It's that time of year again, and you may as well get drunk. San Francisco usually does it up nicely during the holiday season, and this year things should be extra festive given how dismal last year was.
Union Square is already decked out in lights, the annual tree-lighting at the entrance to Golden Gate Park is happening tonight (Thursday), and there's plenty to look forward to even though the pandemic isn't over and there's a new variant worrying people, etc.
Starting a few years ago, the trend has been for bars to be taken over by kitschy, often over-the-top holiday cocktail pop-ups, just for the brief holiday season. The pandemic paused all that, but several of these pop-ups are back, and there are a couple of bars here that just have yuletide festivity written all over them on a normal day.
Miracle @ PCH
Miracle has become a bonafide international holiday enterprise, with seasonal pop-ups across the U.S., Canada, England, and more places. San Francisco's edition started at Pacific Cocktail Haven a couple years back, and it returns there this Friday starting at 5 p.m., and will be open nightly, 5 p.m. to midnight (Monday to Saturday only, not Sunday), through Christmas Eve. Expect good cocktail making to go with all the kitsch decor, and ugly sweaters are encouraged. (PCH, meanwhile, after being gutted by a fire in early 2021, will finally make it back open as itself sometime after the holidays.)
550 Sutter Street near Mason
Sippin' Santa @ Kona's Street Market
Partners Kevin Diedrich (of Pacific Cocktail Haven), Brian Means, and Andy Chun had been planning this international/tropical-inspired downtown bar long before the pandemic shut the world down, and they finally made it open in February just after their other bar, PCH, suffered a fire. For the holidays, they've got a pop-up happening from the tropical pop-up offshoot of Miracle (see above), and it's called Sippin' Santa. Covered in Christmas lights, it's been open since last week, and it's a great escape into a holiday fantasy — especially for those stuck back in the office in downtown SF. It's open Tuesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight, and there's a $10 cover.
32 3rd Street
Deck the Halls Bar
This little holiday pop-up bar returns this time around at 546 Broadway (better known as Hungry I's strip club) in North Beach, serving up some cozy holiday cheer. The drinks are all served in kitschy/goofy mugs and glassware — including a glass boot — and there's a shot called a Krampus that gets set on fire. See the menu here, and yes, they're game to host your private event.
Top of the Mark
You can't not get into the holiday spirit by going to some of SF's hotel bars, especially up on Nob Hill. It's not clear if the Fairmont is doing it's usual 700-pound gingerbread house in the lobby, but you can always just hit the elevators across the street at the Mark Hopkins and head to SF's most famous penthouse bar. Take a date, order a Brandy Alexander and some snacks, and let the lights of SF and the Bay Lights on the bridge lull you into some type of holiday cheer.
999 California Street
Only newly back open after going dark for the better part of the pandemic, this stylish gin joint designed like a London Tube station is the perfect balm for the holiday season — and the ever-changing menu, including great punches for groups, should be sure to bring you some special yuletide delights. There's also a new food menu that you can check out here. They're open Tues-Thu, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Fri-Sat 5 p.m. to midnight, but they will be closed from Dec. 23 to Dec. 25.
600 Polk Street