The Big Drink: 50 Most Iconic Cocktails in San Francisco 2023
Bar Nonnina's Slushy di Modena. (Kelly Puleio)

The Big Drink: 50 Most Iconic Cocktails in San Francisco 2023

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At the start of 2022, many bars remained shell-shocked by the pandemic and were largely playing it safe; cocktail menus were limited to core essentials that bartenders could execute well in the age of "the new normal."

As 2023 gets going, we're rounding a new corner with fancy cocktail lounges, hotel lobby bars, and rooftop venues opening all over the place, and some longstanding spots have jettisoned tried-and-true tipples for complete rewrites of their drink menus.


While there are no doubt several new drinks awaiting their "iconic" status, this year list holds true to many of San Francisco's most recognizable, signature, "I'll have another" drinks.

There are, of course, several newcomers to the list that have aged into fame, including La Mar's pisco sour, Hog Island's mezcal-tinged michelada, and the pint glass-sized martini at Blondie’s. We're also toasting the post-Covid return of P.C.H.

Things are in flux right now, so get out there and make your way through this year’s list; we predict a shakeup come 2024.

Red Window Cobbler at Red Window.

(Marc Fiorito)

Open Sesame at Causwells.

(Stephanie Amberg)

Space Adventure Cobra at Kaiyo.

(Courtesy of Kaiyo Rooftop)

1. 1934 Zombie at The Tonga Room. It may leave your head swimming, but just don't jump in the pool; rum, lime, grapefruit, cinnamon, falernum, absinthe, bitters. // Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), tongaroom.com

2. 20th Century at Stookey's Club Moderne. Throw back this throwback; gin, quinine wine, creme de cacao, and lemon. // 895 Bush St. (TenderNob),stookeysclubmoderne.com

3. After the Gold Rush at Holy Water. It's still the holy quaternity; bourbon, pineapple gum syrup, apricot, and lime. // 309 Cortland Ave. (Bernal Heights), holywatersf.com

4. Bacchus Old Fashioned at Schroeder’s. Pair with a pretzel; German grape brandy, rye, bitters, sugar, absinthe. // 240 Front St. (FiDi), schroederssf.com

5. Bloodhound at Bloodhound. Send in the hounds; gin or vodka, grapefruit, lime, Campari, prosecco. // 1145 Folsom St. (SoMa), bloodhoundsf.com

6. Blood in the Water at Hog Island Oyster Co. Tomatoes in your throat; mezcal, jalapeño cordial, bloody mary mix, mignonette tonic, lime, beer. // #11 Ferry Building (Embarcadero), hogislandoysters.com

7. Bloody Mary at Zeitgeist. May make you see pink elephants; vodka, tomato juice, spices, and pickly garnishes. // 199 Valencia St. (Mission), zeitgeistsf.com

8. California Cooler at Horsefeather. Finer wine; gin, celery, lime, thyme, sauvignon blanc, horseradish, and sparkling wine. // 528 Divisadero (NoPa),horsefeatherbar.com

9. Cherry Bounce at Comstock Saloon. Get some pep in your step: bourbon, cherry brandy, lemon, bitters, and Champagne. // 155 Columbus Ave. (North Beach),comstocksaloon.com

10. Chinese Mai Tai at Li Po Cocktail Lounge. It was locally famous, then it got Bourdained; rum, Chinese liqueur, and pineapple. // 916 Grant Ave. (Chinatown), lipolounge.com

11. Czechs and Balances at The Sea Star. Czech it out: Bourbon, amaro, lemon, honey, allspice. // 2289 3rd St. (Dogpatch), theseastarsf.com

12. Destroyer of Bad Vibes at Ocean Beach Café. Kill icky juju, spare your liver; nonalcoholic botanical spirit, hemp and root spirit, honey, lemon, orange bitters, cinnamon. // 734 La Playa St. (Outer Richmond), oceanbeachcafe.com

13. Dublin Honey at The Ice Cream Bar. You’ve earned this; Guinness, caramelized honey ice cream, Valrhona chocolate syrup, and port. // 815 Cole St. (Cole Valley), theicecreambarsf.com

14. Greyhound’s Tooth at Spruce. Classing up the classic; vodka, Benedictine, grapefruit, lemon, grapefruit bitters. // 3640 Sacramento St. (Presidio Heights), sprucesf.com

15. Hat in the Ring at Junior. Throw your, you know; gin, bitter aperitif, grapefruit, and bitters. // 2545 24th St. (Mission), juniorbarsf.com

16. Holy Basil at Wildseed. Plant-based party over here; green chili vodka, lime, cucumber basil shrub. // 2000 Union Street (Cow Hollow), wildseedsf.com

17. House Campari Soda at Buddy. Open you palate, open your mind; bitter vermouth, cherry quinine liqueur, aperitivo wine, orange bitters, soda. // 3115 22nd Street (Mission), buddythebar.com

18. Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe. The OG; Irish whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream. // 2765 Hyde St. (Fisherman's Wharf), thebuenavista.com

19. I’ve Grown to Love Life Too Much at The Interval at Long Now. Choose life; Cognac, spiced pear liqueur, and creme de cacao; shot of sparkling wine on the side. // 2 Marina Blvd. (Fort Mason), theinterval.org

20. Jamaican Zombie at Zombie Village. Wake the dead; rum, grapefruit, lime, mango, Doc's Spice #2, and Scotch bonnet chilis. // 441 Jones St. (Tenderloin), thezombievillage.com

21. Kentucky Buck at Rickhouse. Invented here, and world famous; strawberry-infused bourbon, lemon, and ginger beer. // 246 Kearny St. (FiDi), rickhousebar.com

