9 San Francisco Bars Where the Cocktails Are So Good, They've Won Awards
San Francisco has long been known as a hub for innovation and creativity. That same culture applies within the nightlife scene. Whether you prefer cocktails or craft beer, there is a seemingly endless number of innovative bars catering to all types. The following are a few highlights, all of which have received awards.
White Chapel (600 Polk St.)
White Chapel has been known as one of the premier places to go for gin by San Francisco locals for quite a while, but even Esquire magazine recognized this popular gin joint in a recent list of the best bars in America. If you love gin, White Chapel is a must, and both the Narc Angel and the Queen Mother are among the best drinks on the menu. whitechapelsf.com
Redwood Room (495 Geary St.)
The Redwood Room combines some the best cocktails in San Francisco with an upscale and trendy vibe that is perfect for anything from a date to a night out with friends. In addition to incredible artwork (including several Klimt reproductions), the "Redwood Room" is made out of an actual redwood tree. It's no surprise that 10Best named the Redwood Room the best hotel bar. If you decide to visit this bar, consider the Clift Painkiller, a new addition to the menu.
Buddha Lounge (901 Grant Ave.)
If you're looking for something a little less formal and upscale, the Buddha Lounge should be at the top of your list. Named one of the 33 best dives bars in America by Thrillist, the Buddha Lounge owes its authenticity to bartender Mark. There isn't a "must-have" drink here (although Mark will tell you to try the "Three Penis" Chinese Whiskey), but we do recommend that you play dice with Mark. If you win, he buys you a beer, but if he wins you have to buy him one.
Benjamin Cooper (398 Geary St.)
Benjamin Cooper has been the source of a great deal of buzz lately, and was named one of the best new bars in America in 2015 by Thrillist. This bar is ideal for cocktail connoisseurs who enjoy trying cutting-edge concoctions. Their list of cocktails changes weekly, so we recommend asking the bartender for a recommendation based on your personal preferences.
Victory Hall (360 Ritch St.)
Located in the middle of SOMA, Victory Hall is an excellent place for both cocktails and craft beer drinkers alike, and was named one of the 25 best bars hidden in San Francisco Alleyways by Thrillist. The industrial feel of this bar is different from many of the other bars in the area, and their menu is loaded with well-made bar food. If you make it to this industrial-style bar, be sure to try the Victory Mule. www.victoryhallsf.com
Anchor Distilling Company (1705 Mariposa St.)
There is something to be said for going straight to the source when you want the best. The Anchor Distilling Company is widely recognized as one of the best whiskey distilleries in the United States, winning the top spot in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge with the Chairman's Trophy. If you are fortunate enough to visit while the distillery tour is open (Thursdays and Fridays from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.) you'll see first-hand how they make their award-winning spirits. Since their selection is always evolving, be sure to speak with your guide for recommendations of the best whiskey spirit to try. www.anchordistilling.com
Smuggler's Cove (650 Gough St.)
Named the Best American Cocktail Bar at this year's Spirited Awards, Smuggler's Cove lives up to the hype. Don't be fooled by the pirate-themed interior -- Smuggler's Cove is as serious about their spirits as a smuggler is about their profits. As one of the premier destinations for rum and "exotic" cocktails, you really can't go wrong with anything on their menu. However, both the Lei Lani Volcano and the more traditional Mai Tai should be high on your list of cocktails to try.
Trick Dog (3010 20th St.)
If you want world-class cocktails and world-class service, Trick Dog is the place to go. Awarded the Best American Bar Team at the 2014 Spirited Awards (along with being finalists in several other categories), Trick Dog is one of the few bars where both the drinks and the staff are the superstars. The Americana-themed cocktails will likely make you smile, and we recommend I Like Ike for gin drinkers, and A Big Stick for those who prefer whiskey.
Forgery (1525 Mission St.)
Forgery was named one of the Best New American Cocktail Bars at the 10th Annual Spirited Awards, and their attention to detail is a large component of how they earned that distinction. This hip cocktail bar has exposed brick walls and a warm atmosphere that is perfect for happy hour or a night on the town. The El Vampiro is widely regarded as one of the best options on this award-winning menu, but we recommend you try one early in the night -- when you still have the faculties to fully appreciate its complexity and creativity.
This is just a small sampling of the many award-winning bars that you can try out in San Francisco. We encourage you to try these and more the next time you are indulging in some San Francisco nightlife.