Boozy slushies and canned rosé have their place—it's called summer. But when fall rolls around with its fuzzy sweaters and hearty fare, we want something a bit more refined—more grown-up, if you will—in our glass.
San Francisco bar veterans and mavericks alike are delivering with connoisseur-grade spirits, homemade bitters, dehydrated fruits, and favors that capture the essence of the season. Here are some of our favorites to sip right now.
Westwood's Classic House Old Fashioned
With more than 101 varieties of whiskey, a vivacious mechanical bull, and southern hospitality, Westwood's has shaken up the Marina. Their house old fashioned (bourbon or rye whiskey, a splash of simple syrup, cherry-walnut bitters, and a few droplets of water) is a love letter to the less-is-more mixology approach. Be prepared to make do with standing room. // 2036 Lombard St. (Marina), enterwestwood.com
Chef Claude Le Tohic's six-story French gastronomic wonderland houses a patisserie, boutique, a fine-dining restaurant, and more. Don't miss the fourth-floor bar, Elements, a kind of escape for the senses with black lounge furniture bathed in quasi-tangerine light. One the bar's signature cocktails, the Anjou (Bertoux, pineau de Charentes, St. George spiced pear, verjus, hazelnut), is perhaps one of the city's most experimental adult beverages; we love the slice of dehydrated pear, balanced on an oak twig, for garnish. // 165 O'Farrell St. (Union Square), one65sf.com
Nommo's La Iguana
Nommo's windowed nest atop Rincon Hill hints at the neighborhood's changing demographic—read: younger, techier, spendier. Soon to become an institution of fine drinking in the city thanks to bar icons Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole, Obsipo) and Jon Santer (Prizefighter), Nommo's La Iguana (mezcal, vermouth bianco, chili) is served in a chilled stem glass and is a perfect sipper while perusing one of the many coffee tables and magazines that fill the space. // 396 Harrison St. (SoMa), nommosf.com
At the much-anticipated new Thai restaurant from the chef/owner of Kin Khao, the cocktail program is helmed by former Whitechapel bar director Megan Daniel-Hoang. And trust us, the drinks shine as bright as the food. Signature cocktails are all named for women characters in Thai literature. The Benja (coconut-washed bourbon, salt, brûléed palm sugar, lime peel, and malt) is exceptional. // 1625 Post St. (Lower Pacific Heights), narisf.com
Elda's Locos Only
The Caribbean- and Latin-influenced Elda is a dive bar from pedigreed local talents: Eric Ochoa, Alvaro Rojas, and Jay De Natale, are veterans of cocktail institutions including P.C.H. Pacific Cocktail Haven, El Techo, and True Laurel. The Locos Only (apple brandy, lime, pineapple, coconut fat-washed chartreuse) is both a knockout and standout from their 10-item cocktail menu. Enjoy the unmistakably 70s vibes from the rounded bar. // 3198 16th St. (Mission), eldasf.com
Peacekeeper's Mums the Word
After going through a lofty (and somewhat lengthy) rebuild, Peacekeepers—which used to be a smoke-traced dive bar—is now, in our humble opinion, a contender for the best bar in Nob Hill. Did we mention it has a retractable roof? Their Mums the Word (tequila, all-spice, bianco vermouth, Montenegro, bitters) will leave you speechless...in the best way possible. // 925 Bush St. (Lower Nob Hill), peacekeepersf.com