Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
The Drink: Gin Fizz
The View: Ocean Beach + the craggy coast hugging Land’s End + the wild, blue Pacific
The Cliff House, in addition to being classy as all hell, is perched on a seriously badass location on the edge of a cliff on the lip of the Pacific Ocean/the end of the world. But seriously, the views from this spot are momentous, and include a wide swath of Ocean Beach on one side, and the surly ocean, crashing into sculptural, jagged rocks on the other. Because it’s been around for all kinds of decades (like, 10), and has an old-school feel to it, we like to drink a classic Gin Fizz here, which is basically a milkshake that has a lot of gin in it. Get popovers too, because they’re delicious.
The Drink: El Joven Picante
The View: The Upper Mission stretching into the Downtown skyline
San Francisco collectively bemoaned its lack of rooftop bars forliterallyever, then along came El Techo in 2013 -- one of the best rooftop bars in the whole wide world. In addition to stupid-good South American-cum-Mexican street food (and brunch!), they’ve got the requisite wind and cold-proofing materials, allowing us to enjoy this stunning, North-facing view of our fair city all year round (IN YOUR FACE, NEW YORK). All of the drinks here are tops, but we’re obsessed with El Joven Picante, a smoky-spicy-sweet blend of mezcal, honey, lime, and chipotle bitters. Enough that we'll be getting a pitcher(s) of it.
The Drink: The Moscone Mule
The View: South Beach + SOMA + the East Bay
The View is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss it city secrets that we’re delighted to have discovered. There, right in the middle of startup-shopping mall-convention center-land, way at the top of a hotel you’d never go to, is this bar with a ridiculously rad view and booze for you to drink! The cocktails ain’t cheap, but we’ve enjoyed taking in the stunning scenery over a Moscone Mule. It has a funny (punny!) name, and frankly, it’s hard to mess up the time-honored blend of vodka, ginger beer, and lime. They’ve got a special 25 year anniversary cocktail featuring San Francisco’s own Distillery No. 209 gin, too, if you’re feeling splurgy.
The Drink: A glass of Chablis or Sancerre
The View: The Bay Bridge + Treasure Island + the Bay (duh)
You come to Waterbar for two reasons -- to 1) eat oysters, 2) do so with the above view. Okay, okay -- the locally sourced, super-seasonal, seafood-centric food menu is delicious, too. But we’re all about the oysters (specifically during the daily $1 oyster happy hour!), particularly when we’ve snagged (snugged?) a seat outside and the sun is out. The cocktails are tasty, but we tend to go for a glass of something cold and white (go with whatever Chablis or Sancerre they have available by the glass) that'll pair just right with our dozens of raw, briny bivalves. Yeah, we think it’s super Hemingway of us, too.
The Drink: Beach Chalet House Brews Sampler Set
The View: Ocean Beach
Down the coast from the Cliff House, the Beach Chalet has a more laid-back vibe, and a panoramic view of Ocean Beach to match. In addition to three (!) daily happy hours, the Beach Chalet contains a microbrewery, with a selection of eight fresh-brewed beers. Unless we’re craving something specific, we tend to match our beer choice to the weather -- say, the Fleishhacker Stout for those occasional foggy days (ha, right) -- but there's a sampler set on offer should you want to try all of the offerings before committing (Editor's Note: try all the offerings before committing anyway).
The Drink: The Top of the Mark Martini
The View: The city skyline, the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge
If you like your stunning view with a side of martini, this is your booze-soaked huckleberry. In addition to having a hella classy mid-Century vibe, Top of the Mark boasts a “100 Martini Menu,” the best of which can be found on page 1. The namesake martini is a straight-up, straightforward blend of Ketel One, vermouth, and two olives -- shaken, not stirred, Mr. Bond. Don’t be afraid to show up in a tux. And, don’t be surprised if you see at least three proposals.
