When you’re on a trip, it can sometimes feel a bit lazy to get a drink in the hotel bar instead of venturing out into the city beyond. However, at these boutique hotels in San Francisco, the watering holes are destinations in themselves. Pull up a stool and settle in for a cocktail or two – and perhaps a chance encounter with a fellow traveler.
A characterful on-site bar can be reason enough to book a room, so Culture Trip’s travel experts have hand-picked eight outstanding hotels with cocktail bars for your choosing. At these sumptuous lounges, hidden rooftops and retro-themed spots, you’ll find tourists mingling with the Silicon Valley tech set as well as local creatives. Best of all, your comfy bed is mere steps away from a well-mixed martini. Cheers!
Hidden away behind a bookcase inside Hotel Zetta’s much-lauded British-style Cavalier brasserie, Marianne’s cocktail bar channels rock’n’roll glamor in honor of its namesake – 1960s singer and songwriter Marianne Faithfull. The violet color scheme, twinkling chandeliers and flashes of zebra print set the decadent tone, and its previous life as a hush-hush members-only club has bestowed an exclusive feel. Soak up the Standard cocktail (vodka, vermouth and cucumber) with a selection of signature small plates. Reservations are recommended.
Hotel Zelos’s Dirty Habit bar may sound like a destination for bad behavior, but it is in fact a glamorous spot to see and be seen. Only a few steps from Market Street, the buzzing thoroughfare that cuts through downtown San Francisco, the effortlessly chic fifth-floor bar shakes craft cocktails with curious ingredients such as aloe liquor, porcini mushrooms and oolong tea. Even the jelly shots are swish, in flavors like bourbon and lemon oil. Bonus: there’s a heated outdoor patio for an al fresco tipple.
The City by the Bay looks dramatic from a lofty vantage point. Match exemplary cocktails with city views at Charmaine’s (part of Proper Hotel), which sits on the rooftop 120 feet (46m) above the maelstrom of Market Street. Charmaine’s has a ritzy summer-vacation vibe, with lounger-style seats and fruity, fun drinks – they had us at Kissin’ in the California Sun, a peachy vodka concoction. Californian and French vintages dominate the wine list, which is matched with a menu of bar snacks including tuna tartare and churros, to sustain you between sips.
Hotel Zeppelin boasts not one exemplary bar, but two. With its exposed brick walls and gothic fireplace, the lobby Mantel Bar feels somewhere between a speakeasy and a suave bachelor pad, and is the place to relax after a long day exploring the city, perhaps soundtracked by live music, between 6pm and 9pm every Friday. Matching the velvety, 1970s-tinged decor of the hotel, the cocktail menu at Rambler, a restaurant and bar, nods to classic songs of the era; try the fiery gin concoction Sympathy for the Devil and the refreshing Stairway to Heaven.
The Marker’s exceptional Italian restaurant and bar Tratto is a draw for many guests who book into this contemporary boutique hotel near Union Square. Try a pizza dotted with roasted grapes and prosciutto or poached garlic and truffle oil, and wash it down with a cocktail mixed with similarly bold flavors: Smoky Earth blends coffee bitters with mezcal, and Tropic Like It’s Hot has pineapple and sage-infused Aperol to balance the heady mix of chartreuse and white rum. Brunch cocktails are even more inventive. A Morning Negroni with cold-brew ice and Campari to complement sausage cannelloni or goat’s cheese omelette? Sì, grazie!
The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel transcends eras with an old-world-meets-modern design extending into its famous Redwood Room. Wrapped in redwood paneling, the epoch-enduring bar burst onto the scene after Prohibition – the artisanal cocktails finding favor with both the locals and national celebrities. Inside, you’ll find beehive-reminiscent lighting and backlit bookshelves lined with liquor. There are the usual suspects like the Old Fashioned or Bee’s Knees (made with honey from the hotel’s own rooftop bees) as well as San Francisco-inspired cocktails like the North Beach Parasol, which mixes pink grapefruit gin with sparkling wine.
The spaceship-like San Francisco Marriott Marquis appears as though ready to blast off into orbit when seen from afar. Take a closer look, though, and the signature luxuries of this world-famous chain hotel brand are plain to see. The View Lounge, set on top of the striking high-rise, is drenched in light through a giant sunrise-style window that offers killer views across the city skyline. The Art Deco-inspired space is decked out with leather booths, ethereal art and a solar system-style light fixture that illuminates a sleek marble bar serving handcrafted cocktails like the Rock Old Fashioned (a nod to Alcatraz) and the fruity rum-blended Blackberry Bay.
Hotel G seduces guests with its cool speakeasy-style cocktail and oyster bar. The moodily lit setting is embellished with details like moss-green velvet booths overlooked by portraits of a cigar-smoking Clint Eastwood and Benjamin Cooper, their fictional military-hero-cum-bar-owner namesake. Refreshing cocktails are the bar’s forte, from the citrusy Freccia Rossa to the nostalgia-inducing Once True Love. Be warned, though, that there is no concrete menu as the tipples are typically tailor-made. Head up to sleep off the buzz in stripped-back rooms with tall, tufted headboards and an in-room Nespresso machine for that valuable morning pick-me-up.