The Best Bars in San Francisco to Grab a Drink Right Now

SF’s best bars span secret speakeasies, seasonally driven cocktail dens, and new neighborhood spots.

There’s lots to brag about when it comes to a city like San Francisco, but one thing that doesn’t get enough hype is how truly stellar our bar scene is. Maybe it’s just that we took it for granted until we were all forced to become our own home bartenders, but this town’s got it going on when it comes to places to imbibe. That shouldn’t really come as a shock considering SF was pretty much built around its saloons during the Gold Rush and—more than 150 years later—was an early pioneer in the craft cocktail movement.

Now that clinking glasses in person means more than ever before, hopefully this list of quality bars, which range from dives to sports bars to glittering rooftops, will inspire you to get out, revisit an old favorite, discover a new one, and toast to one of the things that San Franciscans do best: drink.

Bar Sprezzatura

Financial District
$$$$

SF’s bar scene is newly enamored with Italian aperitivo culture, and newcomer Bar Sprezzatura is one of the best places to partake, with a chic gold and sky blue accents, plush velvet seating, and a long bar with swiveling stools to cozy up at. The cocktail menu spans some inventive Italian-inspired takes, such as the Cicchetti Martini, with vodka, Carpano Blanco, and olive brine, that’s served with an anchovy-stuffed olive, pepperoncini gran ripieno, and fresh shaved truffle, but there’s also a full negroni menu, a selection of spritzes, and a handful of Italian wines and beers. Snack on savory cicchetti options at the bar, like Guanciale Meatballs and Scalia Anchovies, or make your own charcuterie plate with their salumi and cheese selection. There’s also pizza by the slice, crudo, fresh salads, and pasta and risotto, should you decide to tuck into a full meal.
How to book: Reservations can be made via SevenRooms.

Hideout

Mission
$$$$

In the same way was a relief when beloved Mission staple Dalva reopened in 2022 with a new and improved look, we were equally relieved when its (not so) secret hidden back bar, Hideout, reopened a few months ago. The only real change is the cocktail menu which now features classics (with the more inventive craft cocktails being served up front). The space is the same—dark, moody, cozy, and casual with red walls and cushy banquettes, which feels especially refreshing after so much time spent social distancing.
How to book: Walk-ins only

Hazie's
Hazie's | Photo by Hardy Wilson

Hazie's

Hayes Valley
$$$$

Hayes Valley has really turned into a mecca for drinking and dining and this new spot from the Hat Trick Hospitality team (Brixton and Rambler) and celebrity chef Joey Altman has revealed itself as a top contender in the neighborhood. Located in the old Stack’s space, Hazie’s is great for casual hangs with friends or coworkers, with shareable comfort food (including Dutch Crunch profiteroles for dessert) and cocktails that go down easily (including a few large-format concoctions, like a pineapple spritz for two). There’s plenty of bar and communal high top seating, as well as regular tables, all of which creates a fun and bustling scene in an already bustling area.
How to book: Walk in or make a reservation via SevenRooms.

Bar Agricole
Bar Agricole | Photo by Eric Wolfinger

Bar Agricole

SoMa
$$$$

Forget whatever you knew about the pre-pandemic Bar Agricole because this new Bar Agricole is not only in a stylish new space, it’s also a completely new concept: a tasting room dedicated exclusively to showcasing single-origin spirits from its new spirits line. What remains the same is owner Thad Vogler’s passion and dedication to seasonal and ingredient-driven drinks and food. Reservations are encouraged for those who want to sit in one of the wooden booths that surround the island bar where you can watch the mixology magic happen. If you’re not a planner, don’t fret: you can still walk into the Package Room Bar & Lounge.
How to book: Make reservations on Tock.

Harlan Records

Union Square
$$$$

The folks behind this new bar (in the former Bar Fluxus space) want imbibers to “listen more,” which in turn makes them a dream drinking destination for any audiophile. Inspired by Japanese listening bars, the intimate venue features over 2,000 vinyl records lining the walls. The playlist ranges from Charlie Parker to The Beach Boys to The Cars, and as far as what you’ll be drinking, think music-inspired cocktails and classics, like a Sazerac or just a great glass of cabernet.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Pacific Cocktail Haven
Photo courtesy of Pacific Cocktail Haven (PCH)

After a fire damaged P.C.H.’s cozy space in 2021, award-winning bartender Kevin Diedrich and his team found new digs for the tropical cocktail haven a few doors down. The new space is a lot bigger (a definite plus) with cozy banquettes, a wood bar with seating for 12, and an outdoor patio that fits 30. You’ll still be able to order most of your old faves, but there are some amazing new cocktails as well, many of which feature Asian and Pacific Island ingredients (hence the name).
How to book: Walk in.

