The Five Swankiest Hotel Bars in San Francisco
No room key required
We love a good hotel bar.
Patronized by those passers-through and stoppers-by, they’re full of inifinite possibility.
Now, two schools of thought prevail on how to make good on these thoroughly sexy spaces: Meet someone. Or bring someone.
Personally, we opt for a specific take on option B. Namely, that the hotel bar is the superior choice for a promising second date.
If you guessed wrong — no harm, no foul. If you guessed right … there are advantages to getting a drink in a building with a neutral-territory bedroom available.
Destination: Clock Bar
Hotel: Westin St Francis
Vibe: Buzzy after-work, with patrons whose ears prick up at the mention of Michael Mina
Why here: The cocktail menu isn’t just seasonal — it’s rigorously themed, which is why you’ll find drinks like the Flight of the 49er (with vodka, aperol, lime, pomegranate and ginger beer) next to The Forgotten Panner (“an homage to the foreign minorities that worked the [gold] mines”: Akashi whiskey, cynar, falernum, and chocolate bitters.
Destination: Burritt Room and Tavern
Vibe: Chandeliers and brick-face walls — dressy and smart
Why here: The six-nights-a-week jazz sessions are a suitable backdrop for the craft cocktail menu — we’ll have the Savory Martini, with vodka, Dolin dry vermouth, rosemary, sage, green pepper corn and marjoram.
Vibe: Sleek ‘n’ chic, with gleaming everything — shiny mid-century modern
Why here: They’ve come up with the most universally flattering lighting scheme we’ve ever experienced. Our drink of choice — Alive, with Brazilian cachaca, vodka, cucumber water, lime juice, agave, mint, and sparkling wine — pairs nicely with the bar bites: We like the Dungeness crab cake and patatas bravas.
Destination: The View Lounge
Hotel: San Francisco Marriott Marquis
Vibe: Impressed tourists and proud locals showing off the space
Why here: Well, there’s a reason they’re impressed — it’d be worth coming for the titular view even if the space belonged to a McDonald’s. As it is, you’ll need to time to visit to minimize competition for seats near the windows and for the attention of your server. Order whatever you can stomach for the least possible — you’re here for the view.
Hotel: Hotel Vitale
Vibe: Embarcadero workers looking for a solid happy hour
Why here: Wait for a sunny day for a seat on the outdoor patio — then order a craft cocktail (or whichever under-$10 happy hour drink best gets the job done.)
Note: We actually like plenty more — but our final shout-out needs to go to the Tonga Room at the Fairmont, 70 years young and still, however improbably, going strong. Maybe it pour mai tais forever.
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