22. Last Rites at Last Rites. Your first pick; rum, passionfruit, molasses, and spice mix. // 718 14th St. (Duboce Triangle), lastritesbar.com

23. Leeward Negroni at P.C.H. Cuckoo for coconut: gin, coconut-washed Campari, pandan cordial, bitters. // 550 Sutter St. (Union Square), pacificcocktailsf.com

24. Lost Resort at Lost Resort. The Last Word on the matter; gin, Chartreuse, hibiscus, and lemon. // 2736 20th St. (Mission), lostresortsf.com

25. Mai O Mai at True Laurel. Clarified and elevated; rum, lime, pistachio orgeat, curaçao, and coffee-rum float. // 753 Alabama St. (Mission), truelaurelsf.com

26. Makrut Lime Fizz at Ernest. A carbonated key lime pie: gin, cachaça, sour cream, egg white, and soda. // 1890 Bryant St Suite 100 (Mission), ernestsf.com

27. Manhattan at The Progress. You butter believe it; black butter bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters. // 1525 Fillmore St. (Lower Haight), theprogress-sf.com

28. Martini at Blondies Bar. Sixteen ounces makes it iconic; vodka or gin and your choice of stuffed olive. // 540 Valencia St. (Mission), blondiesbarsf.com

29. Open Sesame at Causwells. Savory sensation; tequila, bianco vermouth, cold pressed poblano, lime, agave, and toasted sesame. // 2346 Chestnut St (Cow Hollow), causwells.com

30. Paloma Slushy at The Lark Bar. Frozen and fizzy; tequila, lime, grapefruit, guava syrup, and Sprite. // 29 Third St. (SoMa), thelarkbar.com

31. The Passenger at Bottle Club Pub. The Boulevardier visits Bermuda; bourbon, navy strength rum, Campari, sweet vermouth, passionfruit, and cinnamon. // 555 Geary St (Tenderloin), bottleclubpub.com

32. Peas for Bees at Casements. Easy peasy; mezcal, pea and strawberry citric acid shrub, lime. // 2351 Mission St. (Mission), casementsbar.com

33. Pineapple Sherry at ABV. The best worst kept secret (off-menu). // 3174 16th St. (Mission), abvsf.com

34. Pisco Sour at La Mar Cebichería Peruana. The first spirit of San Francisco; pisco, lime, egg white, and bitters. // Pier 1 ½ The Embarcadero (Embarcadero), lamarsf.com

35. Prickly Pear at The Snug. Safe to the touch; mezcal, nopales, prickly pear, amaro, lime, and habanero. // 2301 Fillmore St. (Pacific Heights), thesnugsf.com

36. Quarantine Order at Pagan Idol. Keep it to yourself; bitters, rum, cinnamon, passionfruit, grapefruit, and lime. // 375 Bush St. (FiDi), paganidol.com

37. Red + Blue at Kona’s Street Market. Whip it good; rum, sherry, ube coconut cream, citrus, and salted jackfruit whip. // 32 Third St. (SoMa), konastreetmarket.com

38. Red Window Cobbler at Red Window. Oh sherry!; sherry, tangelo, peach, fig, and two kids of bitters. // 500 Columbus Ave. (North Beach), theredwindow.com

39. Screen Test at The Madrigal. Tom kha gai in a glass; dark rum, kumquat liquor, basil, coconut milk, Thai chili, and lime. // 100 Van Ness Ave (Civic Center), themadrigalsf.com

40. Seafoam Spritz at Anina. Bouquet all day; elderflower, aperitif wine, lime, prosecco, and lemongrass. // 482 Hayes St. (Hayes Valley), aninasf.com

41. SF Yacht Club at 25 Lusk. A boat drink for landlubbers; vodka, grapefruit, cucumber, lemon, lime, and mint. // 25 Lusk St. (SoMa), 25lusk.com

42. Sidecar at Bix. Stay classy with a classic; Cognac, curacao, and lime. // 56 Gold St. (Jackson Square), bixrestaurant.com

43. Sometimes Old Fashioned at Cold Drinks. Duck would have it; Peking duck fat–washed Scotch, rye, lemon, pepper, mushroom, and bitters. // China Live, 644 Broadway (North Beach), chinalivesf.com

44. Slushy di Modena at Bar Nonnina. Shaved to order; gin, Italian amaro, Lambrusco, seasonal berries, and citrus over shaved ice. // Inside Fiorella, 240 Ninth Ave. (Inner Sunset), barnonnina.com

45. Smuggler's Rum Barrel at Smuggler's Cove. A secret mix with rum, juice, and spice, served in a barrel. // 650 Gough St. (Hayes Valley), smugglerscovesf.com

46. Space Adventure Cobra at Kaiyo Rooftop. Let it snake up on ya; gin, falernum, passionfruit, matcha coconut cream, lemon, and two kinds of bitters. // 701 3rd St (South Beach), kaiyosf.com

47. The Spritzzz at The Detour. Let's get spritzfaced; Aperol, sparkling rose, lemon, and soda. // 2200A Market St. (Castro), detoursf.com

48. Ten Forward at Mothership. Turn loose the juice; amaro, passionfruit, lemon, pea flower-infused vodka, and fennel. // 3152 Mission St. (Outer Mission), mothershipbar.com

49. Tommy's Margarita at Tommy's Mexican Restaurant. Zen and the art of agave; tequila, lime, and agave syrup on the rocks, no salt. // 5929 Geary Blvd. (Outer Richmond), tommysmexican.com


50. White Cap Martini at White Cap. Brine it on; gin and seaweed-infused dry vermouth. // 3608 Taraval St. (Outer Sunset), whitecapsf.com

The Passenger at Bottle Club Pub.(Alex Garrett)

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