San Francisco is perhaps one of the most cocktail-obsessed cities in the world. We’ve even dedicated a week-long event to it. San Francisco Cocktail Week is coming up next month with a full line-up of special cocktail events, bar crawls and cocktail dinners, and The Sir Francis Drake Hotel is hosting The Legends Awards – an Oscars-esque ceremony dedicated to bar professionals. So, it seems like a great time to highlight some of our favorite cocktail spots in Union Square.
No one can deny that Union Square cocktail bar Cantina played a role in San Francisco’s evolution into cocktail mecca. It seems these days everywhere you look there are fresh muddled fruits, bitters and organic liquors strewn about cocktail menus, but these guys have truly been doing it since before it was a “thing.” San Francisco Magazine spirits writer Jordan MacKay used to guest bartend here, and they made their name with cocktails prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients and high-quality local spirits like The Laughing Buddha made of Hangar one Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka, lime, ginger, chiles and ginger beer. Cantina’s ambiance is dark and loungy with just enough pirate paraphernalia to whet your whistle. If pirate décor isn’t really your thing, you might check out the Burritt Room in the Crescent Hotel across the Square. When you walk into this space, you feel as if you’ve entered an atelier from the 1920’s with its exposed brick, vintage seating and crystal chandeliers. The menu is in line with those times and features a wide array of old-fashioned cocktails and variations of classic cocktails made with a variety of first-rate spirits.
But perhaps you want something more literary, more like a French library you say? The place for you is the Library Bar at the Hotel Rex. In addition to delicious classic cocktails with a European twist, the lounge offers live jazz, movie nights and even live magic shows. The Library Bar also offers a nice selection of bites and main dishes that are a mix of American and European classics such as truffled mac and cheese, croquet monsieur, and pumpkin risotto, to sop up those fancy drinks. Speaking of hotel bars that go the extra mile to create fabulous cocktails and ambiance, the Clock Bar in the Westin St. Francis has a rotating menu of intricate seasonal cocktails designed by lauded San Francisco Chef Michael Mina. The current summer menu features berries, melons, citrus and even micro greens, highlighting the season’s bounty with concoctions such as the 5 O’Clock Somewhere with rye, raspberry gum syrup, strawberries and egg and the Melonie, a simple but refreshing drink of Hangar One Vodka, cantaloupe and honey.
New to Union Square and bringing along with it the triple threat of excellent beers on tap, a respectable wine menu and a well-thought out cocktail program is Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen. Kevin Diedrich formerly of the Burritt Room (the industry is a pretty small world here) took the helm at the bar when Jasper’s opened last month and has been mixing up a selection of complex, well-balanced drinks ever since. Highlights include the Empress Bianca with rosato vermouth, yellow chartreuse, lemon and grapefruit bitters and the Harlot’s Progress made of Bols Genever, honey, peaches, lemon and St. George Absinthe. We also have the new incarnation of the Starlight Room to look forward to here in Union Square. The classic San Francisco lounge with a killer view is getting a makeover complete with a brand new bartender. Joel Teitelbaum, formerly from chic SOMA pizzeria Zero Zero, will be heading up the renovated bar’s cocktail program and is sure to make a splash.
If you have something a little more exclusive in mind, Otis might be your spot. Otis is a tiny, tucked-away hip hop salon with excellent cocktails and a sleek modern design scheme. The bar has an underground ere and serves up solid drinks including Hudson Whiskey Manhattans. Another option for under the radar cocktails is modern speakeasy Slide, where, yes, you can slide in on a custom designed playground slide. This is actually a nod to the space’s history as a prohibition-era speakeasy where one had to press a special button and slide down a secret ramp to get into the place. If dim lighting, lots of mahogany and the option for bottle service are your thing, stop in here. Want to go underground, literally? Nightclub and lounge Vessel provides a stylish environment in which to sip drinks, dance the night away or throw a private event.
No matter what setting you like your cocktails in, we have an option to fit your taste here in Union Square. Whether you enjoy the classics or prefer fresh muddled fruits and herbs, you can find the right cocktail lounge for your needs. Just don’t hit them all in one night, or you’ll be regretting it the next day.