We may not see the sun as often as we like, but San Francisco enjoys a summertime bounty and exceptional bar talent that yield the best seasonal libations. We’ve gathered eight of our favorites from bars and restaurants around town and adapted them for your next summer gathering.
1. Rocky Ford at Benjamin Cooper
We love Benjamin Cooper, the five month-old cocktail spot that serves impeccable drinks and pristine oysters in a clandestine walk-up near Union Square. The modern, exposed concrete space is warmed by vintage furnishings, colored votives and the good juju of owners Mo Hodges & Brian Felley of former Big fame. Their Rocky Ford is a seamless mezcal drink with a gentle tang from citrus and Kina Lillet, rounded out by a Bolivian pisco, Sangani 63 (championed by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh). The especially floral version of the spirit informs the drink, but feel free to sub any other pisco in its place.
1.5 oz. Mezcal
.75 oz. Singani 63
1 oz. Honeydew melon syrup
.5 oz. Kina Lillet
.5 oz. Lime juice
.25 oz. Triple sec
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice; double strain into a chilled coupe glass; garnish with melon ball and mint sprig. To make melon syrup: blend one melon with ½ cup sugar and strain.
Photo by Giancarlo Paterlini
2. Blueberry-Sage Cocktail at 1760
Polk Street’s 1760 is one of the more underrated cocktail destinations in the city. Skilled bar manager Christopher Longoria brightens his drink menu with seasonal fruits and herbs throughout the year. His Blueberry-Sage cocktail— which just won a Farmward Bound drink competition—sips bright and floral with fresh blueberries before herbaceous notes of sage and deep, rich undertones of maple syrup and rye kick in. It’s a delicious summer sipper that's worth the moderate effort.
By Christopher Longoria
4 sage leaves (medium sized)
.5 oz. Vermont maple syrup
1 oz. Lemon juice
1.5 oz. Rye (Longoria uses Whistle Pig)
1 tsp. Leopold Bros. maraschino liqueur
2 dashes of Fee Bros. orange bitters
.5 oz. Dry vermouth
Method: Add first four ingredients to cocktail tin and muddle. Add remaining ingredients, shake, and double strain into small rocks glass. Add 2 small ice cubes. Garnish with 2 blueberries on a pick.
3. Banana Hammock at TSK/TSK
Upcoming TSK/TSK on Divisadero is a fun pop-up from local cocktail vets— you’ll recognize many from the bar at the late Hapa Ramen—that embraces guilty pleasures. It’ll feature food by Bacon Bacon and four slushie machines cranking out spiked, frozen drinks like a blue Electric Margarita and strawberry-and-beet fueled The Beet Down. The Banana Hammock is their take on a Pina Colada adapted for a contemporary palette. It’s an icy, not overly sweet drink with a rich aroma of coconut and pleasant complexity thanks to the inclusion of a dry sherry and scrumptious French banana liqueur.
by Mitchell Lagneaux
1.5 oz. House made coconut cream & sugar
1.5 oz. White rum
.5 oz. Giffard Banana du Bresil
.5 oz. Fino sherry
1.5 oz. Pineapple juice
Method: Pour ingredients in a blender. Fill vessel with ice until cubes just above liquid. Blend and serve in hurricane glass. Garnish with wedge of pineapple and pineapple leaf.
Photo courtesy of Novela
4. Watermelon Peppercorn Punch at Novela
Stylish punch house Novela just celebrated their second anniversary by introducing punch versions of classic cocktails (think Negroni and Old Fashioned punches on tap). We tapped them for a group recipe to impress at your next summer bash. The Watermelon Peppercorn Punch is an easy drinker that’s naturally sweet from watermelon and balanced by mild herb notes. Don’t be intimidated by the lengthy recipe. Ingredients are easy to source and come together quickly.
Watermelon Peppercorn Punch
6 Parts Watermelon juice
5 Parts Blanco tequila
3 Parts White oleo saccharum*
1 Part Black pepper thyme tea**
Method: Combine all ingredients, fine strain once. Serve over ice and garnish with Fresh Nutmeg.
White Oleo Saccharum
1 Part White Sugar
1 Part Lemon Juice
1 Handful Lemon Peels (If "Part" is a Liter. Adjust appropriately)
Method: Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Fine strain.
Black Pepper Thyme Tea
250g Black pepper
Large Handful fresh thyme
1 Liter water
Method: Combine and simmer for 15 minutes. Fine strain.
Photo by Balthazar Digital Media
5. Brazilian at 15 Romolo
The handsome North Beach cocktail den pours a little south of the border sunshine with this deceptively simple drink. What might cheekily be called “no hair of the dog” takes advantage of the funky deliciousness of Avua Cachaça, an exceptional version of Brazil’s sugar-cane based spirit. Make it when you can’t decide between rum or tequila.
by Andrew S. Meltzer
1.5 oz Avua Cachaca Prata
.5 oz Mandarine Napoleon
.5 oz Velvet Falernum
.5 oz Fresh lime juice
Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime peel.
6. Pimm’s No 3 Cup by Cognac Room
Downtown’s Gaspar recently rebranded their sexy second-floor lounge as the Cognac Room featuring an encyclopedic collection of brandies and a staggering menu of 50 new and classic brandy cocktails. Included in the list is an updated version of that Wimbledon staple, the Pimm’s Cup. The utterly delicious, summer cooler fills the air with the fragrance of cucumber and mint. Find it on the Cognac Room's weekday happy hour menu along with savory bites like oysters, devilled eggs, and pomme frittes.
Pimm's No 3 Cup
By John Codd
1 oz. Pierre Ferrand cognac
1 oz. Lemon
.75 oz. Pimms No 1
.25 oz. Ginger syrup
4 cucumber wheels
Method: Muddle cucumber in a cocktail tin. Add remaining ingredients except for soda. Add ice and shake. Strain over ice-filled collins glass and top with soda. Garnish with cucumber ribbon and mint sprig.
7. Pan-Pacific Sling at Redwood Room
One of San Francisco’s most gorgeous rooms, The Redwood Room, honored their 100th year by (finally!) crafting a cocktail list with locals in mind. Anthony Kim’s SF take on a Singapore Sling is made with local Pisco brand Encanto, Small Hand Foods and the City's shot of choice, Fernet. It’s a full-flavored, tiki-esque highball with a rich blend of pineapple, cherry, lemon and a pleasingly tart snap.
By Anthony Kim
1.5 oz Campo de Encanto Pisco
.75 oz Pineapple gum syrup
.5 oz Cherry Heering
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Fernet Branca
Method: Shake with ice and strain into highball filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with lemon wedge/cherry flag.
Photo by Darren Edwards
8. Front Porch Swing by Elixir
Best known for its notable whiskey collection, Mission spot Elixir finds room for this floral, white sangria on its seasonal cocktail menu.
Front Porch Swing
By H. Joseph Ehrmann
1.5 oz. Vodka (Elixir uses Square One Cucumber or Square One Organic Botanical)
3 oz. Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Albarino or Verdejo
1 oz. St. Germain Elderflower
2 Mint Sprigs or Tarragon (either, not both)
5 Red grapes
5 White/green grapes, halved
One or two seasonal berry varieties
One orange wheel, halved
Method: In a mixing glass add the half orange wheels, grape halves, leaves of one mint sprig and all liquid ingredients. Fill with ice to 3⁄4 full and shake lightly for 10 seconds. Dump all contents into a large wine glass and garnish with a slapped mint sprig.