For more of the best places to drink, check out our other City Guides.
San Francisco may not stay up late — you’ll be hard-pressed to find decent food or lively faces out past 1 a.m. — but it sure knows how to drink in style. If it’s cocktails you’re after, the city appears to birth a new smart cocktail bar every month, and if you’re a wine drinker, welcome to natural wine heaven — your organic Gewürztraminer will be served on the dance floor. Beer lovers won’t be left hanging, either, as the city is dotted with boutique breweries. Above all, San Francisco, a city that is still getting its sea legs back after two years of variants and shutdowns, knows how to create a vibe.
Here Are 8 of the Best Places to Drink in San Francisco.
Where to go when you want to start off a big night out: Bar Part Time
Some places are just instant classics, and such is the case with Bar Part Time, which opened in the Mission in late 2021. Behind it are co-owners Dan Small, Justin Dolezal, and Jeremy Castillo, who have worked in some of San Francisco’s finest wine institutions before joining forces to open up a spot of their own. Between the checkered floors, the stylish patrons, the dazzling natural wine selection — offerings come from all over the globe, France to California, the Korean-themed snacks –– trust me, it just works. Rotating DJs keep things interesting, making Part Time part dance party, part wine club, and a whole lot of fun on any given night.
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Tip Jar: From Hi Felicia owner Imana: To avoid the trendy crowds, opt for a Tuesday or a Wednesday night.
Address: 496 14th St., San Francisco, Calif. 94103
Where to drink after a day at the beach: White Cap
You watched the sunset on Ocean Beach, a pretty chilly affair when local weather is concerned. You’re tired and content, and craving a drink. Luckily, the Outer Sunset — the neighborhood closest to the shoreline — is home to White Cap, a neighborhood bar that’s as cute as it is unpretentious. Located just a couple of streets from the beach, the bar is cozy and compact, with a great selection of classic and creative cocktails. While you choose between a Paloma, a Martini, or an aptly named Cruel Summer cocktail made with bourbon and amaro, summers in the neighborhood are foggy and cold, so you can enjoy the low-key atmosphere and make some new friends.
Address: 3608 Taraval St., San Francisco, Calif. 94116
Where to go with a mixed group : True Laurel
San Francisco has plenty of niche, single-focus establishments for every spirit you can think of. But when it’s time to go out with a mixed group with various tastes, a high-quality pleaser can be found in True Laurel, a trusted Mission institution. In addition to a fine list of sparkling, red, white, and orange wines, the menu offers a few choice California beers and ciders, a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails, and plenty of mixed drinks to choose from, based on anything from aquavit to carrot vodka.
Tip Jar: If anyone gets hungry, the food menu is outstanding — the patty melt is locally famous for a reason.
Address: 753 Alabama St., San Francisco, Calif. 94110
Where to celebrate a special occasion: Ernest
With its stunning multi-level space, clever menu (think fried avocado covered in roe and uni carbonara), and sophisticated vibe, Ernest, a recent addition to the Outer Mission, is perfect for a celebratory drink or two. Don’t sleep on the innovative wine list, which includes a sample of skin contact oranges from Italy and France, and try a cocktail — the Cheri Negroni, featuring preserved cherry leaves and Campari, is a standout. While you’re there, ignoring the food items — think umami-packed uni carbonara and the most decadent tater tots imaginable — will be a mistake.
Address: 1890 Bryant St. Suite 100, San Francisco, Calif. 94110
Where to go on a special date: Moongate Lounge
A special date needs to dazzle and intrigue, wow and inspire. All the above are easily achieved at Moongate Lounge, the bar above chef Brandon Jew’s award-winning restaurant, Mister Jiu’s. Semi-hidden in Chinatown, one of the city’s most magical neighborhoods, Moongate Lounge is gorgeous, with curious lighting fixtures, abstract sofas, and a balcony with city views — but not at the expense of its drinks menu. Here, you’ll find seasonal cocktails that shine with ingredients like ginger, pomelo, and pandan, and the bartenders are always ready to surprise you and your date with a new, on-the-spot creation.
Address: 28 Waverly Pl., Top Floor Above Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco, Calif. 94108
Where to drink beer with your dog: The Laughing Monk
Many breweries dot the city, but no one does it quite like the pet-friendly Laughing Monk. Located in Bayview away from the city’s busiest pockets, this industrial-looking space is a favorite among beer lovers who come here to sample pilsners, sours, and Belgian-style beers boasting tongue-in-cheek names like Hunky Jesus and Holy Ghost. The knowledgeable staff keeps things light, and the occasional trivia night or craft fair add to the relaxed atmosphere.
Address: 1439A/B Egbert Ave., San Francisco, Calif. 94124
Where to try something new: Bar Iris
Ever since opening next door to its big brother Restaurant Nisei in 2021, Bar Iris has been an intriguing spot that attracts visitors from way beyond its Russian Hill neighborhood. The cocktails here are focused on Japanese influences and are made with extreme precision and an eye for beauty. Chef/owner David Yoshimura and bar manager Ilya Romanov crafted an intricate drinks menu that features classic regional ingredients like Okinawa yam, yuzu and ume sake, matcha and blackberry mochi. Every creation is instantly Instagrammable, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that delicate bites such as Wagyu tartare and smoked eel and chips are also available.
Address: 2310 Polk St., San Francisco, Calif. 94109
Where to go to end a big night out: Vesuvio
There’s no arguing with the fact that North Beach is the city’s party central. This is where restaurants and bars stay open later, and the chances of running into a drunken parade of onesie-wearing celebrators — this is San Francisco, after all — are incredibly high. It’s fun to end a night here, and among the neighborhood’s endless watering holes, many consider Vesuvio, operating since 1948, to be a must. The drinks here are on the affordable side, the decor is a mix of history and decadence — past patrons had included Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan — and there’s always something abuzz, from a poetry night to live music.
Address: 255 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, Calif. 94133