Bars

All the best San Francisco bars, including bar reviews and editors' picks

Bars

The best whiskey bars in San Francisco

While we have our fair share of favorite beer bars and wine spots, sometimes only a stiff drink will do.

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Bars

The best dive bars in San Francisco

Head to one of our favorite dive bars for a laid-back night of cheap drinks in an appealingly bare-bones setting

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Bars

The best happy hour deals in San Francisco

Whether you’re looking for cheap beers, affordable cocktails or $1 oysters, here’s where to eat and drink on a budget

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Bars

The best rooftop bars in San Francisco

Elevate your drinking game with sweeping cityscape views, sunny-day cocktails and moonlit imbibing at these rooftop bars

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Bars

The best wine bars in San Francisco

Raise a glass and sample grapes from Napa, Sonoma and beyond at our pick of the city’s finest wine bars

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Where to go for cocktails

Trou Normand

Located in SoMa's majestic Pacific Bell building, Trou Normand brings a certain je ne se quoi to the after-work happy-hour scene. With tall windows, an elegant, curved marble bar and handsome leather booths, the place is as beautiful as it is unassuming. A courtyard in back whisks you away from the urban surroundings to a tree-lined patio outfitted with long tables, heat lamps and a glass canopy, so that you can sit outside rain or shine. Modeled on a contemporary French café, the bar and restaurant is known for its cocktails, house-made cordials and bitters. Many of the drinks incorporate cognacs and armagnacs the bar team has selected by the barrel from France. Enjoy these drinks with a simple but thoughtful daily menu comprised of a wide selection of house-cured meats, simply prepared seasonal vegetables and other dishes. Open from 8am to midnight during the week, Trou Normand aspires to be an all-day pit stop for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, drinks, and snacks in between.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars

Smuggler's Cove

With an extensive menu of complex cocktails and an interior worthy of a movie set, it's not hard to understand why Smuggler's Cove is one of the most lauded tiki bars in the world. Patrons plunge straight into a pirate fantasy as they gaze at the three-story interior bedecked with a ship's bow, large anchors, mermaid carvings and even a waterfall. But the fanciful decor belies a sophisticated cocktail program. The hefty drinks list, contained in a thick binder, showcases traditional Caribbean libations and specialty creations from other famous tiki bars. Bartenders expertly mix, shake and blend the satisfyingly sweet and fruity concoctions using a stunning array of fresh ingredients—as many as a dozen in a single drink—and spirits that include seriously boozy overproof rum. Alongside the classics are lesser-known delights like the Batida (coconut cream, fresh passion fruit puree and condensed milk blended with the Brazilian sugarcane spirit cachaça) and the Tradewinds (a deceptively sweet drink made with two types of rum, apricot liqueur and coconut cream). Parties of ten or more can opt for punch bowls (some theatrically set alight), which come with two-foot-long straws to sip from your seat. The Cove also offers a serious selection of more than 200 rums. Regulars may choose to sign up for the Rumbustion Society, a punch card program that will help you chart your exploration of the spirit. Members who try at least 100 rums become Guardians of the Cove, earning a plaque, a me

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars

ABV

Cocktail luminaries Ryan Fitzgerald and Todd Smith, who helped kick off the drinks program at Bourbon and Branch in the aughts, bring a subtle and well-balanced approach to simple but elegant, three- or four-ingredient drinks at this narrow bar. The design of the sophisticated spot incorporates recycled materials, including charming gin-bottles-turned-candle-holders and corroded mirrors fashioned into shimmering chandeliers—even the top of the 15-seat bar is made from wood reclaimed from a tree that was scheduled for removal outside a nearby school. Standout tipples include the smooth and smoky Whisky in Church (scotch, oloroso sherry, maple-smoked pear bitters), the clean and savory Casino Perfecto (blanco tequila, cappelletti aperitif wine and amontillado sherry), and the refreshing, slightly bubbly Tarragon Collins (gin, lemon, tarragon and soda). The back bar is deep with spirits for sipping, and particularly well-stocked with tequilas (mescals, specifically). To go with the cocktails are rich bites, such as the mapo “sloppy joes” made of tangy pork stuffed into fluffy white Chinese bread, cheese boards, kimchi fritters, and trays of pickled seasonal vegetables.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Bar Agricole

With an artisanal cocktail list that's as extensive as the food menu, you'll be hard-pressed to choose between a Monkey's Gland (gin, citrus, absinthe and grenadine) or another order of the marinated anchovies or pig's head fritters with pickled black radish. Go for it all—and while you're at it, try the grilled quail with peaches and mashed beets and any other of the exquisitely seasonal, impeccably fresh plates, as you sip your slavishly crafted cocktail (even the ice is tailor-made for each drink). Undoubtedly the biggest thing to splash down on the 11th Street club corridor in recent years, Bar Agricole feels at once earthy and ethereal—with walls made from old barrel staves and light fixtures made from hundreds of glass tubes that look like windswept waves. Belly up to the bar, tuck into a booth, or try brunch on the sunny, enclosed front patio.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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More features

Bars

Taste test: Best Bloody Mary mixes

We sampled 19 different kinds of Bloody Mary mix to find the best

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Bars

The best pick-up bars in San Francisco

Hooking up is hard to do—unless you know where to go. Read on for the city’s best pick-up bars.

