San Francisco has had a fantastic year for new food and drink, topping even the last couple (which were nothing to scoff at, either). While 2014 brought us a dozen cool new bars (two of which have sadly closed already), this year we have eleven more fresh spots in which we'd recommend this city's thirsty, particular, been-there-done-that horde of connoisseurs spend their paychecks on fine cocktails, beer, and wine. So, before this bubble — that lots of people argue isn't really bubble — pops, check out all the swell gin joints where New San Francisco is getting drunk these days, which includes, in fact, the most comprehensive and gin-geeky gin joint in the nation. — Jay Barmann

This year, Ne Timeas Restaurant Group (Flour + Water, Central Kitchen) brought us two new bar-restaurants in the historic Swedish American Hall building on Upper Market. The first to open, this street-level tapas bar named for a "young bull" of Basque mythology (pronounced aah-CHAY), features a ton of delicious cocktail-friendly Spanish bites heavy on shellfish and seafood, and a great cocktail menu designed by the Trick Dog boys anchored by a choose-your-own-adventure gin-and-tonic pairing option. It is, in fact, the best primer for any would-be gin lover or gin novice, and great fun for anyone with an already established love for the stuff, with literally hundreds of possible combinations. (Think of it as a palatable baby step before delving into the Encyclopedia of Gin that is Whitechapel, see below.) The short marble bar at the entry is a pleasantly chill spot most nights, but you also have the option of sitting down in the dining room for more of a dinner experience. Make sure to try a jar of the clam escabeche verde and a flatbread along with your drinks, and maybe some Spanish fried rice if you're still hungry. — Jay Barmann
2174 Market Street at Sanchez


Benjamin Cooper
Fans of long-gone Big will recognize something in the laid-back vibe and unique style of this small, bespoke cocktail emporium, tucked away on the second floor near Union Square. That's because former Big bartenders Brian Felley and Mo Hodges are the guys behind it, and they brought with them their excellent palates, talents for on-the-fly cocktail creation, and their shared passion for unusual ingredients. It's actually not that easy to find, which may be a good thing — you enter this cozy space with its horseshoe bar off Mason Street, behind 398 Brasserie at the Hotel G. And an evening here is sure to introduce you to a liqueur you've never heard of, and a spin on a classic cocktail or inventive new concoction that is too damn delicious to be called pretentious — because this is a place you go if you're serious about your drinks, but not so serious that you'd actually admit that in a Tinder profile. — Jay Barmann
398 Geary Street at Mason, 2nd Floor

Photo of the Starline Social Club's lounge from their Facebook page

Starline Social Club
In a space that once housed one of Uptown Oakland's grittiest saloons, an art/music/performance space has risen. Co-owner Sam White is a Chez Panisse alum who puts just as much emphasis on the venue's food (which as of Wednesday will feature Burmese offerings with the help of Grocery Café) as their community-based, cultural events. Drink downstairs at their gorgeous wooden bar or in their cozy booths, or head upstairs to the ballroom to see what the "social" part of the club's name has to offer. — Eve Batey
645 West Grand Avenue, Oakland

Nick Riker/SFist

Stookey’s Club Moderne
When bars came out of the speakeasy shadows, they apparently emerged into a weirdly lit, oddly colored post-prohibition era. That is, if the painstakingly recreated Stookey's Club Moderne is to serve as an accurate example. Masterfully stylized to channel the '30s/'40s streamline/moderne period, the whole gambit is a bizarre throwback. Take the bartenders, who look like druggists in their white uniforms as they fix drinks at a glacial pace, as was apparently the fashion at the time. So if you've grown bored by the prohibition-style bars so trendy of late, take them to their logical, incredibly strange conclusion: Stookey's, where a classic San Francisco Pisco Punch, Mai Tai, Irish Coffee, or even Fernet flight will refresh you. —Caleb Pershan
895 Bush Street at Taylor Street

Lew and Scalzo, all smiles. Photo: Facebook

The story of Tsk/Tsk goes like this: Not everybody has the investor money at the onset to open a Whitechapel, and sometimes you have to start a little smaller and work your way there. Such is the case with this whimsical, tongue-in-cheek temporary bar concept from the eventual owners/bartenders behind the upcoming Horsefeather, Justin Lew and Ian Scalzo (formerly of Bourbon & Branch and Tradition). They took the former Ziryab space on Divisadero and opened in a relative hurry in July with a menu of highballs and adult slushies and snacks like tacos and deviled eggs. They've got a new brunch pop-up on Saturdays called Brodericks (which serves until 4, as all good brunch places should but don't), and whenever Horsefeather opens I expect that will land on one of our lists too, because these guys know their way around a well. For now, this placeholder is a cleverl addition to an already hip-ifying 'hood where you shouldn't feel too cool to order a Banana Hammock with your bacon cheeseburger (that's just a banana-tinged pina colada, btw). — Jay Barmann
528 Divisadero at Fell

