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.
Of course, you'll basically have them all to your local selves right now since tourism is, uh, a bit quiet lately. All the better to enjoy an after-work happy hour or a clandestine rendezvous, whether its kitschy or luxury you seek.
Not on this list are a few bars also well worth checking out. 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.
Charmaine's at Proper Hotel SF: High Design + Rooftop Views
(Courtesy of @sanfranciscoproper)
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 the Mister Bigglesworth (George Dickel bourbon, El Silencio mezcal, apple molé, angostura and orange bitters) and Proper's take on the Pimm's Cup, served long with Hendrick’s gin, blackberry, cucumber, citrus, ginger beer, and absinthe. Peckish? There are small snacks and plenty of options to compose a full dinner—think pork belly skewers, grilled chicken meatballs, cheeses, salads, and fish tacos. 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
Redwood Room at the Clift: Art Deco Luxury
(Courtesy of @redwoodroom)
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 in 2020, 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 and there is even original art by the painter Gustav Klimt. New geometric carpeting picks up the Deco 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).
For a limited time in February 2022, the Redwood Room is teaming with The Macallan to offer whisky lovers a special package: a complimentary overnight stay in a junior suite, plus of a bottle of bubbles and a chocolate pairing, with two pours from the Masters Decanter Series at the bar. (Call 415.929.2372 or email redwoodroom@sonesta to reserve.)
// Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St. (TenderNob), redwoodroomsf.com
Chambers Eat + Drink at the Phoenix Hotel: Party Vibes by the Pool
(Courtesy of Chambers)
Poolside drinking and dining is not a thing in San Francisco. Unless you're checking into the Tenderloin rock and roll landmark Phoenix Hotel, or just stopping by for the vibe. At last reopening for regular post-Covid service on January 27th, Chambers is an ideal destination for outdoor imbibing. Can you say brunch by the pool? (Don't worry, they have heaters.)
Our favorite meal of the week comes with everything from challah French toast to shakshuka plus, of course, cocktails whose somewhat remedial names (#4 Mezcal Drink and #7 Slushie du Jour) belie the sophistication of the concoctions. Speaking of sophisticated, the moody interior—punctuation by a bright "Be Amazing" sign—is well-suited for dinner and date night.
// Phoenix Hotel, 601 Eddy St. (Tenderloin), chambers-sf.com
Marianne's at Hotel Zetta: A Little Bit Rock and Roll
(Courtesy of @mariannes_sf)
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, 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. Caviar service and light nibbles come courtesy of The Cavalier. Reservations for two to eight guests are available via Tock.
// Hotel Zetta, 360 Jessie (SoMa), mariannessf.com
Gibson at Hotel Bijou: Cocktail Carts + Gilded Glamour
(Courtesy of @sashastories)
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 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. Pair your aperitif with a starter of white sturgeon caviar. Reservations are available via OpenTable.
// 111 Mason St. (Tenderloin), gibsonsf.com
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar at the Fairmont: Tiki Kitsch Forever
(Courtesy of Tonga Room)
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 has named one of the city's most iconic drinks. Pair with kalua pork tacos and an appetite for adventure.
// The Fairmont, 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), tongaroom.com