The 10 Best Spring Cocktails in San Francisco

By Virginia Miller  |  April 10, 2014

It's time to celebrate an already gorgeous San Francisco spring at these 10 different cocktail havens, new and old. Drink menus across the city are saying goodbye to winter citrus and ushering in lighter, warm-weather flavors with a wide range of spirits - from Calvados (French apple brandy) to mezcal - and styles that cover the gamut from boozy to tropical. Read on for the best of the season.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Dead Ringer at Bourbon & Branch 

    GM Jayson Wilde’s scotch cocktail shines with the ever-fantastic Highland Park 12-year whiskey, but then the lush bitter of Tempus Fugit’s Gran Classico peeks out, while a subtle sweetness from a Bordeaux sweet wine, Chateau Grand Jauga Sauternes, rounds everything out. 

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Death March at Burritt Room

    What if a tiki drink was smoky and earthy as well as fruity? Bar manager Josh Trabulsi makes it happen with the Death March cocktail. Despite the ominous name, it’s light and vivacious. Mezcal adds that slate-like, campfire note to Luxardo maraschino liqueur, tart pineapple and nutmeg bitters. Think of it as a tiki cocktail…with smoke.

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    Manhattan at ICHI Sushi + NI Bar

    The popular sustianable sushi joint serves this Japanese twist on a Manhattan next to its rare sashimi and sushi offerings. Bar Manger Ken Furusawa slightly ages Iichiko Shochu (a distilled Japanese barley beverage) in-house, which adds depth and a hint of color to the low-alcohol, barley-rich shochu. He rinses the glass with a sweet dessert sake, Tamagawa Time Machine, stirs the aged shochu around a large, square ice cube, and tops with lemon rind. It’s got the heartiness of a whiskey cocktail but enough restraint to accompany sushi.

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    Hua Hin Beach at Kin Khao

    Here, owner and Bangkok native Pim Techamuanvivit serves a rare breed of pedigreed, authentically minded Thai food you won't find anywhere else. To wash it down, the Bon Vivants have put together a formidable slew of gently island-influenced cocktail creations. If you really want to feel like you’re on vacation, drink the Hua Hin Beach: its mini mountain of crushed ice soaks up Pampero dark rum, coconut cream, lime and stout (yes, beer!), perfected by a pinch of salt and kaffir lime. Hot tip: another must-order is the off-menu classic daiquiri, made with lush Thai palm sugar the owners drive a few hundred miles to get.

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    The Drunken Monk at Roka Akor

    Alongside this FiDi hot spot's impeccable sushi and robata, bar manager Jason Huffman’s understated cocktails still manage to stand out. The Drunken Monk does so with its dramatic slice of grilled Asian pear, adding toasty notes to an otherwise bright blend of winter-spiced pear shochu, green Chartreuse for herbal complexity and fresh orange and lemon.

  • Credit: Tacolicious

    The Green Hornet at Tacolicious

    The ever-talented Danny Louie is busy working on the drinks menu for soon-to-open Chino, but he's still finding time to create some must-drink spring cocktails for owner Joe Hargrave's other venture, Mosto, the agave-heavy bar adjacent to Tacolicious in the Mission. The Green Hornet evokes island breezes as Don Julio Reposado is mixed with coconut milk, green Chartreuse, jalapeño and lime - a creamy wonder of a tequila drink.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Heidelberg Cup No. 9 at The Coachman

    White wine and genever? It’s actually a genius combination, and you can drink it down at Charles Phan's newest venture, this British-influenced SoMa haunt. Here, Phan's resident bar director Erik Adkins and principal bartender John Codd comb rare classic recipes to come up with ideas for the drinks menu. Following in step, bartender Keli Rivers played with Heidelberg Cup No. 9, an 1869 recipe from Cooling Cups & Dainty Drinks to get the elements just right. Diep 9 Belgian Genever, a house lemon cordial and Nahe Austrian Riesling come together over crushed ice for a dry, malty, stimulating spring sipper.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Sex Type Thing at Alembic

    Straight off its widely imaginative and ridiculously delicious Girl Scout Cookie cocktail series, Alembic is getting ready to launch its spring cocktail menu. In the meantime, ask for Bar Manager Ethan Terry’s smart, off-menu play with sister restaurant Magnolia Brewery’s ever-popular Kölsch beer. Dubbed Sex Type Thing, it's not just an STP (Stone Temple Pilots) song reference, but a clever nod to a number of cocktails with "sex" in the title and their common ingredient of peach Schnapps. In the Kölsch glass, Terry combines Fortaleza reposado tequila, Caol Ila 12-year Scotch, créme de pêche (a classic peach liqueur) and a splash of the beer. It’s dry, subtly smoky, fruity and revitalizing.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Diablito at Padrecito

    From David Ruiz, the mad genius behind the herbacious and smoky La Copa Verde mezcal cocktail, comes a newly launched brunch drink you have to try. Diablito makes an impact with only three ingredients: Aperol, lime and fresh beets. It’s earthy, intensely bright and restorative, with a subtle bitter backbone from the Aperol.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Appletini at The Square

    At this Washington Square newcomer from the chefs behind Sons & Daughters, new bar manager Claire Sprouse injects a sense of fun into the cocktail menu by glorifying “guilty pleasure” drinks like a White Russian. Especially fun is Sprouse’s Appletini. This is no sour pucker sipper: French apple brandy (aka Calvados) mingles with lemon, a splash of St. George absinthe and Leopold Brothers' Sour Apple liqueur made from NY state apples.