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San Francisco’s best gay bars

Eagle Tavern

San Francisco's legendary biker bar is best known for its Sunday afternoon beer busts, when leather-clad bears, muscle men in tanks, twinks in tight tees and gal pals in trucker caps pack the huge outdoor patio to get shitfaced before sundown on $12 all-you-can-drink beer. This is the melting pot, the place local gay men and party-hardy lesbians come to connect with their tribe. Friday and Saturday nights bring various monthly events, from cigars and spanking to drag queens and dance parties; live bands play Thursday nights, drawing a mixed straight-gay crowd. Monday to Wednesday it's dead.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Powerhouse

When the other SoMa bars are dead, there's always someone at Powerhouse, possibly the most popular gay bar in the city, perhaps because of its notorious back smokers' patio, where poppers provide an acrid counterpoint to cigarette smoke. DJs spin house most nights, and the shirtless crowd occasionally dances, especially on Fridays. Several nights a week, there's some sort of contest, whether a wet-jockstrap or smelly-armpit competition, promising free drinks and a hundred bucks to the winner. Thursday night's underwear party is always a scene. If you're looking to pick up, this is the place. Leave your girlfriends at home.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Twin Peaks Tavern

Blinking rainbow-colored chase lights conspicuously mark the front door of Twin Peaks, the world's first gay bar with windows opening onto the street. Anchoring the plaza beneath the giant rainbow flag that waves over the intersection of Market and Castro Streets, the place is a fishbowl. From the street, you can see everyone inside—and everyone inside is over 40, earning it the nickname "the Glass Coffin." But who cares? The bar is quiet enough for proper conversation, ideal for a hand of cards over a round of martinis, or drinks with friends following a movie film at next door's Castro Theater. Sooner or later, everyone winds up here.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Aunt Charlie's Lounge

The first thing to know about Aunt Charlie's is that it's on one of the worst blocks of the Tenderloin, but if you're willing to brave junkies slumped in doorways outside, you'll be rewarded with a glimpse of the San Francisco underground. This tiny pink-lit cocktail lounge, with postage-stamp-sized stage, is the de facto club house of retirement-age drag queens, and on Friday and Saturday nights, the Hot Boxxx Girls perform knock-out reviews (reservations advised). Bring singles and plan to tip every girl. Thursday nights after 10pm, it becomes a dance club, called Tubesteak Connection, and local-legend DJ Bus Station John spins disco and early house, schooling the children on the history of gay club music.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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See more of the best gay bars in San Francisco

Best bars for beer

Bars

Magnolia Brewing Company

Magnolia in Dogpatch (big sister to the Haight-Ashbury’s beloved Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery) was probably the most eagerly anticipated microbrewery to open in the city in a decade, with cask-beer devotees waiting patiently through four years of construction delays and permitting red tape. By all accounts, it was worth it. Owner Dave McLean (whose resemblance to late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia is only partially coincidental), has transformed a former can factory into a hip neo-industrial craft barbecue and beer-lovers haven. Exposed pipes, reclaimed wood communal tables, and a bar hung with ladders that slide across a sheet metal wall of liquor provide the backdrop for some 15-17 draft and cask beers (Spud Boy’s IPA to Smokestack Lightning imperial stout), as well as dozens of premium small-batch whiskeys. Across the room, Smokestack BBQ restaurant offers up brisket, hot pastrami, Wagyu beef back ribs, sausages, smoked duck and other meats by the pound, served on butcher trays.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars

Biergarten

Rarely in San Francisco do you get to enjoy beer in the style to which the Germans are happily accustomed. The semi-permanent spinoff of German restaurant Suppenküche down the street, the über-hip outdoor beer garden consists of picnic tables and a bar/kitchen carved out of metal shipping containers, sidled up against the side of the SF Jazz Center. On warm afternoons and even cool ones (the bar provides wool blankets), the young, bearded, and thirsty kick back with liters of Stiegelpils and hefeweizen, or bottles of Underberg bitters and celebrate…whatever. The munchies menu provides a tasty Teutonic base for all that beer: bratwurst, burgers, pickled deviled eggs, potato salad, and giant chewy pretzels topped with mustard and horseradish or stuffed with cheese and charcuterie.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Bars

Cervecería de Mateveza

On a sunny corner of Dolores Park, this tiny Argentinian Cervecería offers a short-fingered handful of house-brewed beers along with some 100 in the bottle, and a half-dozen varieties of empanadas from local purveyor El Porteño. On a weekend afternoon, locals perch on barstools or stand in the doorway sipping the signature MateVeza IPA, made with naturally caffeinated Yerba Mate, Morpho Herbal Ale, or one of the seasonal experimental brews (cornflake cream ale, grapefruit sour ale), before heading off to catch sun in the park.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Bars

City Beer Store

This modest storefront and beer-tasting bar consists of four tables and floor-to-ceiling refrigerators packed with more than 500-700 kinds of bottled beers and 15 rotating beers on draft. Sample something on tap while you nosh on a small plate of regional cheeses, fava bean hummus, or candied bacon caramel corn, and banter with the other beer-o-philes. When it’s time to head out, the owners encourage patrons to mix and match a six-pack to take home.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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See more of the best craft beer bars in San Francisco