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Best Bars in San Francisco

I went to San Francisco in 1998, and I came up there from South Africa and uncovered a city with a fantastic culinary culture and a great drinking history too. The Bay Area is extremely blessed with a great selection of watering holes.

Whatever you’re looking for in a fancy bar at a hotel, a cocktail den, or a tike haven, you’ll find it here. Of course, there are a ton of lovely dives as well.

San Francisco is a place known for its counterculture, and it’s got a wonderful motley group of people that roam the streets and meet up at strange bars at different times of the night. It’s an awesome place to get lost in at night, and you’ll find buildings and people that you never thought you’d discover before, having lived in another city. Plus, some of the best mixologists come here from all over the world because of all the amazing culture here. There is a lot to do and see here, and you’ll find one person or another who shares your love of cocktails. Don’t be surprised if you feel a certain distinction in San Francisco. It’s known as one of the classiest cities in the whole world.

There’s an old adage that goes, “In San Francisco, a cocktail isn’t just another drink.” In the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a big scene of bartenders and local distillers capable of making their elixirs to maximum effect. They combine technical perfection with a subtle showmanship, and they have a wry flair too.

It was hard to pick the five favorite spots I liked, and it was not an easy task. I have a lot more favorites, but I think that the following establishments should give you a wonderful sense of the town.

Bar Agricole

Thad Vogler had worked at some of the finest bars in the area, and he had created innumerable cocktail lists too. He opened up his own place, called Bar Agricole, and it was with Eric Johnson. It seems true that San Francisco has culinary roots, and it has a menu that uses organic, locally-sourced ingredients that change all the time. The beverages remain delicious and classic. If you’re here, try the ‘Ti Punch.


There is a high energy level to this bar, and it’s a very busy spot in the Mission District, but it’s actually an Italian restaurant that has a superb bar too. There are some craft drinks there too, and they tend to raise everyone’s spirits. Tuesday is the night for cioppino, and that is when Beretta has the seafood stew, which is done in a traditional Mediterranean style, and it’s highly recommended.


Doug Biederbeck, who goes by the nickname, “Bix”, set up this swanky little jazz club, and it’s stowed away in an alley that’s not too far from the Transamerica Pyramid, way back in 1988. It’s definitely one of the most elegant places in the city, and it is anchored by a long bar, and it has high ceilings. The bartenders shake most of the orders they get, but with a Manhattan and the live music, you’ll feel that you’re shaking enough. If you’re here, try the Bix Perfect Manhattan.

Bourbon & Branch

Every city has to have a speakeasy in the modern style, and the one in San Francisco is called the Bourbon & Branch. It had its opening way back in 2006, and Todd Smith and his team are a crew that is doing an excellent job of running things. It shortly turned into a destination for mixology, and it attracted travelers from all over the world who loved its impressive liquor collection and traditional elixirs too. You have to make a reservation, and you had better behave too. If you’re here, drink the Revolver.




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