(credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Times)
It was a banner year for the opening of several high-profile restaurants and cocktail bars in the Bay Area. But the cocktail bars receiving the most national attention and praise all happened to be in San Francisco and, without question, no other local city comes close. With some of San Francisco’s most respected and most talented members of the bar scene leading the way, many new bars were already assured of being among the most popular and most celebrated. Here are five of the best new cocktail bars in the Bay Area.
At Pabu in San Francisco, the Tree cocktail is served in autumn (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)
Pabu Bar and Lounge
101 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
In less than half a year, Pabu Bar and Lounge has become one of the trendy new spots to meet for drinks in the Financial District. Located in the new, ultramodern Japanese restaurant co-owned by Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina and acclaimed chef Ken Tominaga, the bar and lounge features a beverage program utilizing modern Japanese techniques inspired by traditional Japanese izakayas (drinking establishments). Michael Mina’s lead bartender and past Bartender of the Year, Carlo Splendorini leads the bar and lounge, in addition to his similar role at Mina’s Bourbon Steak and Pub at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
3174 16th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
It’s hard to imagine that the Mission District’s hip nightlife scene can get any better. But with the opening of ABV, it did just that. This hot new trendsetter is led by a trio of experts of the San Francisco bar scene – Ryan Fitzgerald, founding bar manager at Beretta, Todd Smth, founding bartender at Michael Mina’s Bourbon & Branch and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud, who also owns Dalva just a few doors down. The spacious bar has two levels and a 20-drink menu that includes selections such as the Mumbai Mule, with saffron, vodka, lime ginger mint and soda, and the Pina Verde, with blanco tequila, lime, genepy, pineapple and orange bitters. The food section, led by rising star chef Kevin Cimino, serves Zagat-rated food without utensils and some recommendations from past customers are the kimchee fritters, pimento cheeseburger and pulled pork.
Related: Best Piano Bars In San Francisco
12 Fourth St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
The former Fifth Floor bar of the historic Hotel Palomar underwent an elaborate makeover to become the über cool Dirty Habit. Led by executive chef and general manager David Bazirgan and bar manager Brian Means, Dirty Habit is already attracting young techies to enjoy cocktails as inventive as their names, such as Drop and Give Me Twenty, with Milagro blanco tequila, peach urfa shrub, lemon and Hellfire bitters, and A Dirty Decision made with chanterelle mushroom-infused Lustau amontillado sherry with Noilly Prat amber vermouth, black garlic tincture and orange bitters. Like most of the drinks served here, the delicacies from the food menu are all moderately priced. However, there are pricier items on the extensive wine and spirits menu including Michter’s 20-year-old bourbon ($100) and Yamazaki Japanese whiskey ($375). The gorgeous new outdoor patio has a capacity of 45 and can be the perfect hideaway to enjoy drinks in the middle of downtown San Francisco. Staff members wear custom-made uniforms designed by Dirty Habit muse and collaborator Melissa Fleis, a top three finalist in season 10 of the television program “Project Runway.”
Two Marina Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94123
The result of a successful crowd-funding effort, The Interval is a fabulous new techno bar and cafe overlooking San Francisco Bay at historic Fort Mason. Located on the ground floor of the building that houses the Long Now Foundation, The Interval is a café and a museum by day and chic bar by night, in addition to a venue for a number of very popular seminars sponsored by the foundation. The cocktail menu is quite extensive, featuring time-inspired drinks from celebrated bartender Jennifer Colliau, who spent eight years working at the James Beard award-winning Slanted Door. The Interval features music and artwork from the famed British music producer Brian Eno, a founding Long Now board member who co-produced seven U2 albums, including “The Joshua Tree” in 1987, as well as Coldplay’s 2008 album, “Vida la Vida” and the 2011 follow-up “Mylo Xyloto.”
140 New Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
Named after the French tradition of sipping calvados to restore the appetite, Trou Normand generated considerable interest well before it opened. That’s because this chic new restaurant first opened in March is owned by the man recently described as the “city’s foremost liquor authority.” Trou Normand is owner Thad Vogler’s new sister restaurant to his James Beard award-winning Bar Agricole, whose other awards include selection among the World’s Best Bars by Drinks International. Located in the historic Pacific Telephone Building, Trou Normand is open for breakfast and serves meals and drinks all day. Recommended drinks from the menu include the Tulip ($12) with calvados, apricot brandy, Italian vermouth and lime, the House Old Fashion ($12) with single cask cognac and two bitters, and Jersey City ($12) with calvados, pineapple, absinthe and lemon.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.