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Jul 10, 2012 07:15 PM

Recs for a great bar in SF for 21st birthday?

Soo, I'm turning 21 this Monday, and I want to look for a great bar for my first "real" drink.

I'm NOT looking to get hammered! What I'm looking for is a bar that produces great cocktails and has a diverse selection of beer (BF is a big IPA fan). I was hoping to find a place that makes a good Old Fashioned or Negroni, since I wanted to have something classic first.

So far, I was thinking Blackbird or Social Kitchen & Brewery.

Since I'm obviously not a barhopper, I'm hoping you knowledgeable Bay Area chowhounds can help me celebrate my birthday in style. :)

Also, quick question: how much do you tip for a drink?

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  1. Just to get you started, for your first legal drink, hit 21st Amendment on 2nd Street.

    1. too bad the original Persian aub ZamZam is gone (yeah there's still one and the owners try to keep it right, but no Bruno...)

      tipping -at the bar and self-serve about 10% (it varies as a simple beer pour doesn't rate what a complex cocktail does), table service closer to 15% or more if inclined.

        1. re: goldangl95

          ack! no! do you want to turn her off bars forever?? brrrrrrr.... icky!

          i'm sorry, i have a personal aversion to packed-to-the-gills, financial district frat boy-type bars... : )

          1. re: mariacarmen

            Huh. I've never really thought of Rickhouse that way at all. I always viewed it as the Bourbon & Branch alternative with no reservations needed. Maybe wanna be hipsters who are financial types by day would be the worst I could call the crowd....when I think fratboys I think the Marina....(though I think this depends on the night)

            Another option would be Alembic. If you don't want frou frou, I used to like the vibe at Bloodhound, but it's gotten a little too crowded/hip for cocktails that are not half as good as Rickhouse

            1. re: goldangl95

              i too equate fratboys with the marina - it's a fine line for me at Richouse. I've never been to B&B (i don't go to "nicer" bars that are exclusively bars (i.e., not also restaurants) very often). I've just found it loud and obnoxious in there. just my $.2!

              1. re: goldangl95

                Haha, I did consider Rickhouse actually, but ultimately decided to try it for another special occasion sometime. I'm adding Alembic to my list though, thanks!

              2. re: mariacarmen

                Hahaha! I honestly would try to avoid those type of places too, but I do want to try Rickhouse someday.

            2. We took our son to Cantina and Heaven's Dog for his 21st. Sat at the bar and let them know what was up. He was treated royally and had a great first legal experience. Likewise took our daughter to Cantina where Duggan the owner and the bartender competed to please her palate. She's still talking about it.
              My advice would be to go early so you can have a conversation with the person behind the bar. They will vie to make your first experience memorable!

              1 Reply
              1. re: zenon5

                Cantina sounds great! Thanks for the advice, I'll have to adjust a few things to go early. It'd be a Monday night though, my thought was that bars wouldn't be as packed. But what do I know? Haha, thank you!

              2. i'm trying to think of suitable bars but since i usually go to slightly divier places that don't specialize in stylish, classic cocktails, i'm coming up blank, but i like Zenon5's suggestion of Heaven's Dog... and along those lines i might go to Wo Hing General Store as they do coctails well there... any nice restaurant with a decent-sized bar will do you well. i've heard very good things about Gitane and it's bar, but i've not yet been.

                as for tipping, if you want to become a regular, if you want the bartender to remember you, and to want to take care of you, overtip. we typically tip $4.00 on a $13-16 round - sitting at the bar. you're not going out to get wasted, as you said, so how much will you end up spending? tipping well will always serve you well.

                6 Replies
                1. re: mariacarmen

                  I love Gitane's drinks (not so much the food - very salty) especially the drink with saffron. The best thing about their cocktails is that it's more on the refreshing side than sweet. From there you can head on to 15 romolo, more divey, or comstock saloon. Comstock does excellent negroni and sazerac, I've never ordered an old fashioned there. Unfortunately, I don't think any of these places is great for beer. If beer is important, I would go to alembic, they have some beer there, and then walk a few blocks to magnolia for more beer (or better yet, take a bus/walk to toronado?).

                  1. re: mariacarmen

                    Also, if you choose Gitane/Comstock/15 Romolo, you can stop by Rickhouse. This will give you an amazing selection of romantic-girly-date worthy/great cocktail "old school" pub/slightly divey/packed to the gills frat boy atmosphere.

                    Have a happy birthday!

                    1. re: chocomel

                      Actually that's a wonderful idea! My friends would definitely enjoy it too. Thanks! :D

                      1. re: chocomel

                        Oh dear. Just to clarify, I really do have to emphasize that there is no way that Rickhouse would be confused with your typical frat boy bar in a college town - at all. The cocktails are as good as Bourbon and Branch, they have great beers on tap.

                        It does, because of its location, get investor bankers in there at certain times of the day. And they are who they are. It does get packed and loud on Fridays from say 6 pm to 10 pm. But it's not the bro-y pick-up scene that "packed to the gills frat boy atmosphere" implies.

                        Also there's music on Mondays!

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          different strokes, goldang, different strokes! it really has the feeling for me! but to others it might not.

                      2. re: mariacarmen

                        Gitane, Heaven's Dog... I'll definitely add those to my list.

                        I figured that a mixed drink at a nicer bar would be about $12-14. Since it's a special occasion, I'm expecting to splurge a bit, and probably get two drinks max. Maybe more, if I end up really enjoying the drinks and atmosphere. Thanks, I'll definitely try to overtip when I can.