Top 10 New Cocktails for Summer in the Bay Area

Frozen slushies at a new bar pop-up, Micheladas in buckets and more
July 6, 2015
by Virginia Miller

While there are plenty of obviously summer-y cocktails around town, including slushie fun (like Danny Louie's boozy boba-tea slushies at Chino), there are plenty of directions to go for summer sipping that run boozy to refreshing — and, yes, there is a slushie cocktail in the mix. Here are 10 new favorites from SF to Oakland.

Cafe Du Nord's Stern Grove

The legendary, 100-year-old Cafe Du Nord just reopened June 17, completely remodeled with a new food-and-drink menu from Ne Timeas Restaurant Group and The Bon Vivants. The atmospheric basement space is still dim and relaxed, sporting tables, a long bar and more corners for lingering over lovely drinks from Morgan Schick, the mastermind behind Trick Dog's cocktails. Named after one of our great parks (and the site of famed and free summer concerts), the easy-to-drink Stern Grove starts with Appleton Rum and Tariquet VS Armagnac, and layers in caraway flavor from Kummel, java-tinged notes from the coffee tincture and tart, smoky fruit from smoked pineapple and lime.

2174 Market St.; 415-431-7578

Lazy Bear's Stalk Market

Ticketed-only Lazy Bear is one of the most exciting restaurant openings of the past year, reaching its one-year anniversary this September. Thanks to bar manager Nicolas Torres, the refined, inventive cocktails have grown to become a real highlight of the Lazy Bear experience. Torres just launched his summer menu of eight wide-ranging drinks including the Stalk Market, which tastes like a summer garden. Aromatic and dry with Ford’s Gin, dry vermouth and Fino sherry, the libation gets a burst of farmer's market goodness with house chamomile and pink peppercorn tincture, rhubarb pickling juice and celery.

3416 19th St.; 415-874-9921

The Barrel Room's Flor Vodka

Opening their Financial District location this May (with the original location in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood), The Barrel Room is both restaurant (try the hearty burger or fried chicken sandwich for lunch) and wine shop, with rotating menus focused on various parts of the world. Currently, it's Central and South American wines from Mexico to Chile, as well as bar manager Nick Palm's Latin American cocktails showcasing spirits from cachaça to mezcal. Try the delicate Flor Vodka (pictured), bright with passion fruit and orange flower water. 

415 Sansome St.; 415-956-6900

Saison's Milk Punch

With pricey tasting menus and a fantastic (hidden) Japanese/sushi pop-up restaurant, it's easy to forget that one can stop in at the Saison bar for cocktails, bites and wine. Alongside a spectacular wine cellar (ask for recommends from head sommelier Max Coane), bar manager Anthony Keels crafts exquisite, world-class cocktails. Try the Saison Milk Punch, a clarified (think clear and creamy), classic milk punch with the contrasting peat, funk and sweet spice of Hakushu Japanese Whiskey, Smith & Cross rum and Batavia Arrack with subtle pineapple and coconut. It's a sophisticated alternative to a typical tropical drink.

178 Townsend St.; 415-828-7990

ABV's Michelada

ABV just launched weekend brunch with fun, no-utensils-needed bites in keeping with chef Kevin Cimino's playful menu (think gougère breakfast sandwiches, chicken karaage with cheddar chive biscuits and cherry or peach fry pies). Light and easy daytime drinking comes in the form of a Pimm's Cup and a Dunmore Cobbler, essentially an Amontillado sherry cobbler with pineapple and lemon given depth from a splash of scotch. But it's the $7 bucket Michelada that turns a weekend into a party. Yes, they've got your house Bloody mix and Modelo cerveza beer, but pour it into a massive bucket with a straw and a lime and you won't even mind the fact that Monday is almost here.

3174 16th St.; 415-400-4748

Oddjob's Golden Ratio

Talented bartender Joey Picchi (who also mans Oddjob's menu-less, hidden back room bar, SRO) just created a new, wide-ranging, 12-cocktail menu this June at Oddjob, creating house ingredients like grape soda reduction or toasted pistachio falernum. Playful drinks include standouts like the Golden Ratio, made with marigold-infused pisco and dry vermouth, mixed with a golden raisin and cardamom solution, perked up with lemon and white pepper.

1337 Mission St.

The Double Standard's Rabbit Hole

Veteran Bay Area bartender Ali Tahsini opened The Double Standard in Oakland in March, building out much of it himself, with plans for local artists to paint murals in and outside the space. With a roomy back patio under giant redwoods, he has plans for food pop-ups, while this week he launches Vol. 1 of a cocktail menu series inspired by record albums, including eight house cocktails and another four on tap (classics like a Moscow Mule and a Whiskey Buck). But our favorite tap cocktail is The Rabbit’s Hole, a refreshing, tart mix of Suerte Blanco Tequila, Spirit Works Sloe Gin, pineapple, lemon, agave syrup and Angostura bitters.

2424 Telegraph Ave.; 510-879-7601

Starlight Room's East Bay Collins

In early June, Ryan Hall (who recently moved here from Savannah, GA, and places like Local 11ten, Pacci) took over as bar manager of the venerable Harry Denton's Starlight Room with its city views and plush, red-velvet booths. Honoring cocktail classics and drinks created by many of the legendary barstaff who have worked at Starlight Room over the decades, Hall's initial menu offers a little something for everyone. While the sparkling wine–laced Starlight in Napa cocktail is immediately a crowd favorite, the East Bay Collins is the same base (strawberry-infused Belvedere Vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur) but is more nuanced with pineapple and lemon juice, soda and mint.

450 Powell St.; 415-395-8595

Forgery's El Vampiro

Bar and spirits trailblazer Jacques Bezuidenhout just opened Forgery this May with with Ken Luciano and Plumpjack Group (run by none other than Hilary and Gavin Newsom), serving quality cocktails in a chill space where Johnny Cash and '90s hip-hop play interchangeably. The lofty, brick-walled space is ideal for gathering with friends over beer, wine, sherry or cocktail standouts like the El Vampiro: smoky Fidencio Unico Mezcal, dry Manzanilla sherry with a touch of Giffard Crème de Cassis (black currant liqueur). 

1525 Mission St.; 415-796-2325

Tsk Tsk's Beet Down

As Justin Lew and Ian Scalzo (formerly Future Bars) ready to open Horsefeather later this fall in the former Ziryab space, on July 17, they will open a temporary pop-up bar in the same space for 3–4 months. With the cheeky name, Tsk Tsk, think casual neighborhood fun in the form of waffle fries in smoked nacho dust (yep, ground Doritos) and burgers on King's Hawaiian bread paired with canned beers and boilermakers. Four slushie machines pump boozy slushie cocktails like barman Mitchell Lagneaux's Beet Down, an icy-cool blend of gin, fresh strawberry and beet purée and lemon under a mountain of rosemary and St. George absinthe–infused whipped cream.

528 Divisadero St.; 415-522-0800