/ San Francisco Traveler
San Francisco — By kleland on March 29, 2010 at 3:01 am
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Hip and Happening Cocktails

The Silicon Valley may be known as the home of hot technology, but the city of San Francisco is rapidly gaining a reputation as the home of hot mixology.  If you are looking for a place where you can shake off the stress of the office, kick back and let the music move you, these places have just the ticket. Not the usual shaken-and-stirred crowd, they cater to the Bay Area digerati—Gen X-ers, Gen Y-ers and hip baby boomers out for a rocking good time.

Blondie’s Bar & No Grill: Located in the heart of the mission, Citysearch has honored Blondie’s with awards for the Best Martini, Best Singles Scene and Best Live Music Venue in the city. Complementing the eclectic mix of music and patrons is a plethora of martinis, all served in 16-ounce pint glasses. Their signature drinks are the Blondie (Boodles gin martini with a float of Cointreau, garnished with an orange slice) and its perfect partner in crime, the Dagwood (Tanqueray gin martini, garnished with a cocktail onion and a smorgasbord of pimento, garlic smoked salmon, spicy sausage, blue cheese and ginger stuffed olives). For those with a sweet tooth, the Almond Mocha vodka martini (coffee-flavored vodka with a splash of chocolate liqueur and a float of Frangelico, garnished with a chocolate kiss, served in a chocolate-rimmed martini glass) hits the spot. Dress code? Come as you are.

Ambassador: Located in the Tenderloin District, industry insiders currently tag this as the hottest ticket in the city. The interior is reminiscent of a Frank Sinatra Rat Pack movie set (complete with telephones in the black leather booths to call a bartender and order a drink from), and there is always a line out the door. The cocktail menu, while not extensive, is solid and has some fun items such as the Scarlet O’Hara (Southern Comfort, fresh lime, cranberry, bourbon) and Between The Sheets (Sailor Jerry Rum, cinnamon brandy, and Citrónge with a cinnamon-sugar rim). Pull up a seat at the marble Carrera bar, located under the magnificent crystal chandelier set 20 feet overhead, and listen to some of the best DJs in the city spin their magic.

Cantina: This relatively new arrival on the Union Square bar scene features a lusty Latin-inspired interior and serves some of the most original drinks around. Their creative concoctions include a wide variety of cachaça cocktails including a Blackberry & Cabernet Caipirinha (cachaça, fresh orange juice, lime, blackberries, crushed ice and cabernet). There is hardly a drink to match The Buccaneer (dry gin, crushed pineapple, lime, bitters, Aperol and Barbados liqueur) and the Laughing Buddha (Hangar One Buddha’s Hand vodka, lemon, crushed ginger, Thai chiles and wild sage honey). Don’t expect plain Jane peanuts for this leading-edge bar. The nuts served—spicy pumpkin seeds—complement the exotic cocktails.

Bourbon & Branch: Featured in the Wall Street Journal and listed as one of the best bars in America by Esquire magazine, Bourbon & Branch is a trip back in time to the speakeasies of the1920s. The music and ambience are all authentic and there is even a hidden room (the library) that requires a password (“books”) to gain entry. The posted house rules say it all:

1. Please Speak-Easy.

2. No name-dropping.

3. Patience is appreciated.

4. No cell phone use.

5. No camera use.

6. Don’t even think of asking for a “Cosmo.”

7. Smokers, use back door.

8. Please exit Bourbon & Branch briskly and silently.

The libations will please even the most discerning—authentic hand-numbered bourbons (Noah’s Mill, Buffalo Trace), rare scotches (Monkey Shoulder) and exquisite rums and tequilas. FYI, when you make a reservation at Bourbon & Branch, you will be given a password to gain entrance to the location itself—simply speak it (sotto voce, of course) at the door and enter another era.

The Bubble Lounge: Looking for a cozy place to canoodle while you sip champagne? The Bubble Lounge, featuring brick walls, cushy red velvet couches, oversized chairs, marble tabletops and a room full of candlelight, provides the ideal location. Known as the “ultimate champagne source” in the city, they serve over 300 brands, including light-bodied (Piper Heidsieck Brut), medium-bodied (Pierre Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs), full-bodied (Pol Roger Brut), vintage, rosé (Gosset Brut Rosé), prestige Cuvée (Krug Grande Cuvée Multivintage) and domestic sparkling wines such as Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2001. If all that champagne has gone to your head, the lounge’s appetizer menu offers perfect pairings of caviar, oysters, sushi and other small plates. While the atmosphere is elegant, the dress code and attitude is casual chic.

The next time you want to find a culinary cocktail that will knock your socks off, check out these sophisticated, sexy, hip and hot bars that are part of the San Francisco scene. The drinks at these establishments are top of the line and the atmosphere draws a crowd. From Union Square to the Mission District, Bay Area bars have something for everyone.

Photo courtesy of Flicker glennharper CC

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