The 23 Essential San Francisco Bars: Winter 2017
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The 23 Essential San Francisco Bars: Winter 2017

San Francisco has been a pioneering drinking town since its inception. From its Barbary Coast beginnings to its last 15 years as a leader in the 21st-century cocktail renaissance, the City by the Bay is a place that knows its drinks. Any collection of notable bars is entirely subjective. Still, it’s hard to argue that these 23 spots are anything but essential—the kind of places that make San Francisco a destination for drinkers from across the world.—Virginia Miller

*Bars are listed alphabetically.

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1.  ABV

Spirits industry gurus Todd Smith, Ryan Fitzgerald and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud opened ABV in 2014, with the laid-back bar immediately becoming a…
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2.  Aub Zam Zam

Aub Zam Zam, with its dingy, charming Arabian Nights–esque décor, is one of San Francisco’s treasures. It’s been open since 1941,…
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3.  Benjamin Cooper

Benjamin Cooper is among the best of S.F.’s newer bars. It opened in early 2015 and is a prime example of…
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4.  Bourbon & Branch

“Secret" passwords at the door and reservations-only and tired speakeasy rules are old news for die-hard cocktail fanatics. But Bourbon &…
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5.  Club Deluxe

Since 1989, Club Deluxe is arguably S.F.’s best jazz bar (Though Royal Cuckoo is another great for Hammond-organ-centric jazz). With blond…
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6.  Comstock Saloon

With the departure of bar greats Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin, who opened Comstock Saloon and provided its heart and style…
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7.  Elixir

The space housing longtimer Elixir opened as a saloon way back in 1858. H. Joseph Ehrmann’s corner bar is intimate and…
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8.  Fat Angel

Fat Angel exemplifies the ideal neighborhood beer-and-wine bar. Since opening in 2010, its staff has been pouring rare draft beers and…
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9.  15 Romolo

With more than 500 spirits, a pioneering sherry menu and an in-house sherry expert, Ian J. Adams, North Beach’s 15 Romolo,…
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10.  Hard Water

Though part of Charles Phan’s restaurant group, focused on New Orleans–influenced dishes, Hard Water is also all about American whiskey, comprising…
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11.  Hideout

The secret was out long ago. But Hideout, hidden in the back of cool, longtime Mission dive Dalva, is a cocktail…
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12.  The Interval

The pioneering Long Now Salon has one of the coolest bars in this—or any—city, complete with salon talks and a library…
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13.  Lolo

In 2014, bartenders David Gallardo and Leon Vasquez put whimsical Mexican restaurant Lolo on the bar map with their playful Mexican…
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14.  Longitude

(Recently closed) Downtown Oakland’s tropical getaway is not so much Tiki as at is tan and green island elegance. Set to an…
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15.  Monk’s Kettle

In a town rife with celebrated beer bars, including the first United States outpost of Copenhagen’s Mikkeller bar, it’s tough to…
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16.  Saison

Yes, it’s a three-Michelin-starred restaurant that can compete with the best restaurants in the world. Yes, a dinner here can cost…
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17.  1760

1760 has been a destination for food, cocktails and wine since opening in 2013. Wine director Gianpaolo Paterlini follows in the…
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18.  Smuggler’s Cove

The tiny, tri-level Smuggler’s Cove, which Tiki guru Martin Cate opened in 2009, is about as essential as it gets: the…
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19.  Third Rail

The eastern neighborhood of Dogpatch has become quite the destination for a drink crawl. In the same couple blocks, there is…
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20.  Tommy’s

The one and only Tommy’s just celebrated its 50th year in 2015. The icon has been spreading the tequila gospel to…
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21.  Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is the last massive Tiki bar of its scale left in the U.S. Relatively unchanged since…
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22.  Toronado

Grumpy bartenders and dingy, dim dive bar qualities are part of the charm of legendary Toronado, San Francisco’s beer haven for…
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23.  Vesuvio

North Beach is rife with legendary, historic bars, from Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe to Tosca Cafe. Another one of the…
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