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12 San Francisco Bay Area bars you need to visit in 2018

Rusted Mule
Photograph: Virginia Miller Rusted Mule

You look like you need a drink.

True Laurel

Imagine a casual version of Michelin-starred Lazy Bear with Nicolas Torres’ fab cocktails and chef David Barzelay’s stellar bites. It’s called True Laurel and it just opened in December. The menu features fantastic bites like a loaded baked potato with miso butter, bacon, and bonito, and a patty melt with dry aged beef, and special sauce while the drinks include lots of fresh produce like the Top Dawg, a refreshing and savory mix of rancio wine and fermented tonic with a rim of black sudachi and smoked salt.


Cold Drinks

Cold Drinks, the new upstairs bar inside China Live, mixes opulence with a touch of fun, featuring velvet gray couches, metallic black-and-gold bar chairs and a Scotch-forward cocktail menu that ranges from light and creamy to boozy and neat. Take the Long Islay iced tea: Served in a giant gold pineapple, the beverage is made from silky Absolut Elyx vodka, Bruichladdich and Laphroaig Scotches, black tea with lemon and a touch of Coca-Cola. It’s as delightful to look at as it is to drink.

The Douglas Room

Mo Hodges and Brian Felley (of nearby Benjamin Cooper) offer a chill spot to pair Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies with thoughtful cocktails. To start, we like the vodka-based La Di Da Di, served with grapefruit, ginger beer and black lava salt or the Old and In the Way (bourbon, sherry, and stone fruit shrub).

Rusted Mule

We don’t know what part of Rusted Mule we like best: the industrial-chic space (complete with onyx bar and sea-colored flooring) or the classic, boozy cocktails on tap for just $9. The sizeablebar includes three lounges and a mezzanine decked out with custom works from local artists. A menu of elevated pub fare features carrot corn dogs and garlic fries to soak up all those Moscow Mules.

Gibson

You may think chef Robin Song’s open-fire cooking program is unique, but beverage director Adam Chapman’s cocktails are truly one of a kind. At Gibson, for a quirky take on the classics, the French 75 is fermented and the Bloody Mary is clarified.

 

Rooftop bar at Proper Hotel

 

Charmaine's
Photograph: Virginia Miller

 

Charmaine’s and Villon

This is the glamorous rooftop bar San Francisco has been waiting for. Atop Proper Hotel, Charmaine’s features fire pits, couches, delightful bar food (try the hot dog in a milk-honey bun) and a magical view. For drinks, we like the Bay Area twist on a dirty martini with local aquavit, vermouth and a bay-laurel brine. DownstairsVillon delights with an elegant design and creative drinks.

Junior

From the Anina and Brass Tacks crew comes the perfect neighborhood hangout, where craft beers flow alongside quality cocktails (like the herbaceous Hat in the Ring made with gin, Gran Classico bitters, lemon and pamplemousse liqueur) in a space flanked by a striking animal mural.

White Cap

Parkside finally has a real cocktail bar with White Cap, complete with a sleek fireplace, teal booths, repurposed driftwood and surfing competitions on the TV. The sherry expert and beach bum Carlos Yturria crafts the cocktail menu, with drinks like the inspired screwdriver with manzanilla sherry.

The Kon-Tiki, Oakland's new tiki bar

 

The Kon-Tiki in Oakland
Photograph: Virginia Miller

 

The Kon-Tiki

Good times abound under the palm fronds and palapas at Oakland's The Kon-Tiki. Chef Manuel Bonilla serves massive pupu platters while Christ Aivaliotis and Matthew Reagan ensure your rum-based tropical-inspired drinks are boozy and satisfying (we especially like the Volcano Bowl). 

The Riddler

The small, cozy champagne bar has black-and-white seating and tabletops that read “Hello Beautiful” in gold writing. Head here for bumps of caviar served with champagne shots and free popcorn with seasonings. 

The Snug

Pac Heights newcomer The Snug features a cozy, snug-lined corner filled with vintage board games. There's also top notch bar food from chef Brian Shin and excellent cocktails from bar manager Jacob Racusin like the housemade trotter hot dog and the bar's version of a Bee's Knees cocktail using sunflower-infused vodka. 

Periodic Table

Located in Emeryville's Public Market, The Periodic Table is cozy go-to for craft beers and interesting saké pairings with steaming noodles from adjacent sister restaurant Shiba RamenHusband-wife team Jake Freed and Hiroko Nakamura serve a range of craft beers, saké and whisky from Japan, as well as cocktails paired with bar bites from Shiba. 

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