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Scotch-savvy bars and bartenders?

carbonara Aug 9, 2011 06:39 PM

What bars in this city have the most extensive Scotch selections (and bartenders with the knowledge to give good recommendations)?

So far, from Chowhound, it seems the bar at Alfred's Steakhouse, Whiskey Thieves, and the clubhouse at Gleneagles Golf Course are leading contenders. I've been to Bourbon and Branch a few times, but have gotten a little irritated at its self-serious attitude; that said, if it's the best option, I'll keep going back. What I really miss is the Brandy Library in New York, where expert bartenders led me from my first neat glass of Scotch to my ever-deepening love of peat--I think I've received 90% of my Scotch education there.

ETA: Thinking further, I'm remembering that part of what I love about the Brandy Library is the way they let you taste a Scotch before committing to a pour. So if that's an attribute of any Scotch-heavy bars here, that would be great.

Whiskey Thieves
839 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

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  1. Windy RE: carbonara Aug 9, 2011 07:21 PM

    Have you been to Edinburgh Castle? Far from high end, but the real deal.

    Edinburgh Castle
    950 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

    2 Replies
    1. re: Windy
      The Librarian RE: Windy Aug 9, 2011 08:38 PM

      +1. I still have fond memories of a perfect afternoon we spent there about 30 years ago. They even sent "the boy" (who was probably in his 60s) around the corner for fish and chips. Excellent and educated selection. Try The Glendronach!

      1. re: Windy
        osho RE: Windy Aug 10, 2011 02:26 PM

        Second Edinburgh Castle.

        Also Swig can be good before the crowds come swarming in. They have an excellent collection.

        Next comes .....Lulu ! They also have a good selection and seek out the English bartender from Ealing. She knows her scotch.

        Edinburgh Castle
        950 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

      2. pamf RE: carbonara Aug 9, 2011 07:29 PM

        The Alembic on Haight Street has a selection, maybe not the largest. Bartenders are knowledgeable and the overall feel of the place is pretty relaxed. I don't know about their sampling policy.

        1. d
          DavidT RE: carbonara Aug 10, 2011 08:36 AM

          You could stop by the Rickhouse on Kearny Street (SF) and see what they have on offer. My guess is they have a wider selection of American whiskies than Scotch, but they may have some single-malts that interest you.

          K&L Wines (on 4th Street, SF) has recently announced they are expanding the selection of single-malts in their inventory. Pick up their current newsletter. They will be importing single-malts from several distilleries that have not been available before in the U.S.

          Rickhouse Bar
          246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

          1. c
            chuckl RE: carbonara Aug 10, 2011 10:35 AM

            Check out the broken record on geneva. Very nice selection of scotch and bourbon in a laid back dive bar

            3 Replies
            1. re: chuckl
              osho RE: chuckl Aug 10, 2011 05:14 PM

              Love the Broken Record. How I wish it was somewhere near a major transit line. Absolutely love the burger too.

              Broken Record
              1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA

              1. re: osho
                Robert Lauriston RE: osho Aug 12, 2011 09:12 PM

                It's 7-8 blocks from Balboa Park BART.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  osho RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 12, 2011 10:31 PM

                  Funny. It is at least a mile away from Balboa Park BART.

            2. m
              ML8000 RE: carbonara Aug 10, 2011 12:35 PM

              I've only walked by never been inside but Nihon Whiskey Lounge is suppose to have 400 single malt whiskeys. Have no idea of the bartenders...free samples, etc.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ML8000
                Windy RE: ML8000 Aug 10, 2011 12:52 PM

                It's a cozy place, but vibe definitely depends on who's there. Not cheap, but they do have happy hour. (Same owners as Tsunami and Cafe Abir.)

                1. re: Windy
                  osho RE: Windy Aug 10, 2011 02:23 PM

                  Nihon has knowledgeable people at times. The bottle service - you can buy a bottle and they store it in a locker for you. But the mark up is quite insane. A bottle of 12 YO Glenfiddich is $190 or thereabouts.

                  No discounts on scotch or beer during Happy Hour.

                  1. re: osho
                    DavidT RE: osho Aug 10, 2011 02:38 PM


                    Near 14th & Folsom

              2. carbonara RE: carbonara Aug 12, 2011 11:24 AM

                Great, thanks--going to try these. A friend also tells me that Elixir has a good Scotch selection.

                1 Reply
                1. re: carbonara
                  Windy RE: carbonara Aug 12, 2011 11:25 AM

                  They do, but it's a much better bar on a weeknight, or after the last BART train leaves.

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