Members Only
Photo by Kelly Puleio, courtesy of Finders Keepers

Members Only

Lower Nob Hill
$$$$

You don’t have to be a member—or own a Members Only jacket—to enjoy fancy libations and “American fusion” cuisine at this stylish supper club and cocktail bar that is perfect for a first date, an evening with friends, or late-night dinner and drinks. Beverage director Candice Jae (Lolinda, Evil Eye) has ensured there’s a cocktail for every palate, from a classic 50/50 Martini to the refreshing Celery Stalk with celery manzanilla, lemon, bonal, celery bitters, and seltzer. If for whatever reason nothing strikes your fancy, head downstairs to Finders Keepers to find the one that most appeals to you, as each bar offers its own selection of cocktails. Once seated at the white marble bar or one of the cozy cocktail tables, open up the cabinet to “find a secret, leave a secret.” Though Members Only is definitely a drinking destination, it is also very much a dining destination, as well. The menu is perfect for snacking and sharing, but there are also larger entrees, like Steak Frites, a couple of burgers, and a grilled salmon. Best of all, you can enjoy all of the food late at night (until 12 am during the week and 1 am on the weekends).
How to book: Reservations can be made online.

Bottle Club Pub
Photo by Alexandra Garrett, courtesy of Bottle Club Pub

Bottle Club Pub

Union Square
$$$$

The Future Bars team (Bourbon & Branch, The Devil’s Acre, et al) are back at it with a gorgeous new bar inspired by American whiskey history of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. The “Bottle Club” part of the name is a reference to those decades when people collected ornate, colorful, and weird ceramic decanters, hundreds of which are on display. Also on display is a mesmerizing rotating bar with seemingly endless bottles of whiskey and spirit brands you probably won’t find at your go-to dive. There’s a fantastic cocktail list with drinks named after popular songs from those eras and a small menu of comfort food that includes a very satisfying smashburger.
How to book: Walk in.

Sipping cocktails and chatting with friends is fun and all, but you know what’s even more fun? Sipping cocktails while battling it out with those friends over classic arcade games, carnival games, skee ball, Pop-a-Shot, and more. That’s exactly what you’ll be doing at this gigantic bi-level barcade that’s also home to the world’s most expensive golf simulator, plenty of TVs to watch the game, a fortune-teller lounge (with bartenders who can read your mind, allegedly), solid bar food (including wood-fired pizzas and a 13” hot dog), plus a fun selection of drinks.
How to book: Walk-ins only unless your group is five people or more, in which case you can reserve a table on Yelp.

Lost Marbles Brewpub

Inner Richmond
$$$$

Who among us hasn’t lost their marbles in the past couple of years? Find others just like you at this Clement Street brewpub from the owners of Barrel Head Brewhouse. Grab a seat at the expansive, square-shaped bar and tell the bartender what you want, what you really, really want. Hint: It’s one of the five cocktails named after each of the Spice Girls. Or maybe a Dick Pic—a shot of Dickel Bourbon with a pickle juice back. Probably both! There’s plenty of non-bar seating as well in the form of reclaimed wood tables and booths and a couple of couches. Besides cleverly named drinks, you’ll also find: whimsical steampunk-esque decor (drawings of sea creatures, an old standard diving dress, etc.), foosball, shuffleboard, and Ms. Pac-Man games, a brick fireplace, retro photo booth, and a legit bar food menu with burgers, quesadillas, and even a couple of salads.
How to book: Walk-ins only, but you can get takeout food by calling 415-592-8169.

Kaiyō Rooftop
Photo by Anthony Parks & Emilio Salehi, courtesy of Kaiyō Rooftop

There is much to appreciate about Kaiyō’s second location atop the Hyatt Place Hotel. The most obvious one is clearly spelled out in the name. And as far as SF rooftops go, Kaiyō is up there with the best of the best. The tropical space is filled with lush greenery, amazing views (seriously, you can see Twin Peaks and the Bay Bridge), and while we love the restaurant space for a sit-down meal, the bar area is where it’s at, in part because it’s very pretty to look at—emerald green tiles, arches over the back bar, Japanese lantern lampshades—but also because of Nikkei-inspired cocktails (including several in large format), pisco sours, and an extensive list of Japanese sake and whisky. There’s also a wood panel roof above the bar area, which allows for plenty of built-in heaters—a key to any true SF rooftop enjoyment.

