A Guide to the Bay Area’s Best Bottle Shops

We're spoiled for choice when it comes to curated liquor stores. Let's dive in.

March 12, 2024 7:11 am
Cask, a wine and spirits store with two locations in San Francisco. It's one of SF's best bottle shops.
At Cask, it's all about spirits, cocktails and wine. If you're a beer nerd, we've got shops for you, too.
Inertia Unlimited

From artisanal liquor stores to hidden beer caves, the Bay Area is in a class of its own when it comes to bottle shops. After all, modern craft brewing in the U.S. originated in San Francisco when Fritz Maytag bought Anchor Brewing Company in 1965, and one of the world’s premier wine regions is just a quick road trip away. The upshot is you’ll never have to drive (or walk) too far for top-notch wine, beer and spirits. Whether you’re seeking rare new releases or solid crowd-pleasers, we’ve gathered up some of the best neighborhood bottle shops to have in your back pocket.

Ales Unlimited

This corner beer shop in Pacific Heights has been going strong for over 15 years, and there’s a good reason why. Here, fresh cans are a priority: the owner sources directly from local breweries, cutting out the middleman to get limited new releases before they sell out. You might spy rare gems like Heady Topper from the Alchemist, which comes through one or two weeks per year. Beer nerds can pre-order on the shop’s website. Be sure to grab some imported gummy bears — there are 50 varieties available — on the way out.

bottles of liquor on shelves, wooden floors
Bitters & Bottles

Bitters & Bottles

This boutique in South San Francisco has everything you need to create killer cocktails, from the artisanal spirits to the stirrers and shakers. You’ll find many rare, gift-worthy bottles from small independent producers (they’re especially strong in tequila and mezcal, among other categories). Make sure to browse their intriguing selection of bitters that you can sample in-store.

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The Whisky Shop

The whisky here is expertly vetted by a Scotsman, who regularly hosts weekend tastings at this longstanding Union Square store. You’ll find traditional peated whisky from Scotland’s Orkney Islands alongside bottles from Ireland and Japan. In addition to spirits, other Scottish wares are on offer, including a selection of kilts. We recommend the whisky to everyone; for the kilts, every man must decide for himself.

Healthy Spirits

Beer and whisky: a perfect match. The original Healthy Spirits location in the Castro was founded on this premise in 1998, offering one of the city’s deepest inventories of craft beer and premium whiskey. Now, with three additional locations in Bernal Heights, Inner Richmond and Valencia, they still hold true to that vision while expanding into wine, agave-based spirits and more. If you’re in the mood for Boilermakers, you know where to go.

K&L Wine Merchants

Could a liquor store ever be too big? K&L in San Francisco and Redwood City is a great place to shop for wine with its wide, crowd-pleasing selection and often discounted prices. You’ll find rarities like a 2013 Dom Perignon Brut Champagne among the thousands of local and international varietals. The down-to-earth staff always go the extra mile to deliver quality service.

bottles of liquor on shelves, glasses and tools on table
Inertia Unlimited


This is one of San Francisco’s storied spirits shops, founded in 2008 in the Tenderloin and later expanding to College Avenue in Berkeley. The staff is well-informed and opinionated, so ask what’s new and exciting. Known for its whisky and bourbons, it’s also well-stocked with artisanal agave-based spirits and gins. You can learn all about their new products at free educational tastings at both locations every week.

City Beer Store

One of the OGs of San Francisco’s craft beer scene, City Beer has gone through many iterations, starting out as a tiny underground shop on Folsom in 2006 before expanding to larger digs and adding food. On Valencia Street, there’s no food, but the beer continues to flow, with sours and hoppy ales on tap and a small but mighty selection of interesting local cans to crack open and try at the bar or take home.

Jessica Moncada-Konte [left] and Kori Saika Chen, owners of Alkali Rye
Jessica Moncada-Konte [left] and Kori Saika Chen, owners of Alkali Rye
Alkali Rye

Alkali Rye

Named after a wild grass native to the Bay Area, Alkali Rye champions small, underrepresented beverage makers, particularly Black, Indigenous, Women and LGBTQ producers. There’s a sense of political responsibility to the Oakland shop, but the inventory is remarkable simply because it’s so damn good. Locally crafted liqueurs like Brucato Amaro share shelf space with intriguing spirits like Oaxacan rum. A plus for teetotalers: you can find non-alcoholic spirits here, too.

Prizefighter Bottle Shop

When stocking your home bar, who better to help than a veteran bartender? Dylan O’Brien brings years of experience to his new Emeryville bottle shop, which he co-owns with his wife, Polly Hancock. This small space punches above its weight, offering local wines, limited-edition spirits, and a tight selection of home bartending tools, mixers and syrups. Right next door is Prizefighter Bar, the local dog-friendly watering hole also owned by the couple.


This Oakland wine bar’s name is a play on “vin ordinaire,” a French term for high-quality, reasonably priced wines meant for everyday drinking — a concept we can get behind. You’ll find an excellent selection of natural wines, along with daily changing glasses that can be enjoyed with cured meats and other snacks at the bar or upstairs in the drinking loft.

people sitting at bar, liquor on shelves, flamingo statues
Bay Grape
Becca Wyant

Bay Grape

Wine and cheese, what more do you need? This bright and friendly wine shop near Lake Merritt in Oakland, with a sister shop in Napa, regularly hosts pop-ups and special events featuring a rotating selection of local and international wines by the glass from their deep inventory of more than 500 bottles. Known for its chill vibe, the husband-and-wife co-owners deliver on their promise of wine shopping “without douchery.”

Uptown Market and Liquor

It’s a beer bonanza hiding in plain sight. At first glance, this looks like any old liquor/convenience store in Oakland with snacks on the shelves and milk in refrigerated cases, but there’s a giant hidden beer cave here stocked with various exciting craft beers; ask about it when you go. The selection of spirits and liqueurs is also top-notch.

Ale Tales

If you’re a fan of limited-release beer and don’t know Ale Tales yet, get yourself to Solano Avenue in Albany. The shop offers an expertly curated selection of IPAs, hoppy beers, meads, wild ales and other obscure (and delicious) beverages. Heads up: they regularly stock rarities like Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing.

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