The Drink: Ginger Limeade
The View: The Bay Bridge + Treasure Island + ferry boats
You can’t have too many reasons to come to Slanted Door -- the longstanding Ferry Building institution from Charles Phan still puts out some of the very best Vietnamese-inspired fusion on the West Coast. Consistently excellent food aside, the view from Slanted Door’s floor-to-ceiling windows is The Best -- you get an up-close-and-personal view of Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, and the ferry boats coming and going from the Ferry Building Terminal. Enjoy 'em while sipping on the Ginger Limeade, a refreshing mix of ginger and lime mixed with locally produced Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka.
The Drink: Dark & Stormy
The View: Pier 39 + Coit Tower + sea lions + Alcatraz + Angel Island + The Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay (under it, too!)
Ahoy, matey, and welcome to Forbes Island, a floating houseboat/restaurant/the best reason to spend any time in Fisherman’s Wharf (other than the secret Tiki bar). Forbes Island is the kind of San Francisco oddity that almost feels too good to be true -- it’s a restaurant on a houseboat with an underwater wine cellar, a Tahiti Lounge for cocktails, and a lighthouse you can ascend, drink in hand, to take in a 360-degree view of San Francisco, the bridge, and the Bay. In true nautical form (you're on a boat, motherfucker!!), go for a rum-filled Dark & Stormy -- they’re nice and strong and will make you feel better about paying $75 for the required prix fixe dinner, aka price of admission.
The Drink: A bottle of local wine
The View: The Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay + Marin
Greens may have all of the San Francisco checklist things going for it -- it’s locally sourced, seasonal, and vegetarian -- but it’s delicious enough that we’ll quit whining about the lack of steak. And, oh right, it has one of the very best views in San Francisco. Tucked into Fort Mason, Greens’ massive windows look out over the sailboats housed in the Fort Mason Marina, all the way over the Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. As local deliciousness is the name of the game, go for a bottle of something from just over said bridge -- all of the choices are good, but we’re getting thirsty just thinking about the Sean Thackrey Andromeda Devil’s Gulch Ranch Pinot Noir from West Marin.
The Drink: Bloody Mary
The View: The San Francisco Shipyard + the East Bay
Hanging out in a shipyard and drinking sounds like a potentially dangerous combination, but at The Ramp, it’s nothing but a good idea. This no-frills waterfront restaurant is immediately next to the San Francisco shipyard, meaning the views are great (tankers!) and the crowd is better. We come here for brunch on sunny days, sip on the quality Bloody Marys, and dream of a life at sea. Should you stick around long enough (and down enough drinks), there’s usually a band and dancing later in the day. Just don’t try to operate the heavy machinery.
The Drink: Bottomless mimosas
The View: The San Francisco Shipyard + the East Bay
Right down the road from the Ramp, Mission Rock is a slightly more upscale option for shipyard views, with plenty of seating both in and outdoors for those chillier San Francisco days. (You know, in July.) This is also a good brunch move, especially if you're indulging in a few rounds of bottomless mimosas. They’ve got hella oysters, too, so your day is pretty much set at this point.
The Drink: The #24
The View: The pristine beauty of the Giants playing field at AT&T Park + the Bay
Remember the super-secret, members-only club behind the scoreboard in AT&T Park? Yeah, well, in addition to being awesomely badass and secret, it also features the best view ever of the field and, naturally, our own championship-winning superstars, the San Francisco Giants. Beautiful, right? Toast to their 2015 season with a #24, the Gotham Club’s version of an Old Fashioned, complete with a baseball-shaped ice cube. Oh yeah, you can see the Bay from here, too, but why are you looking at that when there’s a baseball field right in front of you?!
The Drink: Tipsy Rabbit
The View: Union Square from above + Downtown + Nob Hill
The intoxicating mix of Top 40 dance music, cougars, and strong, strong drinks is hard to resist (okay, sort of hard) -- then, throw in a stunning view of Union Square and its surroundings. Because there are drag show Sundays (!), you should be going for the hard stuff, and how -- you’ll be amazed how easily you’ll throw back the Tipsy Rabbit, a heady mix of tequila, grapefruit juice, Aperol, and Prosecco.