Available for Reservations
The Madrigal
Photo by Joseph Weaver, courtesy of The Madrigal

The Madrigal

Civic Center
$$$$

This cocktail den from Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (TrestleMamaVault Steakhouse) is right around the corner from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, SFJazz Center, Davies Symphony Hall, Opera House, and Herbst Theatre, which makes it a no-brainer for pre- and post-show drinks and dinner, but don’t wait to have tickets in hand as it’s well worth a trip all on its own. The spacious two-level bar is full of wood tones and plant life, an antique mirrored ceiling, and booths lining the 20-foot floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows. Those booths are where you want to sit if you’re in the mood to see and be seen. Upstairs, in the cozy mezzanine, is where you’ll sit if you want to see and be seen by your hot date. And this is actually a great date spot because, unlike most cocktail bars, you can actually reserve a table. And even if you end up not being impressed with the person you’re with, you’ll definitely be impressed by the cocktails, which are innovative and play with sweet and savory in a way that really works. Watch out: the Beauty Sleep (Meyer lemon vodka, passion fruit, jalapeño, sea salt) and the Dillinger Pour (gin, radish, pink peppercorn, lemon, soda) go down fast. We like the Fancy Pajamas (bourbon, nonino, spiced quince, black tea, lemon) for slower sipping. And yes, though this is very much a cocktail-forward establishment, there is also food for snacking or enjoying an entire meal (hi there, Liberty Duck Smashburger). And finally, one more important thing to know. The Madrigal has a “late”-night happy hour Tuesday–Saturday from 9 pm to close.
How to book: Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also reserve a table online.

Available for Reservations

Comstock

Chinatown
$$$$

At the curious intersection of Chinatown and North Beach, amid cheesy tourist traps and dental offices, there exists a soothing respite in Comstock, a reimagined, turn-of-the-century saloon with classic cocktails, affordable and creative beer-and-shot combos, good food, and live music with no cover. Our favorite place to sip is at the 20-foot-long mahogany bar from 1907 (be sure to take note of the—thankfully, no longer in use—urinal trough that runs beneath it), but there’s not a bad seat in the house. Stop by on Friday afternoons when the purchase of two cocktails gets you lunch on the house.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Li Po Cocktail Lounge
Photo by Daisy Barringer for Thrillist

Anthony Bourdain put this come-as-you-are dive bar on the map when he famously imbibed (perhaps one too many) of the infamous (and yes, we are using that word properly) Chinese Mai Tais in a San Francisco episode of his Travel Channel show TheLayover. But even before he brought widespread attention to this spot, those in the know headed through the red-lacquered double doors under the (somewhat recently restored) neon lantern sign for stiff drinks at the wraparound bar in the front and dice games in the back. Like, long before. As in: since 1937.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Dalva

Mission
$$$$

After a two-year pandemic closure, this beloved neighborhood bar reopened with a lighter, airier feel thanks to a bigger front window, glass door, lighter wood throughout, a blue-and-white tiled wall, and a vibrant orange mural overlooking the entire space. With the new look came new cocktails, like the Garibaldi Sunrise (Campari, tequila, fresh orange juice, “sangrita fluff,” and an orange wedge sprinkled with Tajin), as well as a couple of highballs, plus beer, cider, and vermouth on tap. Change is hard, but in this case, the Dalva folks got it right.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Trick Dog
Photo courtesy of Trick Dog

Trick Dog

Mission
$$$$

If there’s one bar in SF everyone will agree should be on a “Best Bars in SF” list, it’s Trick Dog. The printed drink menu changes every six months or so, with fun takes on an old letterpress broadside, a dog calendar, and an airline in-flight safety pamphlet, but the food menu stays pretty much the same, so you can consistently get your Trick Dog and Caesar fix (the Trick Dog is a hamburger that comes on a hot dog bun hence: Trick Dog). And for fans of Quick Dog, the kid-friendly, fast-casual operation serving hot dogs, nuggets, and (adult-friendly) bottled cocktails that popped up during the pandemic—it’s still there, and a new permanent location is in the works.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Elixir
Photo courtesy of Elixir

Elixir

Mission
$$$$

Go to Elixir for the history—it’s the second oldest continually operating saloon in SF (it’s been there since at least 1858) and has been through many iterations, including a merchant marine bar, a gay bar, and a “draft beer mecca.” Stay for the cocktails and conviviality—today, it’s a welcoming waterhole for all (they converted the stock room to a women’s bathroom in 1933) with a quality cocktail menu and an unparalleled selection of whiskey. Craving camaraderie? Elixir has a pub quiz on Tuesdays (get there early to get a seat), a weekly Cocktail Club where you can taste spirits and learn their story from master distillers and brand ambassadors, and a solid happy hour and industry night as well.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Aub Zam Zam

Upper Haight
$$$$

It’s a rite of passage for any booze-drinking human who would like to refer to themselves as a San Franciscan to enjoy a martini at Aub Zam Zam, a bar that was once known for its cantankerous (yet beloved) owner, Bruno Mooshei, who had very specific rules about bar etiquette and was not afraid to ask someone to leave who did not live up to his standards (a martini is made with gin, not vodka, for instance). Since his passing, things at the dimly lit watering hole with a Middle Eastern ambiance have mellowed out a little bit. Yes, you’ll still need to have cash, but you don’t need to have it immediately ready to place on the horseshoe-shaped bar, and you can certainly ask what the bartender recommends, though the only real answer is a dry martini made the way Bruno liked, which is the same way his father made them when the bar first opened in 1941.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Cold Drinks Bar
Photo by Patricia Chang, courtesy of Cold Drinks

