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high end cocktail bars in SF

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Haven't been to SF for a few years, so I'm not sure of the state of cocktail bars there. What are some very high end cocktail bars here? The kind with a good mix of really classic cocktails and contemporary innovations using named liquors. The bartenders are very knowledgeable and can tell you the difference between a daisy, a fizz, and a flip. Equivalents in other cities are Varnish in LA, Violet Hour in Chicago, and PDT in NYC. I am aware of Bourbon and Branch and Smuggler's Cove, what else is there?

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Smuggler's Cove
650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102

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  1. My favorites (note that most will be packed on the weekends - best to try early in the week)

    Rickhouse
    15 Romolo
    Heaven's Dog
    Rye
    Delarosa
    Bloodhound
    Beretta

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    15 Romolo
    15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

    Heaven's Dog
    1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

    Rickhouse Bar
    246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

    Delarosa
    2175 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

    1. When i think of high end, and the art of the cocktail, I think of the bar/lounge at Four Seasons Hotel.

      1. Everything mentioned so far (other than Heaven's Dog, which I feel is also overrated), but definitely consider the Alembic.

        One that doesn't get a lot of mention here but I feel is very underrated is Bissap Baobab in the Mission. The cocktails are more traditional than innovative (to the cuisine), but lots of cool ginger and hibiscus infused drinks. Aziza also does similar things.

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        Bissap Baobab
        2323 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Heaven's Dog
        1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

        2 Replies
        1. re: vulber

          I think Rickhouse is overrated. It's always too crowded, and not generally with the kinds of crowds I'd like to be tippling with.

          I went to Rye recently, and thought it was thoroughly underwhelming. The Perfect Rye Manhattan, presumably one of their namesake drinks, was great, but the ambience and general experience was not up to par.

          Bourbon & Branch is awesome, but only if you book a table. While you can get in to the Library with a pretty standard password, it's always too much of a scene to be dropping $15 on a cocktail that took 20 minutes to get. Table service in the main room, while deliberate, is great. Tasty drinks in both classic and unusual combinations.

          I would also recommend Alembic. That place is wonderful.

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          Bourbon & Branch
          501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA

          Rickhouse Bar
          246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

          1. re: mightylittle

            i second alembic. their drinks are fantastic.

            some of the newer restaurants have great cocktail bars too. RN74 is good. prospect is good. the bar at alexander steakhouse is good too.

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            RN74
            301 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

        2. A number of restaurants also do a good job, such as NoPa and Serpentine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SteveG

            Oh yes, I second Serpentine. I'll also add Absinthe restaurant.

          2. At most of the places below, the bartenders would be able to tell you the difference if they had the time, but they won't if you're showing up on a weekend night or any time after 4 p.m. at bars near the financial district.

            Alembic is probably best in class for cocktail snobs. I mean aficianados. I mean me.

            15 Romolo and Rye are owned by the same folks and share staff--I think the prices are slightly lower at Romolo.

            Rickhouse has a bible-like menu, including pages dedicated to flips and fizzes; it's near the Financial District and gets insane after work, but stop in at a weird time (weekend afternoon or evening) and you can get a fine drink .

            Blackbird on Church/Market hasn't made anyone's lists yet, but I've had great drinks there, especially off of the specials menu.

            As many mentioned, many of our restaurants have innovate and excellent cocktail menus--I like Nopa's cocktails much more than the food, and recently had great drinks and fine pizza at Zero Zero.

            I've been to Smuggler's Cove a couple of times, and while I like it OK, I couldn't class it anywhere near Alembic, or close to the others. If you're really into rum, though, that may be a great place.

            Also of note if you wander farther afield: last month we went on a cocktail crawl through the East Bay, and the drinks were magnificent at Sidebar, Camino and Boot & Shoe Service (also Pizzaiolo).

            Good luck!

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            Pizzaiolo
            5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            Nopa
            560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

            15 Romolo
            15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Rickhouse Bar
            246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

            Smuggler's Cove
            650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102

            Zero Zero
            826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

            1. The bar at Quince is pretty high-end, and utterly enjoyable to sit and have a drink or two at.
              They do their martinis stirred not shaken, which I really got a kick out of.
              Very friendly staff too.

              1. I'll add Bar Agricole. They also have really good food.

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                Bar Agricole
                355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1. Definitely La Folie Lounge based on your description. I would also add the Presido Social club for classic cocktails.

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                  La Folie
                  2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Dinnersf

                    La Folie's new cocktail menu seems very classic; places like PDT have a lot more innovation. Not saying La Folie's lounge might not be great....

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                    La Folie
                    2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                  2. Comstock Saloon in North Beach. Self-described as "vintage". Those tending bar in the evening seem to know their business.

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                    Comstock Saloon
                    155 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133