust-punk fanfare of the Haight, this jewel of a cocktail bar also has wacky bar snacks (duck hearts, anyone?) and is very dark inside, making it perfect for a hair of the dog.

Bourbon & Branch: This Tenderloin speakeasy has a giant book of cocktails, an amazing interior, and was (a decade ago) one of the main drivers that brought whiskey/Prohibition-era cocktail culture to the city. You need a password (changed daily) to get into the main bar, but you can always check out the "Library"—which has a considerably abbreviated but still fantastic cocktail menu—by ringing the buzzer and whispering "books" into the intercom.

Blackbird: This mid-market "gray bar" (meaning kinda gay, kinda not) has something for everyone: a stellar cocktail menu that changes frequently (sample drinks include spiked New Orleans coffee with bourbon and chicory, or the Jungle Julep, with Scotch, Giffard Banana, Meletti amaro, orgeat, lime, and mint), cheap beers for your broke friends, a pool table if you're feeling social, and dark corners if you aren't. And during their happy hour, you can snag $7 cocktails and $5 well drinks.

Check out the MUNCHIES Guide to San Francisco for more ways to get gloriously wasted on all the spectacular cocktails San Francisco has to offer.