Feature

10 Hottest Bars in San Francisco Now

By Virginia Miller | May 22, 2015 By Virginia Miller  |  May 22, 2015
Photo by: Virginia Miller

These 10 new cocktail, beer and wine bars have added yet even more exciting, quality drinking options to a city already swimming in them. Here are the 10 San Francisco must-try drink spots now.

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  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Belga

    Why It's Hot: Brand-new Belga just opened mid-May with one killer beer collection, heavy on Belgian and craft American beers, as well as a strong cocktail and cider menu and hearty-yet-refined Belgian, French and German food.
    Must-Drink: A bottle of crisp, sour Oud Beersel Geuze from Belgium ($30) makes a happy partner with any of the three styles of mussels, and you'll find rarities like Oklahoma's ever-fantastic Prairie Ales and their Funky Gold Amarillo beer ($30).
    Insider Tip: They excel at beer cocktails ($11 each), ideal with frites or house sausages. Try Beer Cocktail No. 2 mixing aged Denizen rum with HenHouse's superb saison beer (from Petaluma), allspice liqueur, ginger and kumquats, with a smattering of fresh shaved nutmeg on top.
    2000 Union St.; 415-872-7350

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Tofino Wines

    Why It's Hot: Husband-wife team Mark Nevin and April Sack opened Tofino Wines this March to be more than just another retail wine merchant. It's a large, inviting bar in a lofty, historic space sporting epic beer and wine lists, both on tap, in bottles and for retail purchase, and a menu of delightful bites.
    Must-Drink: A bottle of Liquid Farm (from Santa Barbara) rosé ($24.99) — with hints of mineral, salt and bright berry— or Thurnhof Lagrein Merlau, a red from Italy's northern Alto Adige region ($13 by the glass) with its wild strawberry and subtle earth notes.
    Insider Tip: A killer vinyl collection and plenty of space make it ideal for group parties.
    2696 Geary Blvd.; 415-872-5782

  • Photo by: facebook.com/forgerysf

    Forgery

    Why It's Hot: Open mid-May from PlumpJack Group's Jacques Bezuidenhout (formerly overseeing Kimpton Hotels' cocktail programs) and Ken Luciano, the Forgery is set in a former glass-blowing studio space, going for "neighborhood bar" with quality cocktails.
    Must-Drink: Under "Forgery Originals," Dr. Tequila mixes Partida Blanco tequila, Dr. Loosen Riesling, lemon, Laphroaig Scotch and egg white.
    Insider Tip: There is a "Classics & Twists" section, but also note the drinks made from "Friends," like a classic Tommy’s Margarita from SF's legendary Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant or The Green Beast (Pernod absinthe, lime, sugar and water) from absinthe-driven Bar 1805 Ibiza in Spain.
    1525 Mission St.; 415-796-2325

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Benjamin Cooper

    Why It's Hot: Benjamin Cooper, upstairs from 398 Brasserie, is secluded from the bustle outside through a discreet door on Mason St. An intimate cocktail and oyster bar from rock-star bartenders Brian Felley and Mo Hodges ensure quality drinks. 
    Must-Drink: The menu changes constantly but one early scotch offering is Salt & Smoke, where peaty Ardbeg's is balanced by dry Fino sherry, Benedictine, bitters and lush drops of salted orange-chile oil.
    Insider Tip: Try the daily changing oyster shooter special (pictured top) that includes an oyster invigorated with icy Smirnoff granita and a shot of your choice of gin, vodka or tequila.
    398 Geary St.; 415-654-5061

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Amoura

    Why It's Hot: South San Francisco may not be (even close) to a Bay Area town you think of for excellent Middle Eastern fare and drinks — but this newcomer opened in March and is worth a quick jaunt south. Beverage director and general manager Malcolm Brownson created impressive wine, beer and cocktail menus, highlighting the Middle East and countries that line the Mediterranean sea. On top of that, they have the largest selection of arak — a traditional, Middle Eastern anise-based liquor — we've seen anywhere: 50 bottles and counting.
    Must-Drink: California Soul is soft, floral and herb-laden with Bombay Sapphire gin, Greenbar Grand Poppy organic liqueur, lemon, egg white and parsley.
    Insider Tip: Though it can be an easy 15-20 minute drive from the city, make it a stop to or from SFO airport.
    713 Linden Ave., South San Francisco; 650-754-6891

