Where to Drink during BlogHerFood '09

BlogHer Original Post

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned since I’ve moved to the Bay Area, it’s this: San Francisco is a city of unbelievable cocktails. This is not the land of your average gin and tonic, folks. This is the place to seek out drinks designed to make you think differently about what goes in a cocktail glass.

Here are six places that ought to leave you highly satisfied. Most of them are within walking distance of the St. Regis, but I’ve included two of my very favorites that will require a little more of a trek. And here’s a bit of a bonus: Four of the six also serve up incredible food, so bring your appetite along with your thirst.

The Slanted Door offers a variety of interesting cocktails designed to complement their food. The Ginger Limeade is a refreshing choice, and the Whiskey Smash, served over a hand-cut ice cube, is a guaranteed hit if you’re a whiskey kind of person. Plus, this is the spot for some of the best Vietnamese food in the city. Check out Eileen and Sue’s review on Just the 2 of Us for some tasty photos of what’s in store. You can order food at the bar or bar tables, so if you can’t score a dinner or lunch reservation, you can still eat while you drink.

Turn right out the front door of the St. Regis and walk up 3rd Street to Market Street. Take a right on Market Street and follow it all the way down to the Ferry Building, which is right at the waterfront. The Slanted Door will be in the back left corner of the building as you enter from The Embarcadero.

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111
Lunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday
Dinner: 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. every day

If you’re a fan of Pisco Sours and ceviche, add La Mar Cebicheria Peruana to your list. Though almost all the cocktails there are Pisco-based, they are delicious and very interesting. If you’re a fan of Bloody Marys, and also a bit adventurous, order up a Bloody Lorcho, which features Pisco quebranta, house-made Bloody Mary mix, and a baby octopus as a garnish. Iy of RawFishionado offers up a good review of a variety of the ceviches offered at La Mar, which come in a range of flavors and varieties. If you’re with a group, it’s easy to share a few.

Turn right out the front door of the St. Regis and walk up 3rd Street to Market Street. Take a right on Market Street and follow it all the way down to the Ferry Building. Turn left at the Ferry Building and walk to Pier 1.5. La Mar will be on your right.

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Pier 1.5
The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; Noon-2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Dinner: 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday

Bar Drake is a highlight for anyone seeking Prohibition-era cocktails in an elegant environment. Housed in the lobby of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, Bar Drake has seating for about 36 people and features a classic list of cocktails that include their version of a Manhattan, and a Chamomile Bliss, which is a soothing combination of Skyy 90, Chamomile tea, orange bitters, lemon juice and organic agave nectar. According to Jen Maiser’s review on Bay Area Bites, there are snacks and entrees available from Scala’s, which is next door, so you won’t go hungry if you’re in the mood for a bite. A note about Jen’s review: Bar Crudo, which I recommend as highly as she does, has actually relocated, and is no longer close enough to pair with Bar Drake.

Turn right out the front door of the St. Regis and walk up 3rd Street to Market Street. Cross Market and continue on Kearny Street for another block and a half. Turn left on Post Street, then, in three blocks, turn right on Powell Street, just past Union Square on your left. The Sir Francis Drake will be on your right.

Bar Drake
450 Powell Street at Sutter
San Francisco, CA 94102
2 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Sunday; and a Bloody Mary Bar is available every Sunday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar offers incredible cocktails in a comfortably swank environment. The bartenders mix a long list of signature drinks, including the Daedalus, which features Jameson Whiskey, ginger syrup and orange bitters. It’s a simple, hard-charging drink that’s sure to make you think you, too, have wings. The Citron Lemonade is also tasty, and features Hangar One Buddha’s Hand, which is made just across the Bay in Alameda. If you like hamburgers, this is the place to get one, although the entire menu features seasonal, locally-sourced bistro fare that is delicious. Read more about the history of the spirit after which the brasserie is named on Tablehopper.

It’s an easy cab ride between the St. Regis and Absinthe. I don’t recommend walking, but if you wish to take public transportation, the best route is the 21 Muni bus. Turn right out the front door of the St. Regis and walk up to Market Street. Cross Market, and take a right, following Market down to Montgomery. There will be a stop for the 21 there, and the fare one-way is $2. Take it to the intersection of Hayes Street & Gough Street, and Absinthe will be on the corner at that intersection on the right.

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
398 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
11:30 a.m.-midnight Tuesday & Wednesday; 11:30 a.m.-midnight Thursday & Friday (Bar open until 2 a.m.); 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday (Bar open until 2 a.m.); 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.

One of my favorite places in the city to belly up to the bar is Beretta in the Mission. I have yet to have a cocktail there that didn’t blow my mind, although I find myself returning again and again to the Improved Whiskey Cocktail and The Monte Carlo. They’re both whiskey-based and, well, whiskey’s the first place I turn when it’s time to raise a cocktail shaker. But the Airmail, a combination of rum, honey, lime and prosecco, is wonderful and refreshing, as well. Joy of The Restaurant Whore wrote it a bonafide love letter that is worth a read for some tips on what to order off their fabulous food menu, but I would not for a second miss the meatballs if I were there right now. Which I would like to be.

As with Absinthe, I’d recommend a cab over to Beretta, which shouldn’t cost more than about $15 including tip. However, there are two ways to get there on public transit. One option is to walk to Mission Street and 3rd Street and take the 14 bus to Mission & 23rd Street. From that stop, walk West on 23rd Street to the corner of 23rd and Valencia, which is where the restaurant is located. The fare will be $2 each way on the bus.

Otherwise, take a right out the front door of the St. Regis and walk toward Mission Street. Turn right at Market Street and head into the Montgomery Street BART station. You want to take an SFO, Daly City or Millbrae train from Montgomery Street to the 24th Street Mission BART station. The fare will be $1.75 each way. When you get to that station, go up the stairs or escalator and use the exit gates straight ahead (next to the station agent’s booth). Turn right and go up the long escalators out of the station. Take a right off the top of the escalator, and you’ll be looking right at 24th Street. Go left on 24th Street and walk up about two blocks to the intersection of Valencia and 24th, then turn right and walk another block to 23rd and Valencia.

1199 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dinner: 5:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Friday
Brunch, Lunch & Dinner: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday & Sunday

The final place I’ll recommend comes with a grain of salt, but I wanted to include it because, as Sam Breach reports on Becks and Posh, it’s one of the best places to get a non-alcoholic mocktail in the city. Heaven’s Dog, which is a sibling to The Slanted Door, has some of the best bartenders in the city working for them. However, in my friends’ and my experience, the food there isn’t stellar and the service can be painfully slow. If you’re determined to get your mocktail fix, I recommend that you go and sit at the bar, where you’ll get to watch the bartenders in action and get much faster service.

To get there, take a right out the front door of the St. Regis and walk toward Mission Street. Go left on Mission and follow it down several blocks. Heaven’s Dog will be inside the SOMA Grand on the right between 7th and 8th.

Heaven’s Dog
1148 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
11 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Friday; 5:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday; 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also documenting her year in photos at 365 in 2009.


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