The sun is back after a rainy winter and Bay Area residents are ready to hoist a glass to that. We're especially excited to grab a Woods beer and soak up the sun at its Treasure Island beach club, or enjoy an Outer Sunset crawl at Woods Outbound and Seven Stills' recently unveiled taproom. Meanwhile, in the heart of the city, the Tenderloin's bar revival continues with cocktail standouts like The Douglas Room and Rum & Sugar. With new bars focusing on themed food and cocktail pairings, or champagne with caviar, you can grab dinner and drinks (with a group or alone) in venues like Over Proof and The Riddler. It's a fun season to spend a weekend on the town. Let's "cheers" to the area's dozen hottest local bars.
Must-order: The bar's namesake cocktail (rum, caramelized demerara sugar, bitters, flamed orange peel); Catcher in the Sage egg-white cocktail (Dorothy Parker gin, raspberry-peach Grand Marnier)
Insider tip: Keep an eye out for the $5 happy-hour cocktail. It's a great deal for a top-quality beverage.
Must-order: The tart-sweet Brenda's daiquiri (rhum agricole, lime, sugar); Zeppelin martini; foie gras torchon
Insider tip: Its location by Union Square theaters and shopping streets means this is your new impromptu spot to take the edge off.
Must-order: Happy-hour Roka old fashioned; $55 cocktail omakase celebrating different regions of Japan, available Thursday through Saturday
Insider tip: Only five reservations a night are available for the omakase, so plan far in advance.
Must-order: Tamarind session IPA; pineapple guava saison; chocolate raspberry imperial stout
Insider tip: This is surfing territory, which means breakfast burritos are in prime demand. They are served at the taproom but only until they sell out. Get here by 1 PM to try them.
Must-order: Freeze Pop pale ale; any regular or vintage Morpho herbal ale; special beers devoted to subjects like cookies or locally made honey
Insider tip: Since it's a couple blocks from both the beach and Golden Gate Park, take advantage of those to-go crowlers! The bar opens at 11 AM on weekends, so you're all set for your noon picnic.
Must-order: IPA brewed with mataveza tea; Island Club saison
Insider tip: Make a day of your Treasure Island visit (via a ride-share or MUNI because parking is tough and the drinking options are plentiful), and visit the island's various wineries before or after a few brews.
Must-order: Death Star (cognac, scotch, amintillado sherry, sweet vermouth, salted chile oil); Old & In the Way, a refreshing take on a Sazerac matching bourbon with a stone fruit shrub; the bar's version of a Philly cheesesteak
Insider tip: This is the perfect stop-off point for shoppers and theatergoers near Union Square. Second tip: The excellent burger and cheesesteak are part of the small late-night menu (10 PM–1 AM).
Must-order: Champagne; cham-bongs (trust us, it's fun, if sloppy); bump and a shot (various caviar paired with different levels of sparkling wines or the "champagne of beers," Miller High Life)
Insider tip: Come a little hungry. The tiny kitchen makes great tater tot waffles and complimentary popcorn with various dustings, all known to ruin dinner appetites.
Must-order: Any farmer's reserve sour; grand cru beers; barrel-aged imperial stouts; Spam or avocado musubi; burger
Insider tip: Each beer is available as a two-ounce taster, served on a small guide placard. Sample as many as possible and fill out the map (over a few rounds) — one of the unorthodox beers is bound to be a favorite.
Must-order: Preset $50 drinks and food menu with about five courses of each
Insider tip: These refreshing tropical rum drinks are small but potent. Pace yourself, and keep in mind the meal barely lasts 90 minutes.
Must-order: Young Coconut (cachaça, falernum, coconut water, green chartreuse); Last Mango in Paris (cognac, Lillet, mango); bone marrow waffle with avocado green goddess dressing, smoked sturgeon and "everything spice"
Insider tip: Reservations can only be made online, available a week in advance. Parties of four or fewer are accepted. So, don't bring a group and don't treat the bar as Liholiho Yacht Club's waiting room. If you don't have a reservation, ask the host if there's space for you.
Must-order: Apple Shack (armagnac, apple cider); Golden Era (clarified pisco, rum, gin, black tea)
Insider tip: This isn't the Black Horse London Pub in terms of small size and sheer intimacy but it's close. Don't come with a group. Don't arrive at prime hours, especially right before a show. Also, Tuesday to Thursday from 5 to 9 PM, the bar now offers a snack menu with items like homemade "funions" plus savory and sweet bites.