San Francisco is known for inspiring, innovative ideas, and that also translates to the city’s bar scene. These seven spots serve creative and delicious cocktails in a welcoming environment. San Francisco is a big enough city to have a variety of bars that could qualify as “the best.” There are neighborhood bars where the bartender knows patrons’ orders, classic hotel bars with excellent martinis, and many bars where visitors are just happy to be wherever they are in at that moment. For this list, we included our favorite San Francisco spots where the cocktails are creative and consistently excellent, complete with welcoming vibes. There are also the places we keep coming back for either solo or with friends or out-of-town guests.
There’s nothing overly fancy about this Mission hotspot; the dimly-lit narrow space is sleek but unassuming with lots of wood, dark floors, and a couple of communal tables in the back. But that’s for the best as it allows the real heroes, the cocktails and the food, to shine. ABV’s 16-drink cocktail menu is full of creative concoctions, most of which you will not see on other menus, and is organized by spirit to make choosing that much easier. The food (served until 1am) is sophisticated for any restaurant, much less a cocktail bar, but feels right at home thanks to low prices and the fact that none of the dishes require silverware.
This Fort Mason treasure is part café, part museum, and part bar, which easily earns it the title of the most fascinating spot to get a cocktail in San Francisco. The cocktail menu at The Interval consists of pages of reading material about the history of the different drinks, but the knowledgeable bartenders are also happy to lead the way. While you’re enjoying your drink, you can peruse the floor-to-ceiling library of books, look at a prototype of a 10,000 Year Clock (that’s designed to run for 10 millennia with minimal interruption and maintenance), and watch the digital ambient painting that will go through millions of iterations before repeating.
This Hayes Valley champagne bar is the ultimate first date/girls night spot. The space is chic and sexy with lots of gold, marble, and greenery, and the menu includes over 100 bottles of champagne. (If you try 100 of them, you get inducted into the “100 Club” and get your very own Riddler bomber jacket with your name embroidered in gold.) There’s also a chambong (a bong of bubbles) and “A Joan,” which is a glass of cheap house wine filled to the brim for when you’ve “had a hard day.” The Riddler also offers snacks that pair well with sparkling wine, including tater tot waffles, cheese and charcuterie boards, caviar and free serve-yourself popcorn.