San Francisco may be known for its food—fresh seafood, hearty burritos, and don’t get us started on the bread—but the cocktail scene on the bar-front is starting to emerge. Sure, it may be a little late in the game considering the mixology trend’s success, but some enticing elixirs are giving nearby cities a run for their (craft cocktail) money. There’s no better time for locals and tourists to catch a buzz in more ways than one. From the new cocktail menu at Fifth Floor to the extensive gins at Mandarin Oriental’s Brasserie S&P, cocktails are destined to be just as prominent as the delicious bites in the Golden Gate City.
Brasserie S&P at Mandarin Oriental San Francisco
Following a massive renovation that included a brand-new spa and restaurant, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco is going through a renaissance, and visitors can start their stay with a drink at the new S&P Brasseries that opened last fall in the lobby. The signature restaurant by executive chef Adam Mali offers attention-worthy, brasserie-style, San Francisco cuisine, and the bar is garnering just as much attention. Mixologist Priscilla Young whipped up a comprehensive gin and tonic menu that showcases the spirit’s versatility and personality. There are 35 gins on offer, chosen based on flavor and aroma to highlight quality when combined with other ingredients.
Recommended Cocktail: Considering the gin concept, we suggest the gin & tonic tasting flight with St. George gin, Botanivore, Terroir, dry rye, and Sensei #1 tonic. $18
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There’s nothing fancy about the decor at the brand-new Wine Kitchen (opened last month) and that’s part of the charm. It’s very low key, understated, a cute date spot and basically your casual any night wine-fix. The vineyard themes (like wine-barrel art) make a bold statement, proving it’s all about wine here, with an eclectic range of hand-picked international wines, even on tap (it’s a thing). Wine enthusiasts can find a healthy stock of wines from nearby Napa and Sonoma and even San Luis Obispo to save them the drive. Accompanying bites like cheese and speck are also on offer.
Recommended Wine: Don’t be afraid of the wine on tap and go for the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Cultivar in Napa. $12
OneUP at Grand Hyatt San Francisco
After completing a $70 million top-to-bottom renovation, Grand Hyatt San Francisco is celebrating with the opening of its new restaurant, OneUP Restaurant & Lounge in its newly refurbished lobby on the second floor. While the restaurant may be quiet (though the American bistro fare by "Chef Adam" is worth tasting), the adjoining, modern-chic lounge embraces a lively atmosphere that feels like your neighborhood go-to spot. Hyatt is working with local distillery Charbay to offer its very own OneUP Whiskey in which the 22-month-old, 138-proof whiskey will be served in OneUP, custom-made flasks. The bar is packed with both locals and hotel guests alike, and with the bracketed plasma TVS, 12 high bar seats, 42 plush banquet seats, and live music, it’s a social scene like no other. Try a whiskey cocktail concocted by master mixologist Scott Beattie.
Recommended Cocktail: Downtown Manhattan with Templeton Rye, Evan William’s single Barrel Bourbon, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth. $13
Presidio is becoming an emerging hot spot thanks to the setting of its sublime park of the same name. A favorite dining spot for locals is Dixie, opened last year by chef Joseph Humphrey, who earned Michelin stars at Murray Circle at Cavallo Point and the restaurant at Meadowood in Napa. His new venture gives contemporary California cuisine a Southern touch (try the chicken fried quail or acorn grits). Considering the lack of notable neighborhood bars, most locals are making a beeline to Dixie for its extensive wine list and craft cocktails. A Florida native, Joseph has ensured the trademark Southern hospitality in the restaurant, and visitors can expect locally sourced ingredients and seasonality within the cocktails
Recommended Cocktail: Dixie Old Fashioned with smoked sugar cane syrup made on Joseph’s farm in Sopchoppy Florida, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Muddled Orange, Brandied Cherries, and Angostura Bitters. $12
Fifth Floor Restaurant & Lounge
Once you step out of the elevator and onto the (wait for it) fifth floor, you don’t walk straight into a roomful of nightlife revelers or bottle-slinging bartenders as you would expect in the stylish Palomar Hotel. In fact, Fifth Floor is more reserved and sophisticated with dark wood and lighting, some place a local celebrity would dart into for a night cap. The in-house mixologist Brian Means has only been at the Fifth Floor bar for a year and it took him that much time to craft an innovative cocktail menu he introduced just last month. The concoctions are intricate and delicious with fun names to boot (Speak No Evil, Riverboat Gambler, Cuban Missile Crisis) that effortlessly match the equally pleasurable drinks.
Recommended Cocktail: Spanish Maiden, Buddha Hand-infused Milagro, Tequila, Rose, Del Maguey Vida, Mescal, St. Germain Edlerflower, Habanero. $13
Jimmy Im is a freelance travel writer based in NYC. He’s hosted programs on the Travel Channel and LOGO, and makes regular appearances on morning news shows as a "travel expert." He teaches travel writing courses and is also cofounder of OutEscapes.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dieselmad.
: Photo Credits: Brasserie S&P at Mandarin Oriental San Francisco: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group; Wine Kitchen: Wine Kitchen Wine Kitchen; OneUP at Grand Hyatt San Francisco: OneUP Grand Hyatt San Francisco; Dixie: Dixie Restaurant Dixie Restaurant SF; Fifth Floor Restaurant & Lounge: Fifth Floor Fifth Floor Restaurant and Lounge