Credit: Chad Panday

11 Bucket List-Worthy San Francisco Cocktail Bars

Sip Your Way Through This Iconic City

In San Francisco, the bar scene is an iconic concoction of history and innovation. From the historic watering holes of North Beach—where Beat poets once pondered over their spirits—to the sleek speakeasies hidden in plain sight downtown, every bar tells a story as intoxicating as its drinks.

Mixologists here are alchemists, concocting potions that push the boundaries of flavor and flair, served with a side of quirky charm. Dive bars adorned with neon signs and taxidermy share the street with rooftop lounges boasting panoramic views of the Bay, where locals and visitors alike clink glasses under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Whether you prefer your libations crafted with artisanal precision or downed with a side of dive bar camaraderie, San Francisco’s drinking culture invites you to raise a glass and savor the city’s spirited soul, one cocktail at a time.

Undoubtedly one of the most alluring cities in the world, San Francisco is home to some of our all-time favorite libation locations and we have nearly a dozen to add to your boozy bucket list. Here are 11 of our favorite cocktail bars in San Francisco.

 

Trick Dog

Must-Try Cocktail: Avery’s Fancy

Best San Francisco Cocktail Bars
Credit: Trick Dog

Trick Dog is a spot that is known for its inventive cocktails and playful menu themes. Having won many awards and accolades over the years, this spot does its own take on the tiki-style beverage with lots of brown liquor libations. The Avery’s Fancy is a sipper that stands out by combining Monkey Shoulder malt whisky, lime aquavit, rum, brown butter, toasted bread and orange bitters. It’s boozy and nutty with hints of citrus to create something that is so perfectly pleasant to drink, you’ll surely want more than one. This place preaches silly over stuffy and is really into making drinking fun—this time with higher-end ingredients and craftsmen who know how to curate a well-balanced beverage. Oh yeah, and expect the fancy shmancy ice.

Location: Mission District

 

The Alchemist Bar & Lounge

Must-Try Cocktail: Lucky Morello

The Alchemist Bar in San Francisco is a super fun fusion of science, art and mixology. Located in the SoMa (South of Market) district, it offers an immersive experience where cocktails are crafted with precision and creativity. The menu, akin to an alchemist’s tome, features drinks like the Smoking Mirror and Elixir of Life, each a masterful blend of exotic ingredients and innovative techniques. We are particularly in love with the Lucky Morello, a funky fusion of Monkey Shoulder malt whisky, Amaretto, aloe, butternut squash, turmeric, Chinese 5 spice and sage cream. It reads more like an alcoholic soup than a classic cocktail, but man, if it doesn’t hit the spot, all of the warm spices really soothe the soul. 

The ambiance at The Alchemist combines steampunk aesthetics with a laboratory-like setting, complete with vintage glassware and experimental concoctions bubbling with dry ice. Whether you’re a curious novice or a seasoned cocktail enthusiast, this San Francisco cocktail bar promises a journey through the realms of taste and imagination.

Location: SoMa

 

Sugar Lounge

Must-Try Cocktail: Curious George

Sugar Lounge is a neighborhood joint with big-city drinks. This Hayes Valley haunt has been around for nearly two decades and is serving up the quintessential drinks we all know and live. You can get everything from a mule to a margarita to a Manhattan, but we really have our eyes on the Curious George, another Monkey Shoulder concoction mixed with banana liqueur for an extra boozy and creamy beverage that could moonlight as an after-dinner dessert drink if you want it to. Enjoy your libation in a lounge-like environment that is a proper yet unpretentious pit stop. 

Location: Hayes Valley

 

Blackbird

Must-Try Cocktail: Root of All Evil

Blackbird has all the comforts of a classic bar with dark wood accents and dim lighting for that cozy yet mischievous ambiance. The menu at this bar in San Francisco features a variety of expertly crafted cocktails that range from timeless classics to inventive concoctions—all made with premium spirits and fresh ingredients. Blackbird also offers a selection of beers on tap and a curated list of wines as well. One of our favorites, The Root of All Evil, is a Monkey Shoulder sipper that screams nostalgia with the addition of root beer and a dash of cinnamon and orange. It is like a souped-up whisky and soda, and we’re here for it. If you’re not careful, this place will have you singing in the dead of night after one too many cocktails.

Location: Duboce Triangle

 

Copra

Must-Try Cocktail: Clarified Lassi Punch

Copra is a Pacific Heights staple serving up South Indian cuisine in a Tulum-esque dining room. It’s all coconut and curry and passion(fruit) at this date-night destination. To kickstart your cocktail journey, we recommend the clarified lassi punch, a milk-washed Monkey Shoulder scotch marinated in a blend of pineapple, mango, cayenne, green cardamom and white pepper. It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy and the milk wash really takes the edge off of the scotch. This drink pairs perfectly with their iconic crab curry or famous God’s Own coconut dessert. 

