Best fancy / special cocktails SF
September 1, 2017 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Suppose you are visiting San Francisco for a day or two and you want to try a fancy / special cocktail place, with fancy / special cocktails? Is there any place that's particularly unmissable? Or do you have a few top recommendations?

Neighborhood not important.

I guess if you wanted to recommend vegetarian restaurants that would also be okay, but this question is mostly about cocktail places! Thanks.
posted by grobstein to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Bourbon and Branch and its offshoots. They take reservations and have quite the cocktail list.
posted by pombe at 2:32 PM on September 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Was also going to recommend Bourbon and Branch. You definitely should get a reservation.
posted by brainmouse at 2:36 PM on September 1, 2017

If you feel like crossing the bay on BART (most don't!) there's Plum Bar, where they are really quite inventive, and Hopscotch, where they don't change the cocktail menu a lot but they're always good. Bartenders both places will do bartender's choice if you roll that way.
posted by Smearcase at 2:37 PM on September 1, 2017

Bourbon & Branch certainly fits the bill, but it's a bit... theme park for me. For something less well known, but retaining all the theatrics, I would say Cold Drinks.

If you want a different flavor profile than the standard SF set (Alembic, Trick Dog, etc.), I like the bar in Mr. Jiu's, which is a Michelin starred restaurant in Chinatown. Their drink program, which I like more than the food, was set up by one of my favorite bartenders, an Alembic alumni.
posted by danny the boy at 2:57 PM on September 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bourbon and Branch is the obvious one that comes to mind. I also like to take people to Smuggler's Cove. It's small, a little inconveniently located, and frequently has a line, but it's an award winning place known for their rums and amazing tiki cockails.
posted by zachlipton at 3:02 PM on September 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Whitechapel is very nice. I recommend the Narc Angel cocktail in particular.

Pagan Idol is nice if you want to get your tiki on.
posted by Lexica at 3:12 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like the Pied Piper Room in the Palace Hotel. It's not hip.
posted by vunder at 3:15 PM on September 1, 2017

Response by poster: If you want a different flavor profile than the standard SF set (Alembic, Trick Dog, etc.), [...]

This is a great and helpful answer overall, thank you! -- but I don't know the standard SF set (apart from the given examples) and their flavor profile, either! What would that / those be?
posted by grobstein at 3:15 PM on September 1, 2017

I was in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago and my friend there took to me to his favorite cocktail bar, Comstock Saloon. It was incredible.
posted by General Malaise at 3:35 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well I would say craft cocktail culture in general is pretty consistent, because what works is essentially the same. Particularly in SF, the (new) old guard leans heavily on historical cocktails and tastes. Like you'll find a copy of the Savory cocktail book on every one of their shelves. You'll find an old fashioned done with a giant perfectly clear sphere of ice, and without the fruit salad. You'll find barrel aged negronis. A hundred variations on the French 75. More varieties of bitters than most bars have alcohol. Spritz bottles with essences.

This is all GOOD, especially if you come form somewhere where this isn't the norm.

But, if you want a break, what I like about Mister Jiu's is it has flavors no one else is really doing, particularly Asian flavors like 5 spice and crab oil and condensed milk. I'm not saying you'll love everything on the menu, but... it's trying something different, non-western.
posted by danny the boy at 3:45 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe relevant!, maybe passé!
posted by ferret branca at 3:48 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Ice Cream Bar is really great for fancy drinks- they make old-fashioned sodas and floats, some with alcohol, using customizable recipes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:35 PM on September 1, 2017

Benjamin Cooper. It's pretty new, not as well known yet as places like Trick Dog or Bourbon and Branch, but it is AMAZING.
posted by phoenixy at 5:37 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Whitechapel, recommended above, is a gin bar with a huge menu of every gin drink you've never heard of. It's great. It also has a full menu that is the least vegetarian thing ever in case you're combining goals!
posted by missmary6 at 7:18 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you like vegan food--great vegan food--you should try to attend one of Philip Gelb's dinners.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:30 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Eater SF list
posted by gingerbeer at 8:06 PM on September 1, 2017

For feeling fancy, I really enjoy Dirty Habit (unfortunately they close at 10 p.m., but they do have a really lovely outdoor space -- make reservations).

Have you been to SF before? I think Greens is still worth a visit if you've never been. It's in a beautiful location.
posted by missmobtown at 11:20 PM on September 1, 2017

Top of the Mark is about as fancy as it gets

(but I adore Bourbon and Branch)
posted by ananci at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2017

Benjamin Cooper for unusual combinations, lively crowd. The Douglas Room is by the same team in a swankier setting, different menu. Wildhawk has a menu by Jacques Bezuidenhout and is a gorgeous space. Comstock Saloon is a relative old-timer, still on point. Cold Drinks looks beautiful- haven't been, but they have a scotch-centric menu. ABV has great drinks, veggie friendly bar food, often crowded. If you can get a reservation for Louie's Gen-Gen Club, I would go there for island drinks over other options in the City.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:41 PM on September 2, 2017

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