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SF bars/restaurants with rare libations

Where are some places in SF that serve hard-to-find and rare liquors/wines/etc?

Over the weekend I took a friend to Lark Creek Steakhouse and they have Macallan 30, which he commented that he'd never seen anywhere before. So that got me thinking, and I'd like to compile a list of places that serve hard-to-find libations for a blog post. So far I have:

Lark Creek Steak - Macallan 30
Ikkyu - Ume liqueur (not Ume wine)
O Izakaya - they have a rare cognac, I need to go back and get the name.
Bubble Lounge - they have some rare vintage champagnes
The bar at the Ritz Carlton has a few single malts from defunct distilleries.


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  1. Absinthe, probably Bourbon and Branch, definitely Rohan Lounge.

    7 Replies
    1. re: SteveG

      Steve - Absinthe definitely at Rose Pistola:

      Also, I'm sorry I don't remember the name, but I bought my BF some rare, Scotch at the Clift's Red Room (I'm not a Scotch fan, otherwise I would recall what it was...). I just remember that it was in the neighborhood of $80 a shot.

      1. re: Carrie 218

        SteveG would have been describing Absinthe on Hayes, the restaurant and bar, not the drink. ; )

      2. re: SteveG

        Oops--scratch Rohan. I meant Nihon, the place on 14th at Folsom, mentioned by kresge86 below. They'll let you buy a super duper special bottle and then keep it in your own locker, though that info comes from a while back and they may have either discontinued this or filled up their storage space.

        Also, as others have already mentioned, when I said "Absinthe" I meant the bar Absinthe, which has lots of great top shelf and rare liquors, though I don't recall them having a deep whiskey or bourbon selection.

        I guess Nihon just doesn't stick in my brain because it translates as Japan, and the food is so far from traditionally Japanese, though I guess the high end whiskey aspect of it is spot on.

        1. re: SteveG

          I'll second Nihon and add Alfred's for their great bartenders and extensive selection of fine whiskies.

          Alfred's Steak House
          659 Merchant St., San Francisco, CA 94111

          Nihon Whisky Lounge
          1779 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

          1. re: grishnackh

            Not rare, but for traditionalists, Alfred's makes a pretty mean martini also.

            1. re: grishnackh

              I will check out these places, thanks!

          1. Erik Adkins, bar manager at Slanted Door is always scouting rare and exotic ingredients to include in their cocktails.

              1. If you like single-malt scotch, then you have to try Nihon. Bourbon & Branch also had some interesting single-malts. Alembic has great cocktails, but I waited 30 minutes for a drink last night. Not the bartender's fault... but the place was crowded and there was only one bartender making very elaborate drinks.

                1. I second The Alembic - http://www.alembicbar.com/. I hear its where all the SF bartenders go. Try the Bee's Knees.

                  1. R Bar in the Tenderloin for Fernet. Actually you can find it more frequently now.... Fernet-Branca has a real following amongst some San Franciscans.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sugartoof

                      In SF, unlike most of the country, Fernet's not rare at all. As noted in that story, we consume locally about half of what's imported into the U.S.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Right, which is why I mentioned you can "find it more frequently now".
                        It's an exotic liquor that's been adopted by the city, more or less.

                    2. Voda a vodka bar with some lesser seen vodkas

                      1. Are there other places similar to Bourbon and Branch in SF?

                        5 Replies
                          1. re: Fig Newton

                            Similar in style and cocktails. I'm heading out to visit in a few weeks and I want to visit a few cocktail lounges while I'm there. =)

                            1. re: Syphrite

                              Not with the reservation/speakeasy thing, but bars with a similar focus on excellent cocktails are Alembic, Rye, Cantina.

                              If you include restaurant bars, I'd also consider Coco500, Orson (cool though $12 cocktails), NOPA, and Absinth.

                              1. re: Fig Newton

                                Fig Newton has some great suggestions - Alembic, Rye and Cantina are my three favorite places for a cocktail in the city!

                                1. re: Fig Newton

                                  Sweet thanks! Restaurant bars work for me too. While a cool vibe is great, I'm more interested in having a quality cocktail. $12 is pretty on par with what I've had here in the city. Though nothing beats the $18 price tag for an Old Cuban at Bemelman's in the Carlyle! :)