A Drink (and Bar) of One's Own


The other night, while at the 540 Club, one of my friend’s preferred bars on Clement Street, I was reminded that fancy cocktails at trendy bars make for great arm candy, but if you want a real, longterm relationship—one that will always be there for you—you need to invest in two things: A simple drink and a neighborhood wateringhole to order it in.

Skip the cocktails: Some appropriately basic
drinks at the 540 Club in the Richmond.

Preferably, the bar shouldn’t be so popular that you’re forced to shove your way, while waving a $20, through a crowd to get that drink. Your resident bar should not stress you out. For me, the bar is Argus Lounge, a narrow spot at the base of Bernal Heights on Mission Street. Admittedly, Argus has evolved into a place that’s a little less divey and a little more hipstery over the years, along with the rest of the sprawl of the Mission District. But that just means that now they often have a DJ and sometimes the music is very good. They also have a pool table, which can keep your antsy friends occupied. Argus is also just a quick walk up or down the Bernal stairs from my house. (Not driving is a good thing for nights such as the one pictured above.)

Once you've figured out the bar, you need your drink of choice. It’s liberating to have something you can order pretty much anywhere, something that doesn’t leave you hemming and hawing in front of an impatient, everyday kind of bartender who has no idea—nor cares—how to make a Sazarac or a Sidecar properly. There’s nothing worse than a mediocre cocktail.

And as long as it’s not a Cosmopolitan, having a drink of your own makes you feel kind of cool. Johnny Walker Black is my choice. It’s like a little black dress that I can pull out at any time—from H&M. Not too expensive or fussy, it has a little style and does the job fine. (For other editors I polled, it’s a Heineken at Thieves at 14th and Guererro; or a Wild Turkey on the rocks at the 500 Club in the Mission; or a Fernet and ginger-back at The Transfer in the Castro; or a pint of Anchor Steam at Yancy’s Saloon at 9th and Irving). I order it neat, with a glass of water on the side, and fill secure in my place in the world. Everyone should be able to have that—if you don’t already.

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