The 15 Most Picturesque Places to Drink in SF

The View Lounge
Courtesy of The View Lounge at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis
Courtesy of The View Lounge at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis

It’s a fact: the only thing better than a good drink is a good drink with a freaking amazing view. Fortunately, San Francisco is a city lousy with both, from beer flights and striking ocean panoramas, to strong-ass martinis and ridiculous, top-of-the-hill city vistas. Here are our 15 favorite spots, plus the must-order drink at each. (PS: every single one of these doubles a good date idea. You're welcome.)

the cliff house

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">The Cliff House</a></h2>

<em>Outer Richmond</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> Gin Fizz<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> Ocean Beach + the craggy coast hugging Land’s End + the wild, blue Pacific<br />
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.

Eric Wolfinger

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">El Techo de Lolinda</a></h2>

<em>The Mission</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> El Joven Picante<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The Upper Mission stretching into the Downtown skyline<br />
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.

Courtesy of The View Lounge

<h2><a href="; target="_blank">The View</a></h2>

<em>SOMA </em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> The Moscone Mule<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> South Beach + SOMA + the East Bay<br />
The View is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss it city secrets that <a href="…; target="_blank">we’re delighted to have discovered</a>. 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.


<em>Embarcadero </em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> A glass of Chablis or Sancerre<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The Bay Bridge + Treasure Island + the Bay (duh)<br />
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&nbsp;<a href="…; target="_blank">the daily $1 oyster happy hour</a>!), 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)&nbsp;that'll pair just right with our dozens of raw, briny bivalves. Yeah, we think it’s super Hemingway of us, too.

The Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant
The Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">Beach Chalet</a></h2>

<em>Outer Sunset</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> Beach Chalet House Brews Sampler Set<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> Ocean Beach<br />
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 (<em>Editor's Note: try all the offerings before committing anyway</em>).

top of the mark
Flickr/Meg Lauber

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">Top of the Mark</a></h2>

<em>Nob Hill</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> The Top of the Mark Martini<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The city skyline, the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge<br />
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 Slanted Door
The Slanted Door

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">The Slanted Door</a></h2>

<em>Embarcadero </em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> Ginger Limeade<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The Bay Bridge + Treasure Island + ferry boats<br />
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.

Forbes Island
Forbes Island

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">Forbes Island</a></h2>

<em>Fisherman’s Wharf</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> Dark &amp; Stormy<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> Pier 39 + Coit Tower + sea lions + Alcatraz + Angel Island + The Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay (under it, too!)<br />
Ahoy, matey, and welcome to Forbes Island, a floating houseboat/restaurant/the best reason to spend any time in Fisherman’s Wharf (<a href="…; target="_blank">other than the secret Tiki bar</a>). 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 &amp; 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.

Greens Restaurant
Greens Restaurant

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">Greens Restaurant</a></h2>

<em>Fort Mason</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> A bottle of local wine<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay + Marin<br />
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 Ramp Restaurant
The Ramp Restaurant

<em>Mission Bay</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> Bloody Mary<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The San Francisco Shipyard + the East Bay<br />
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.

Mission Rock Resort
Mission Rock Resort

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">Mission Rock Resort</a></h2>

<em>Mission Bay</em><br />
<strong>The Drink:</strong> Bottomless mimosas<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The San Francisco Shipyard + the East Bay<br />
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 Gotham Club
The Gotham Club

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">The Gotham Club</a></h2>

<em>SOMA</em><br />
<strong>The Drink: </strong>The #24<br />
<strong>The View:</strong> The pristine beauty of the Giants playing field at AT&amp;T Park + the Bay<br />
Remember the super-secret, <a href="…; target="_blank">members-only club behind the scoreboard in AT&amp;T Park</a>? 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?!

Starlight Room
Starlight Room

<h2><a href="…; target="_blank">The Starlight Room</a></h2>

<em>Union Square</em><br />
<strong>The Drink: </strong>Tipsy Rabbit<br />
<strong>The View</strong>: Union Square from above + Downtown + Nob Hill<br />
The intoxicating mix of Top 40 dance music, cougars, and strong, strong drinks is hard to resist (okay, <em>sort of</em> 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.

delores park
Flickr/Sam Ejnes

The Mission
The Drink: Tall boy in a brown paper bag
The View: The hilly skyline of Downtown to Nob Hill
The never-ending construction in Dolores Park has been kind of a huge bummer, except for the fact that it’s forced us to drag our lazy asses to greener pastures -- specifically, the massive hill on the South side of the park. In addition to allowing us the same pleasures of the more easily accessible Dolores Park flats (hey, cold beer cold water guy!), this spot has one hell of a view of Downtown -- all the better with a cold one comfortably wrapped in a paper bag. We don’t care if its Tecate or PBR, but if it’s anything fancier, you should probably be at the Marina Green.

sf bay ferry
Flickr/Jack Snell

The Bay
The Drink: Bottle of Lagunitas beer
The View: The whole gorgeous San Francisco skyline + the Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay Bridge + every island ever + Marin + really, just, everything
Like views? Got a Clipper card? Then meet your new favorite drinking destination: the Ferry. That’s right, those Ferry boats going between Marin, the East Bay, and San Francisco have unbeatable views, and have beer for sale on board. “But wait,” you’re thinking. “That’s way expensive, and those boats are filled with tourists!” Aha, young grasshopper, here’s where you’re only half wrong. That trusty Clipper card of yours ensures that your fare is about half as expensive as those unsuspecting tourists (these boats are for commuting too, after all). They’ve got bottles of Lagunitas for sale, so grab a couple, score a seat outside, and take your own little booze cruise of the Bay. You do have to get off when you reach the other side, which is why you got an extra beer to drink while you wait in line for the ferry ride back home.

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Lauren Sloss is a San Francisco-based writer who's found that drinking with good views renders tomorrow's hangover obsolete. Call her out on this blatant falsehood @laurensloss.