Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That's why each week Stuart Schuffman will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, giving you the lowdown on how and where to do your weeknight right. From the most creative cocktails to the best happy hours, Stuart's taking you along on his weeknight adventures into the heart of the City's nightlife. So, who wants a drink?
1. Bad Santa's Christmas Industry Party: The folks at Tacolicious' sister tequila bar Mosto are hosting a Monday-night holiday bash for folks in the restaurant and bar industry, but everyone is invited. Good thing, because they're offering $7 St. George Spirits and Del Maguey mezcal cocktails like the Elf Offender (bourbon, mezcal, Aztec bitters, agave), the Vixen (gin, mezcal, grilled pineapple, mint, agave, lime, Jarritos tamarindo soda), and Saint Rompope (a Mexican eggnog with rum, bourbon, mezcal, and other fixings). They'll also have a raffle, and holiday-themed costumes are encouraged. (Monday, December 17, 6:30-11 pm, at Mosto, 741 Valencia St., Mission.)
1. Skrewcap Tastings at Nectar: If you're a fan of bubbles, Pamela Busch of Skrewcap is doing a pair of sparkling wine-centric tastings at Nectar Wine Lounge in the Marina. The first, this Saturday, is a "Bubbles on a Budget" tasting, featuring outstanding and well-priced sparkling wine from around the globe. Next Saturday, she'll shift the focus to authentic Champagne, complemented with bubbles from California-based Schramsberg. Admission to the first tasting is $20; the second is $30. Those interested in getting the party started early should swing by Nectar for their new Saturday brunch, featuring fresh-pressed juices and mimosas from Thrive Juicery.
1. OneUp Restaurant & Lounge Opens: The renovated Grand Hyatt hotel just outside of Union Square has added a new restaurant and bar, and they've called in the big guns, with Cass Calder Smith designing the space and Scott Beattie consulting on the bar menu. Cocktails ($13) include the Downtown Manhattan, which combines Templeton rye with Evan Williams single-barrel bourbon and Carpano Antica, and the Millionaire, a combination of rum, sloe gin, and apricot liqueur. Whiskey fans also shouldn't miss the bar's custom, 138-proof whiskey from Napa Valley-based Charbay, aged for 22 months in Chardonnay barrels and served in a flask. If you're peckish, bar bites include a lamb burger and duck-fat potato wedges. (Daily, 11 am-1 am, 345 Stockton St., Union Square.)
1. Gitane's New Bar Menu: Changes are afoot at the Financial District's Gitane, which is transforming its menu into a seasonal rotation through different Spanish cuisines (including those of Seville, Andalusia, and Valencia) with the help of new chef Patrick Kelly, who's joining wife Bridget Batson in the kitchen. There are also big changes at the bar, including an updated beer program with options like Linden Street amber ale and Scrimshaw pilsner, and sherry-centric cocktails ($12) like the Smoking Lady (vodka, amontillado sherry, Laphroaig, honey, lemon, sage) and the Doblon (Yamazaki single malt, fino sherry, lemon, honey syrup).
1. Independent Spirits Expo: SF's annual celebration of craft distillers is back for another round tonight, with plenty of small-batch rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila, mezcal, cognac, and liqueurs for drinkers to sample. You'll also be able to chat with distillers and brand representatives, enjoy custom cocktails, and compare spirits side-by-side. Tickets are $60 for the general public and $85 for VIPs (who get in 30 minutes before everyone else), and if you use code MURRAYAID when you register, you'll get $10 off your ticket and send a $10 donation to legendary Seattle bartender Murray Stenson, who's battling heart problems.
1. CUESA's Election Hangover: Whether you're celebrating Obama's second term or mourning Romney's loss, a few drinks are probably in order, which is why CUESA is wrapping up election season with their final cocktail party of the year. Bartenders from Rye, Churchill, Azucar Lounge, Tradition, Rickhouse, The New Easy, Jasper's, Dobbs Ferry, Bocazote, and Acme Bar and Co. will whip up cocktail samples featuring the best of fall produce, while Karlsson's Gold vodka will provide two full-size drinks. They'll have bites from Dobbs Ferry and the Clift Hotel as well. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased here.
1. Election Night Cocktails at Blackbird and Solstice Lounge: After you vote on Tuesday, a pair of local bars are happy to reward you for your commitment to doing your duty as a citizen. First up on the list is Blackbird in the Castro, who'll be hosting St. George Spirits for free tastings of their Botanivore and Terroir gins. They'll also be offering two specialty cocktails featuring the gins for $6: the white Negroni (gin, Amaro Montenegro, vermouth, prosecco) and the Poached Pear (gin, lemon, honey syrup, Lambrusco). Simultaneously, St. George will be sponsoring a cocktail competition at Solstice Lounge, with bartenders competing to make the best Terroir gin cocktail as chosen by attendees.
1. StrEat Brew Opens: As promised, the capacious SOMA StrEat Food Park has finally added its first booze-centric trailer, offering a selection of local beer and wine to pair with the grub available from its rotating ten-truck lineup. The selection varies regularly, but always includes local craft favorites like Trumer Pils, Racer 5, Anchor Steam, and Speakeasy Prohibition Ale ($5/pint, $13/pitcher); a selection of bottles and cans, like Great White and Big Daddy, are $4. Happy hour, from 5-7 each day, features $2 PBR tallboys and $4 sangria in flavors like orange-ginger and strawberry-watermelon (regularly $6/glass, $24/pitcher). Check in on their Facebook page to receive $1 off your first drink.
1. Soda Popinski's Opens: The latest addition to the bar family behind Bullitt, Tonic, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, and Lightning Tavern, Soda Popinski's is named for a character in the vintage Mike Tyson's Punch-Out Nintendo game. The former Gold Star Bar space has traded its schoolhouse vibe for a clubby hunting-lodge interior, which is countered by a 60-inch flatscreen in the back devoted entirely to vintage Nintendo games (it's free to play). The bar features Fernet, Bulleit bourbon, and Fireball cinnamon liqueur on tap, and there are a few specialty cocktails, including a Moscow Mule and a "Vodka Drunkenski" (but watch out: the latter packs two shots of vodka). (1548 California St., Nob Hill.)