Living in a tourist mecca certainly comes with its share of gripes; then again, millions of visitors to the city each year means we have ample places to stay. You know what this means: ample hotel bars.
From modern-minimalist boutique stays to hyper-luxe big name brands, there are many weird, wonderful, welcoming hotel bars here to host our after-work happy hours, private parties, and clandestine rendezvous.
Narrowing this list to the seven best was no small task, and there are many runners-up worthy of note: among them, Hotel Zelos' Dirty Habit, a rooftop hideaway where you might catch the occasional outdoor flick; Marriott Marquis' View Lounge, great for the you-know-what; and the sumptuous lobby lounges of the St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton, where we'd happily enjoy a glass of bubbly any day of the week.
In the list below, you'll find our absolute favorite San Francisco hotel bars, each of them wholly unique. Among them, you can also taste some of the city's most iconic cocktails—three of these bars made our 2019 Big Drink.
Charmaine's at Proper Hotel SF: Fire Pits and Rooftop Views
What's not to love about the Kelly Wearstler–designed San Francisco Proper Hotel?
In transitional Mid-Market, the refurbished architectural gem is a bright spot—a haven for eclectic art, vintage and modern furnishings, and a pair of terrific haunts for food and drink. While the lobby restaurant Villon is great for date night, as bars go, Charmaine's is tops. The rooftop cocktail lounge is plushly kitted out with upholstered armchairs and love seats from which to order thoughtful tipples, such as Songs from the Brill Building (Larceny bourbon, Bénédictine, Lustau amontillado sherry, cherry heering, ginger bitters) and Let Me Touch Your Mind, an uncanny marriage of a piña colada and a negroni. Snacks including spiced nuts and furikake popcorn. But the real selling point here are the fire pits on the terrace with downtown city views. Get there early to claim your seat. // Proper Hotel, 1100 Market St. (Mid-Market), properhotel.com
Everdene at Virgin Hotel: Pretty Party People
Just when we thought Charmaine's had the whole best-rooftop-bar deal clinched, the Virgin Hotel landed in SoMa.
Crowning the stylish new stay is Everdene which, like Charmaine's, promises plush seating and Instagram-worthy views. This, combined with its newness and a lineup of DJs and parties, has so far guaranteed that the place stays packed with revelers like a can of drunken sardines. Order up the Atomic Blonde (Aviation gin, Lo-Fi sweet vermouth, Lillet Blanc, and orange bitters). Arrive early (before 7:30pm) or make a reservation. // 250 4th St. (SoMa), virginhotels.com
Redwood Room at the Clift: Classic Luxury
In a metropolis consumed by trends—not to mention the ever-closing doors of the city's longstanding landmarks—old favorites are something to celebrate. The Clift Hotel's Redwood Room, which unveiled a refresh this January, has special occasion written all over it.
To say there's history here would be an understatement: The cocktail lounge takes its name from the 800-year-old redwood tree that panels its walls, columns, and back of the Art Deco–style bar. An ambient glow comes courtesy of Deco pendant lighting; new geometric carpeting picks up the theme; and the menu features twists on the classics. Toast to longevity with the Redwood Room martini (Botanist gin, dry vermouth, and blue cheese olives). // Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St. (TenderNob), redwoodroomsf.com
Marianne's at Hotel Zetta: A Little Bit Rock and Roll
A pair of hot pink doors on Jessie Street alongside SoMa's Hotel Zetta are the giveaway to Marianne's, the once-private now reservations-only backroom lounge inspired by the rock-and-roll glamour of '60s icon Marianne Faithfull.
Accessible during dinner hours through British-style It restaurant The Cavalier—from Big Night Restaurant Group, helmed by Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio—Marianne's was designed by team Ken Fulk to encourage laid-back imbibing and overindulgence. When it's not reserved for the posh private parties of San Francisco's society and tech elite, the bar takes ressies for 60 to 90 minutes for couples and small groups. Light nibbles come courtesy of The Cavalier. // Hotel Zetta, 360 Jessie (SoMa), mariannessf.com
Benjamin Cooper at Hotel G: High Mixology, Low Key Space
Local cocktail enthusiasts who remember the Tenderloin's tiny but mighty bar Big (RIP) happily followed the spot's co-owners and booze slingers, Brian Felley and Mo Hodges, over to Benjamin Cooper.
Tucked up a back flight of stairs off Mason Street at the modern-minimalist Hotel G, the dark hideout is a favorite among industry types who sidle in for a late night glug and some oysters. Named after a 19th century Russian-Jewish whiskey aficionado and barkeep from the Bronx, Benjamin Cooper offers a wide selection of spirit-forward drinks that are some of the best in downtown SF. Try the Member Tom Green (singani, sotol, green tomato, vermouth, anisette, lime, and soda). // Hotel G, 398 Geary St. (TenderNob), benjamincoopersf.com
Gibson at Hotel Bijou: Cocktail Carts + Deco Glamour
Art Deco styling, a sultry ceiling mural, tufted leather booths, and warm golden light add a touch of glamour to Hotel Bijou's Gibson, which is in fact is an unpretentious environment to clink glasses of exceptional cocktails paired with New American cuisine cooked by live fire in the open kitchen.
Dim sum–style cocktail carts are on the move to provide tableside service of drinks garnished with locally foraged and house-pickled things. We like the innovative clear bloody mary (tomato water, oak-aged vodka, shochu, shoyu, fish sauce, and shichimi togarashi)—a 2019 Big Drink pick—and the signature Sea Gibson (Sonoma nori gin, liquid kelp, sake, sea salt, and pickled Sea Bean 14). Pair your aperitif with a starter of white sturgeon caviar. // 111 Mason St. (Tenderloin), gibsonsf.com
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar at the Fairmont: Tiki Kitsch Forever
Yes, there are more sophisticated hotel bars. And there are even higher quality flaming drinks to be had around here thanks to San Francisco's seemingly unquenchable thirst for kitschy tiki spots.
The Fairmont Hotel's Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar makes our list for its atmospheric anomalies (indoor rain showers and a lagoon, hello) as well as for its staying power—this place has been slangin' mai tais since 1945. The Tonga Room offers neotropical escapism at its most spectacular, serving up classic Polynesian libations such as the 1934 Zombie, which 7x7 named one of the city's most iconic drinks in 2019. Pair with kalua pork tacos and an appetite for adventure. // The Fairmont, 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), tongaroom.com