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Mourad

    Why It's Hot: Celebrated chef Mourad Lahlou and chef de cuisine Chris Kajioka (of Honolulu's Vintage Cave) opened upscale Cal-Moroccan Mourad at the end of January. Master sommelier Alan Murray's wine list stars paired with food, but the long, industrial-chic bar is likewise a welcome Downtown perch for a quality cocktail, thanks to menu creators Christ Aivaliotis and Troy Bayless of Wizard Oil Co., Hawker Fare and Holy Mountain.
    Must-Drink: A twist on a classic Gibson cocktail, the Capa Gibson, mixes Sipsmith gin, French (dry/white) vermouth and Breckenridge bitters with the savory pop of a pickled onion garnish.
    Insider Tip: Make it a quality cocktail "crawl," with Mourad in the PacBell Building right next door to Trou Normand.
    140 New Montgomery St.; 415-660-2500

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Boxing Room

    Why It's Hot: Though the restaurant has been around for years, it wasn't until February that New Orleans' cuisine haven, Boxing Room, built out and opened its first cocktail bar, with classic NOLA-inspired cocktails from Jonny Raglin (Absinthe Group’s director of bar operations and Comstock Saloon partner) and bar manager Drew Majoulet (formerly of Comstock Saloon, Rich Table).
    Must-Drink: It's all about the classics: an improved (read: not too sweet) Hurricane and a perfect Sazerac. But nothing says New Orleans like one of the great gin cocktails of all time: the 1800s classic, the Ramos Gin Fizz. This glory of a drink is tart with lemon, floral with orange flower water, frothy with egg white, silky with cream, comforting with vanilla and nutmeg — and makes an ideal brunch or daytime cocktail.
    Insider Tip: Chef Justin Simoneaux (one of our 2012 Zagat 30 Under 30) also added new dishes to the revamped menu, while jazz brunch continues on Sundays.
    399 Grove St.; 415-430-6590

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Hawker Fare

    Why It's Hot: Chef James Syhabout (of Commis in Oakland) opened Thai restaurant Hawker Fare SF at the end of January, which is like a streetside party in Thailand under a string of lights and vibrantly colored tablecloths.
    Must-Drink: Witch Doctor, showing off funky rhum agricole (that un-aged style of rum hailing from the French island of Martinique), lime and grapefruit juices, Dolin Genepy (an herbal alpine liqueur), banana liqueur and chocolate bitters.
    Insider Tip: Continue the night with drinks from an entirely separate cocktail menu at hidden upstairs bar Holy Mountain (more on that in the next slide).
    680 Valencia St.; 415-400-5699

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Holy Mountain

    Why It's Hot: Hidden upstairs in Hawker Fare is spacious, dim Holy Mountain that can easily fit you and a group of friends. Bar managers Christ Aivaliotis and Troy Bayless also consulted on the drink menu for Mourad, crafting house originals and classic cocktails that pull from New Orleans, the Caribbean and beyond.
    Must-Drink: The richly spiced, invigorating Trinidad Sour (a creation of New York bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez), which, like the great Charles H. Baker classic cocktail, an Angostura Fizz, uses a heavy pour of Angostura bitters as the base, mixed with locally made Small Hands Orgeat, rum and lemon.
    Insider Tip: There's no food at Holy Mountain, so fill up on Thai food before or after drinks downstairs at Hawker Fare.
    680 Valencia St.; 415-400-5699

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Belcampo

    Why It's Hot: Though Belcampo is more restaurant/butcher shop than bar, in March they launched their first low-proof (think sherry, vermouth and the like) cocktail menu, that can be enjoyed along a small bar in the butcher shop. The menu was created by cocktail greats Jon Gasparini and Greg Lindgren, who opened Rye on the Road, Rye and 15 Romolo, and work with Belcampo's meaty elements. 
    Must-Drink: Their hot Bone Broth Toddy utilizes fresh, daily bone broth from Belcampo's own meats, mixed with Amontillado sherry, Belcampo's vinegar-based Shotgun Sauce, Calabrian chiles and sage, garnished with an aromatic sprig of rosemary and lemon zest. Equally savory and intriguing? Their Boney Mary (pictured), a Bloody Mary twist.
    Insider Tip: Akin to an Italian (specifically Venetian) cicchetti hour, Belcampo offers free bites and slices of house salumi with drinks during a late afternoon/early evening apéritif hour.
    1998 Polk St.; 415-660-5573

Places Mentioned

ABV

BarThe Mission
Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM

Benjamin Cooper

Oyster BarNob Hill
Food- Decor- Service- CostM

Mourad

MoroccanSoMa
Food- Decor- Service- CostE

Amoura Restaurant

MediterraneanSouth San Francisco
Food- Decor- Service- CostM

Boxing Room

CajunHayes Valley
Food21 Decor20 Service21 Cost$43

Belcampo Meat Co.

AmericanPolk Gulch
Food22 Decor15 Service16 Cost$32

Tofino Wines

Laurel Heights
Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM

Belga

Cow Hollow
Food- Decor- Service- CostM

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