The Coolest Cocktail Bars In San Francisco

Cocktails © Roderick Eime/Flickr
Cocktails © Roderick Eime/Flickr
Photo of Courtney Holcomb
9 February 2017

San Franciscans are a boozy bunch, and with such a huge selection of bars around the city, choosing the perfect spot to start your night can be overwhelming. If you’re looking for high quality drinks in a classy setting, we’ve got you covered with a curated list of the best spots around.

Holy Water

Bar, American, $$$
Map View
Head over to Holy Water in Bernal Heights to enjoy classic cocktails, beer, wine and spirits in a dimly lit setting. Here, the chandeliers are made from old books, the walls have shelves stocked with glass flasks that are used to hold holy water, there is a church-style ‘offering basket’ behind the bar, one wall features a giant black and white photo of a river baptism and the lights above the bar are made from old decanters. Starting at 11 p.m., you can enjoy the ‘11th Hour,’ in which the bar serves up rare and unique drinks that vary nightly.

The Butterfly Lounge

Bar, Restaurant, Pub Grub
Map View
Located inside of Hotel Majestic, The Butterfly Lounge is named for the tropical butterfly and rare insect collections that cover its walls. There, you can enjoy classic drinks or signature cocktails in a building built in the early 1900s. Watch sports games during happy hour and order food from the full Café Majestic menu, or arrange a private ‘Cocktail Makery’ class onsite. If you’re really just looking for cocktails, enjoy interacting with the famous Butterfly Lounge bartender, who has been called the ‘mad scientist’ of cocktails for his crazy, incredible concoctions.


Bar, Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
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ABV is a bar located on the Mission District’s thriving 16th Street. In addition to specialty drinks and cocktails, this spot serves up an incredible food menu daily and a renowned brunch on the weekend. Enjoy creative cocktails with intriguing names like ‘Whiskey in Church,’ ‘Dunmore Cobbler’ and ‘Grainy Smith,’ designed by a team that hails from acclaimed spots such as Beretta, Bourbon & Branch and Dalva. The interior is dim and swanky and the bar is crowded, so come early or be prepared to wait in line.


Bar, Pub Grub, 0
Rx is a themed neighborhood bar located in the Tenderloin district. The atmosphere is laid back and intimate, with friendly bartenders serving up a cocktail menu filled with categories like Stimulants, Stress Relievers, Painkillers, Mood Stabilizers, Medicinals and Classic Remedies. The bar is on friendly terms with Elephant Sushi next door, so if you want to grab a drink while you wait for a table there, the hostess will come next door to get you — plus, you can even bring your Rx drinks over to the restaurant while you eat.

Third Rail

Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
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Located in the quiet Dogpatch neighborhood, Third Rail is a cocktail and jerky bar. This quirky combination may seem strange, but Third Rail will make you wonder why you haven’t been pairing your cocktails with jerky for your entire life. The jerky comes in options like smoked, dehydrated and even vegetarian. The drink menu is split up by flavor, offering cocktails, beer and wine, with a rotating selection of drink specials so there is always something new to try.

Bar 587

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Tapas, $$$
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Bar 587 is a cocktail bar located conveniently near Union Square. This spot offers cocktails, beer and wine, in addition to snacks and small plates. The atmosphere is hip and on the fancier side, but still maintains cozy vibes. The staff is friendly and attentive, with a manager that has been acclaimed for going above and beyond for private parties. The bar is closed on Sundays, but offers happy hours every weekday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Try something with cinnamon in it — they infuse theirs onsite!

Barbarossa Lounge

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View
North Beach’s Barbarossa Lounge is located on Montgomery Street in one of the oldest buildings in San Francisco, a structure that survived the 1906 earthquake and was used as a jailhouse in the 19th century. The lounge offers an 11-cocktail menu that rotates seasonally, featuring hand-crafted drinks that are named after famous criminals, politicians, and madams. While the theme is reminiscent of the Barbary Coast, the atmosphere is one of modern luxury. Enjoy cocktails, beer, or wine paired with shareable foods, including a $1 oyster happy hour every Monday.

Pacific Cocktail Haven

Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
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Another spot located centrally in Lower Nob Hill near Union Square, Pacific Cocktail Haven is a neighborhood bar created by Kevin Diedrich of Sidecar Hospitality. The bar offers a minimalistic menu separated into about three or four drinks per type of spirit. In addition to cocktails, you can enjoy punch, beer and wine here, and though the space is small it doesn’t often get crowded.


Bar, Pub Grub
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Jackalope is another Lower Nob Hill haven with a dim but cool atmosphere reminiscent of Donnie Darko. While the cocktails are delicious, what makes this place really stand out are its special events nights. On Movie Monday, enjoy a cheesy movie projected in the bar. Tuesday is Coin Flip Night, meaning the bartender will flip a coin, and if you call it correctly, your drink is $1. On Wednesday nights, a drink purchase will earn you the chance to roll two dice – if you roll a seven, 11, or doubles, you earn a free shot. Thursday night is trivia night, and you can always enjoy an $11 game of Plinko to let the fates decide what you’ll be drinking.


Bar, Restaurant, Cocktail Bar, Nightclub, American, $$$
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At Hawthorn, you will find yourself tucked away from the downtown hustle in an open brick basement. The space features two rooms, one a broad lounge draped in purple swathes, the other a more intimate back room decorated to recall a 1930s Hollywood. Cocktails and signature drinks are available throughout the evening, and at night the space livens up with a world-class sound system to accompany dancing. Drop by on a Tuesday evening to enjoy the Bourbon and Bubbles happy hour.

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