Location: Pacific Heights

 

The Sea Star

Must-Try Cocktail: Dutch Flight

Best San Francisco Cocktail Bars
Credit: Sarah Felker, Stefani O’Driscoll

The Sea Star is a vibrant coastal-inspired venue nestled in the Dogpatch area of the Mission District. Embracing a relaxed beachside vibe with cool nautical decor, this hotspot features a menu focused on refreshing cocktails and seafood delights. The bar’s atmosphere blends California cool with tropical accents, featuring a laid-back yet stylish interior perfect for casual gatherings or evening cocktails. The Sea Star prides itself on incorporating locally sourced ingredients and sustainable seafood, ensuring every dish and drink reflects freshness and quality. Order a signature cocktail like the Dutch Flight: a gin, cucumber, elderflower and celery bitters concoction. You can also savor light bites like fresh oysters straight from the San Francisco Bay. Either way, visitors can expect a taste of coastal charm in the heart of the city.

Location: Dogpatch

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Wildhawk

Must-Try Cocktail: 50/50 Martini

This place is a little bit cheeky with a whole lotta funk. Located in the Mission District, this sultry, upscale San Francisco bar is doing creative things with cocktails like Cocoa Puffs-infused drinks and a whole menu dedicated to martinis. This place is full of personality from its decor to its drinks. The 50/50 Martini can be made with your gin of choice—we recommend Hendrick’s Gin—and is kicked up with Oka Kura Sake vermouth and orange bitters. It’s a strong slow-sipper that will make you feel a little saucy. Wildhawk is sprucing up their nest and is due to reopen in mid-summer, so be sure to get your reservations on lock. 

Location: Mission District

 

Barrio

Must-Try Cocktail: House Margarita (with Milagro Tequila)

Barrio, located in Ghirardelli Square, offers a memorable culinary experience blending Mexican flavors with California flair. Known for its lively atmosphere and scenic views of the bay, Barrio invites diners to savor innovative dishes like ceviche and tacos crafted with locally sourced ingredients. The bar boasts an extensive selection of tequilas and mezcal, perfect for enjoying handcrafted cocktails like their house margarita with Milagro Tequila. The intoxicating scent of Ghirardelli chocolate often wafts in, which makes the experience even sweeter. Whether seated indoors or on the outdoor terrace overlooking the waterfront, Barrio’s commitment to bold flavors and creating an inviting ambiance ensures a memorable dining experience in one of San Francisco’s most iconic locations.

Location: Ghirardelli Square

 

The Buena Vista Cafe

Must-Try Cocktail: Irish Coffee (with Tullamore D.E.W.)

In between Fort Mason and Fisherman’s Wharf is a little San Francisco institution called The Buena Vista Cafe. Located just to the west of the Powell-Hyde Cable Car’s last stop in Fisherman’s Wharf, this spot is a historic landmark renowned for its Irish coffee, having served up this iconic beverage since 1952. The cafe’s cozy interior features a long bar where skilled bartenders prepare the signature Irish coffee with expert precision using Tullamore D.E.W. 

Beyond its famed drink, The Buena Vista offers a classic menu of hearty American comfort fare, creating a welcoming atmosphere that blends nostalgia with a timeless charm. Whether you’re stopping by for a morning pick-me-up or an evening unwind, The Buena Vista promises a taste of San Francisco’s rich culinary history and is a fan favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Location: Fisherman’s Wharf

 

Pacific Cocktail Haven

Must-Try Cocktail: Pornstar Martini

We love a first come, first served type-a spot—a place where you can’t get a reservation and you just have to take your chances and show up. That’s how Pacific Cocktail Haven is. This place has risen from the ashes, quite literally, after a fire in 2021 forced them to rebuild. But they are back and better than ever, serving up cheeky sippers like the Pornstar Martini that is a beautiful blend of Reyka Vodka, passionfruit, vanilla, citrus and sparkling wine. Their ingredients pay homage to the Asian-Pacific heritage, and they have been recognized time and time again for innovative drinks created by Kevin Diedrich, who has earned the Best American Bartender award at the renowned Tales of the Cocktail awards. 

Location: Union Square

Jane Adler is a marketing and branding consultant by trade, but a writer by preference. She shares a name with Meryl Streep's iconic character from It's Complicated and is presently trying to manifest that life (particularly that Santa Barbara house) for herself. Jane is an avid consumer of content and carbs and often used the latter to write on the former.

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