By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
When you think of a signature drink in the City by the Bay, these are among the quintessentially San Francisco venues for timeless classic cocktails that come to mind, as they have done for decades. Which ones will you be enjoying in 2017?
Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel
999 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
Classic Martini. The question is an open one as to whether San Francisco is, in fact, the birthplace of the fabled martini cocktail. The challenge comes from Martinez, Calif, 36 miles away, where a plaque can be found in a city parking lot, claiming that on that spot in 1874 the martini came to be. Other evidence points to the 1887 cocktail manual, “The Bar-Tenders Guide,” by the famously flamboyant “Professor” Jerry Thomas of the former Occidental Hotel in San Francisco’s Union Square. While the debate over the origin of the famous cocktail may never be settled, we can take solace in the 100-plus martini menu at Top of the Mark, accompanied by 360-degree panoramic views.
Pier 1 ½
San Francisco, CA 94111
Pisco Punch. Not far from the waterfront location of La MarSF, the original Pisco Punch was blended and poured at The Bank Exchange Saloon back in 1853. Peru’s national spirit is a colorless grape brandy distilled in copper and aged in stainless steel. Imported since the 1830s, the potent drink’s popularity took off during the Gold Rush days, but alas, saloon’s well-guarded recipe for Pisco Punch was lost to posterity. However, an authentic modern interpretation from Peru can be enjoyed at La Mar, where happy hour is held seven days a week from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
2765 Hyde St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Irish Coffee. The birthplace of America’s first Irish Coffee celebrates its centennial in 2016, where bartenders are still pouring in excess of 2,000 classic 6-oz. drinks daily until 2 a.m. Based on a recipe discovered at Shannon Airport, further tweaked to incorporate local ingredients, the world famous hot drink was perfected for the American palate here in 1952, informs the corner building’s wall plaque. If you’re lucky, a window table will open up, for the views over San Francisco Bay are marvelous from this vantage point that’s just to the “left of the Powell-Hyde Cable Car’s last stop in Fisherman’s Wharf.”
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
950 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
Mai Tai. The fabulous Polynesian-themed Tiki lounge was transformed from a hotel swimming pool by MGM’s set designer in 1945, which helps explain how this room got its lagoon. Adding to the drama is a floating stage for the orchestra, a thatch-covered barge rising on on the lagoon, a dance floor fashioned from the remains of a schooner that used to ply the South Seas from San Francisco Bay, and fake rainstorms complete with thunder and lightning stage effects. Could there be anywhere more kitsch for sipping a tropical Mai Tai from a ceramic coconut mug garnished with pineapple and mint representing an island and a palm tree?
1658 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
Bloody Mary. Is it the dash of 6-year-old balsamic vinegar? The Russian Standard Platinum vodka? Or, perhaps it’s the spicy pepper-onion relish with a plate of delicious Pacific oysters served alongside. While this town has more than its fair share of excellent places for a terrific bloody mary, Zuni Cafe gets the shout out for a “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” brunch. A San Francisco landmark since 1979, Zuni earned America’s outstanding restaurant award from the James Beard Foundation in 2003.