Classy San Francisco drinks for nephew's 21st birthday
Before he hits the town with his age-appropriate friends I thought it best to introduce him to a proper and civilized cocktail. Where do we go? Not too stuffy but nowhere he would stumble upon (into?) on his own.
Bourbon & Branch, Smuggler's Cove, or Bar Agricole.
Also, the Sidecar at Bix is legendary and definitely civilized!
Ok, you have to focus on the classics. B&B, SC, BA --- they're too far "down the line". He'll get there in a few years.
The classics of interest are the gin martini, and the manhattan, and to a lesser extent the sidecar and old fashioned.
What you really want is a place you can walk up to the bar and say, "hey, I'd like to introduce my nephew, he's just turned 21, and I want to introduce him to cocktails. Can you take us few a few drinks?"
To me, this says The Fairmont, the Ritz, the Mark Hopkins at about 2pm on a weekday.
If I were that bartender, I'd line up something like a "tasting shot" of every major liquor (not even a real shot, just like a strawfull) - the top 4 gins, the top 2 vodkas, an example of each scotch family, 2 bourbons .... then pick a few classic drinks and mix them each way - again, in taster form. At home, I now make the "espresso shot" drink, with just a splash of everything, in my insulated Bodum espresso shot glasses (where they stay cool).
That's the kind of education _I_ would have liked.
Failing that, you should go somewhere where you'll get some special attention. That'll make the experience, even if it's just an introduction to the bartender and a little extra TLC in the drink prep.
I know this is not the "it" restaurant in SF but BIX bar is very "classy" and it's not a place you can stumble into -- perhaps out of though...