Caleb Pershan/SFist

Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio
If you're looking to record a gold album, don't go to Mr. Tipple's Recording Studio because it's actually a bar and also are you kidding with that, it's all about streaming and singles, you gotta wake up. If you'd like to hear quality jazz music while enjoying cocktails from the team behind Maven, however, then this is your place. The cool, deco space is in the Mid-Market area you've been warned about through a funky graffiti door. Don't miss bar bites — including, at least for now, a chartreuse ice cream that's actually packaged and shaped like a Drumstick right from the truck. In the coming months they'll open a giant restaurant that's connected called Cadence, and the two are sure to compliment each other nicely. SFist checked out the space early, so we're jumping the gun on this a bit. But hey, they open in just days on December 15th, and that's technically 2015, so there you have it. —Caleb Pershan
39 Fell Street between Van Ness and Polk Streets

Black Sands Brewery
Brew tanks you can see means freshness you can taste, and Black Sands' offerings in the beer category consistently shine thanks to exacting head brewer Cole Emde. But there's plenty of room in the limelight on this corner of the Lower Haight for great cocktails devised by Nicolas Torres, whose previous work includes the drinkable hits at Lazy Bear. Ever see a forest and want to drink it? Well now you can in the form of a Quinine 'N Pine cocktail, made with Genepy, Amontillado, lime, cranberry pine shrub, bitters and tonic. Or pull up a High Chair — that's Chairman's Spiced rum, Swedish "Punsch," lime, pineapple, cinammon — for a drink bordering on full kitsch Tiki territory but served up and elegant. Black Sands feels like a vision for a new Lower Haight, a kind of Toronado-meets-Maven. It's beer-driven and unapologetically boozy but not opposed to a bit of refinement, meticulousness, or great bar food. —Caleb Pershan
701 Haight Street at Pierce Street

Behold Tupper & Reed, where old-timey decor meets newfangled bartenders and techniques. Photo: Jerry P/Yelp

Tupper & Reed
With a reservations-only upstairs bar that offers "formal tableside cocktail service" from their menu of over 60 drinks, you can see why this place describes itself as offering a "nightly cocktail symphony." Housed in a 90-year-old Gothic building on Shattuck Avenue that was formerly home to Beckett's, this period piece of a bar is from the folks responsible for similar throwbacks like Bourbon & Branch and Local Edition. The focus here is on rare and high-end spirits with (now, thankfully ubiquitous) fresh-squeezed juices and house made bitters and tinctures. But if you're not in the mood for the full contact cocktail experience, their downstairs bar is just the regular kind where you come in and sit down, with a far less intimidating lineup of drink options. The entertainment is themed to match the decor, with a standing Wednesday date with Jitterbug Riot, and classic jazz every Thursday. — Eve Batey
2271 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

Photo: Jack Morse/SFist

Opened seven months ago, Resolute on Geary at Leavenworth Street is a definite win for Bay Area wine lovers. Offering a curated, rotating selection of wine both at the bar and with bottles to go, the spot works for both a romantic evening out or as a quick stop on your way home to pick up something nice. The knowledgeable owners (at least one of whom we found pouring behind the bar on a recent visit) will happily chat with you in detail about wine pairings or the best small breweries in San Francisco, and their expertise is a big part of what makes Resolute stand out. On the topic of breweries, in addition to wine, Resolute carries a rotating selection of beer from local breweries and offers beer flights for the reasonable price of $10 (current flight: Whippersnapper from Berryessa Brewing Co, Mocha Shake and Endure Fort Winter both from Triple Voodoo). With a choice of cheese and meats available, it's easy to settle in for the night. — Jack Morse
678 Geary at Leavenworth Street

You have to hand it to barman Martin Cate. He channeled his passion for Tiki culture and his cocktail-making skills into Smuggler's Cove six years ago, stocking the place with a collection of what's now topped 500 rums from around the world and at various degrees of age, and composing a cocktail menu that is basically an encyclopedia of Tiki history. The place quickly became a cocktail-tourist destination and was named both one of the most influential and one of the best bars in the nation. These accolades could easily come to his new venture at the edge of the Tenderloin, Whitechapel — a partnership with another acclaimed bar star, Alex Smith (Novela, Gitane). Inside it's a perfectly envisioned and executed replica of an abandoned London Tube station, with a bar in it and some comfy booths, and a cocktail list that is similarly encyclopedic, only this time devoted to gin. There are classic cocktails, brand new creations, variations on G&Ts and gin-and-seltzer, and enough to keep any gin lover busy tasting things for probably all of next year. And did I mention there's a collection of 400 gins which is the biggest in all of North America and a pretty fine menu of British pub-inspired food to go with it? Yeah, Martin Cate doesn't do anything half-assed. —Jay Barmann
600 Polk Street at Turk

Slick. Sleek. Masculine. Wooden. That's Gavin Newsom, but those words also accurately describe Forgery, a new member of the PlumpJack group which the politician himself founded in 1992. You can't sit at the bar because, presumably to better accommodate the happy hour hordes who toil nearby, there aren't any stools [Ed note: I was wrong and am ashamed]. Claim a mid-century leather chair or a table on the upper balcony level, if you can, and order their standout, almost dark-chocolatey sour cherry Negroni. —Caleb Pershan
1525 Mission Street between 11th and Lafayette Streets

Coming next week: The Best New Restaurants of 2015...

For budgetary reasons, SFist editors and contributors occasionally accept complimentary meals from restaurants and their publicists. More often, we pay out of pocket for our meals. While we refrain from writing formal reviews, we make every effort when giving opinions about restaurants to be objective, and to focus more on food and ambiance than service in order to make up for any possible bias.

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