Cold Drinks Bar

Chinatown
$$$$

This sort-of-hidden (in that it’s up an easy-to-miss staircase and there’s not a sign—just a gold door with a black bat) lounge on the second floor of China Live is pure swank and sophistication. From the high-end scotch cocktails to the sleek decor, the luxurious experience you’ll find at Cold Drinks feels out of place in San Francisco (that’s a compliment, we promise). If you’re not a fan of scotch, don’t fret; many of the cocktails use it in a way that may change your mind, but you can also order your spirit of choice from the full bar. If you’re a whiskey fan, consider ordering one of the flights, an excellent way to explore whiskies you may not have tried before.
How to book: Reservations are encouraged and are available online.

Available for Reservations

15 Romolo

North Beach
$$$$

Like the meaning of life or a pile of Legos, 15 Romolo can be whatever you need it to be, whether that’s a cozy spot for a first date, a place to go with out-of-town friends, or just a neighborhood bar that serves impressive handcrafted cocktails. The Pimm’s Cup is a must, as is feeding dollar bills to one of the best jukeboxes in SF and staying much longer than intended.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Moon Gate Lounge
Photo by Patricia Chang, courtesy of Moonlight

Moongate Lounge

Chinatown
$$$$

Right above Mister Jiu’s, the Michelin-starred, upscale Chinese restaurant from chef/owner Brandon Jew, is a former banquet hall transformed into a stylish salon with mid-century modern flair, a retro color palette that was modern at the time, cushioned seating, and moon gates throughout. The space is, dare we say it, sexy (at least for SF) and almost makes you wish you’d worn something other than sneakers and a puffy jacket, a thought that will likely dissipate as soon as you start sipping the Chinese lunar calendar-inspired cocktails and/or organic and natural wines available by the glass.
How to book: Book online.

Available for Reservations
Wildhawk
Photo courtesy of Wildhawk

Wildhawk

Mission
$$$$

Walking into Wildhawk is like being invited into the stylish sitting room of a fabulous friend with a flair for the dramatic. Think: vermouth-inspired cocktails, floral wallpaper, mid-century modern furniture, low lights, and lots of patterns and textures. While hanging out in a room that’s reminiscent of a living room may not sound like something you want to do after hanging out in your own so much over the past couple of years, this living room doesn’t have crumbs in the couch, and you don’t have to play mixologist since there are actual professionals who know what they’re doing.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Drinking in SF is always more fun when you’re getting your drinks from bartender extraordinaire Kevin Diedrich, which now you can do at Pacific Cocktail Haven (P.C.H.) and his second venture, Kona’s Street Market, a spacious street market-inspired lounge complete with booths, lanterns, and string lights. The drinks at this spot are inspired by places around the world (as well as some great puns) with options like Hard to Say Dubai (Wyoming Bourbon, apple brandy, montenegro, prickly pear, citrus, absinthe, bitters) and Iran So Far Away (Calvados, Gin, quince, celery-salted melon seed, pear, basil, bitters). Even better, while the drinks are on the complicated side, you don’t have to wait a long time to get them, thanks to a bar setup created specifically for speed.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Macondray

Russian Hill
$$$$

Polk Street’s been stepping up its game in recent years, and Macondray is definitely helping. Choose between the stylish, plant-filled indoor space and the perfect-for-Polk Street people-watching parklet, both excellent environments to enjoy very drinkable cocktails, like the Hell Yeah! (vodka, apple, cranberry, tarragon, lemon), which could also almost be your morning juice—you know, if you held the vodka—and a frozen Pina Colada, as well as its seafood-focused menu, with highlights like a Maine-Style Lobster Roll, crinkle-cut fries with malt vinegar powder, and Rock Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs.
How to order: Walk-ins only.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

The Snug

Pacific Heights
$$$$

Located on Fillmore Street, which was previously short on bars with exceptional cocktails, quality beer, and tasty fare, The Snug was an instant success when it opened a few years ago. It became even more popular during the pandemic thanks to a spacious and heated outdoor seating situation with huge booths, and those have remained a prime seating situation even as people also enjoy the bi-level indoor space with seating areas for every mood. Tuck into a Wagyu Double Smashburger or a Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich while sipping the kind of cocktails you’d expect to find in Pac Heights (prickly pear, nitro margarita, coconut daiquiri … you get it).
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Daisy Barringer is a freelance writer who has been going to the Balboa since she was six-year-old, and will always sing the bar and burger’s praises. Follow her on Instagram to see where else she’s drinking these days.