Spirited Traveller: Crafty sipping in San Francisco

Tue Mar 15, 2011 3:15pm EDT
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By Kara Newman

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - If you're in San Francisco on business, consider yourself lucky: in addition to some of the finest wine bars in the country, the Bay area boasts one of the most lively and influential cocktail cultures around.

The key phrase in San Francisco is "craft cocktails" and the city's bartenders take their craft very seriously.

Just as Bay-area chefs seek out the freshest seasonal ingredients, so do the local mixologists, who use fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to brew up syrups, tinctures and infused liquors.

For business drinks, where to go may depend on the type of business. In the South of Market (SoMa) District, look for dot-com millionaires and media types. Here, RN74 () is better known for its American/French regional cuisine and award-winning wine list, but the bar also has a "let's do business" aesthetic, serving up cool, reinterpreted classic cocktails.

Meanwhile, in the Financial District, where trading ends at 1pm Pacific time, happy hour begins at 1:01 at expense-account classic Michael Mina (). Like its sister restaurant above, Michael Mina is better known for its wine and food (Japanese-inflected French), but look for cutting-edge cocktails with a knowing wink toward the classics, such as the "Lawrenceburg 75" (Bourbon, Meyer lemon, sparkling wine), a riff on the French 75.

Since they don't call it "the City by the Bay" for nothing, it's also worth seeking out drinks with a waterside view, such as The Slanted Door, () in the Embarcadero area, with a creative menu inspired by Vietnamese street food and cocktails featuring spirits from smaller, artisanal producers.

After hours, the city's diverse array of cocktail havens beckon.

Absinthe (), a brasserie in the chic Hayes Valley area and The Alembic (), on Haight Street near Golden Gate Park, both cater to the classic-cocktail crowd, offering carefully studied drinks like the Pisco Sour and the Sazerac.   Continued...

<p>The bar at the restaurant Michael Mina in San Francisco is shown in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout</p>