No longer simply gathering places for lonely businessmen buying overpriced, watered down G&Ts, hotel bars are establishing themselves as drinking destinations. Experts behind the bar are creating well-crafted cocktail in stylish settings, and if you’ve partaken in a few too many of them: a dreamy bed near by. Here, hotel bars in San Francisco where the drinks are as refined as the accommodations.
This dark and handsome drinking den hits the spot when you need to retreat to some place quiet and civilized with a strong, perfectly-poured martini, or two. And if you find yourself flying solo, no worries. Not only does the massive Maxfield Parrish painting that prominently hangs behind the bar provide plenty of fodder for conversation – simply ask one of the friendly bartenders for the back story – the crowd is refreshingly laid-back and willing to strike up a conversation. Plus, the complimentary cheese crackers and wasabi peas will keep your hunger at bay.
Despite its location on congested Market Street, MKT, the Four Seasons’ sophisticated restaurant and bar feels welcomingly relaxed and far from the fray. MKT’s bar manager, Lenny Gumm, curates an excellent cocktail program, featuring several drinks honoring the city’s colorful drinking history. The Pisco Punch, for example, was inspired by a local cocktail whose recipe was kept under lock and key by its creator, Duncan Nicol. It looks deceptively light and refreshing, but packs a seriously boozy punch.
High above the traffic and crowds of Union Square at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, you’ll discover the Starlight Room, a fantastically flamboyant throwback to Hollywood’s Golden Age. The space is decked out with art deco-inspired accents like ruby red velvet curtains and leather banquettes, glittering chandeliers, and even a small dance floor. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekends and the Sunday drag brunches are an entertaining way to take the edge off the weekend’s excess (or continue them, if you wish).
On the fifth floor of Hotel Zelos in SoMa, you’ll find Dirty Habit, a cheekily-named space that’s equal parts lounge, bar and restaurant. The cocktail menu is original and fun, and includes some large-format versions for sharing like the “Short Round,” a rum-based punch. But it’s the globally-inspired small plates by Chef David Bazirgan that shouldn’t be missed. The spicy chili-glazed wings, savory lamb belly steamed buns, and golden, thick-cut fries are obvious crowd pleasers and make for excellent things to graze on while throwing back a few drinks with friends.
Discreetly tucked away on the sleepy side street in Union Square right next to the Stockton Tunnel, the Mystic Hotel’s Burritt Room – both the hotel and bar are owned by famed chef-turned-hotelier Charlie Palmer – feels like an insider’s secret. The facade of the building looks modest, but don’t let appearances fool you. Walk right in and take the stairs up to the second floor to not only enjoy killer cocktails and lively conversation, but some top-notch jazz as well.
This is the place if you’re looking for exceptional drinks and equally exceptional views. It’s even better if you’re a fan of martinis. The extensive list boasts over 100 kinds, like the best-selling Golden Gate with Jack Daniels, crème de cacao, and fresh lemon juice, served straight up. In addition, there’s Champagne brunches every Sunday and live entertainment several nights a week, so make sure to check the schedule before popping by.
While tiki is enjoying a big moment right now, the Tonga Room has been faithfully turning out fruity, umbrella-garnished drinks, Polynesian-inspired food, and retro island vibes since opening in 1945. Sit back with a Hurricane and pupu platter, while you listen to the house cover band and watch the occasional artificial “rain storm” surrounding the pool. At first the experience might come off as a little corny and goofy but before you know it, you’ll be falling under the Tonga Room’s spell.
This bar is more than popular, it’s legendary. Opened in 1993 to mark the end of prohibition, Redwood Room still remains a buzzy social fixture for locals and tourists alike. Swanky and sexy, the room is decked out with provocative digital art, a jewel tone palette of reds and golds, and, as the name suggest, lots of wood. (Rumor has it that the paneling was sourced from a 2,000-year-old redwood tree.) If you’re on a budget, swing by for the daily “Decompression Hour,” where you can indulge without breaking the bank.