Once home to a working waterfront, gold miners and argonauts, San Francisco is one of the few urban American cities to maintain a tangible sense of Western-ness. New-age saloons exist without a tinge of irony, while holdouts from another age—including a wealth of dive bars and Prohibition-era lounges—are scattered amongst the city’s sloping streets. Even remnants of the Barbary Coast’s heyday—like the Tadich Grill—are palpable and beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Over the past few decades, the city’s drinks scene has truly honed its identity as a natural offshoot of San Francisco’s culinary scene. Judy Rodgers and Alice Waters, among others, helped define what farm-to-table—and, in turn, “California” cuisine—meant in the 1970s and ’80s, while the Berkeley-based Kermit Lynch helped San Francisco, and ultimately the rest of the country, understand how the same ethos looked and tasted when applied to wine. But the frontier quality that still oozes from the city has led to a wine culture that is constantly in flux. Today, however, the marriage of the city’s long-held appreciation for small-production wines from the Old World with the rise of a new crop of California winemakers cut from a more traditional cloth, has made for a scene that has never felt more symbiotic.
Also fully evolved is San Francisco’s cocktail barscape, which has profited from the city’s tech-fueled growth spurt and all its expendable income it’s corralled. For such a compact city, the number of places to find a stiff drink—whether a private-label Calvados at Trou Normand or a thoughtful Daiquiri at The Interval—is seemingly boundless.