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Esquire Picks Two of SF's Bars as the Best in the US

According to its June “Bible of Drinking,” today is the last day of Esquire.com’s Drinking Week. It’s a stylish package of articles, ranging from Monday’s annual list of the Best Bars in America 2009 , which includes Tommy's and Alembic (trend watch: dive bars in, classy bars out), to today's “How Not to Become a Drunk.” Overall, it’s much more a guide to the act of drinking alcohol than a celebration of particular8  drinks themselves.

About those best bars. First of all, Esquire makes a new list every year. So, there's no sort of "reigning" best bar. In 2006, Vesuvio and Zeitgeist were among the best bars, 2007 had Bourbon and Branch, and 2008 had the bumper crop of the 21 Club, Tosca Cafe, Cantina and Toronado. I like the fact that the list looks both high and low for both dives and class acts, but there are certainly better dive bars than the 21 Club--the Broken Record, Li Po, Ha-Ra perhaps? Cocktail-wise, I'd love to see the Clock Bar or Rye in there. And what about bars in restaurants? Nopa, Range, the Slanted Door and Heaven's Dog are all some of the best cocktail programs in the city.

Otherwise, there’s some delightful short pieces in the Esquire package. An article titled "Why Guinness is the Right Way to Start Drinking"—because “I can close my eyes and know exactly where I am and exactly where I'll be”—is evocative and metaphysical. Another short piece, “The Escalating Scale of Drunkenness, Explained” is quite good, an investigation of why three drinks is better than two. And I liked reminiscences like “In Praise of the Weekday Afternoon Lost to Drinking,” especially as it takes place at the Cedar Door in my hometown of Austin, TX and despite the fact that it fails to mention that bar’s most notorious drink, the Mexican Martini.

But there’s some fluff too. Tom Chiarella’s “Lessons for a Young Drinker” is a rather vapid and patronizing piece in the time-honored tradition of men’s magazines, containing such nuggets as “ drinking is pretty damned fun” and  “walk into a bar as if you've been there before.” And the featurette, “16 Famous People Who Seem Like They've Been Drinking”—including Manny Ramirez and Pope Benedict XVI—is obvious filler.

But, no matter. Drinking is much less healthy if you're not having fun. Besides, it’s Friday. And as Esquire might suggest—a good day to get your drink on.