San Francisco’s history is steeped in the wild tales of the Barbary Coast—a red-light district that boomed from the Gold Rush till the Roaring ’20s. Bartenders back then were superstars, crafting cocktails that weren’t just drinks but entire shows. Fast forward to today, and that spirit still lingers in some of SF’s top-notch bars.
Cocktails & History with Josh Harris
Meet Josh Harris, the mastermind behind Trick Dog, a bar nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award. He’s all about infusing the city’s history into every cocktail they whip up.
1. Comstock Saloon: A Restored Gem
In North Beach lies Comstock Saloon, an old-timer since 1907 that screams Barbary Coast vibes. With its vintage mahogany bar and snazzy booths, it’s a blast from the past turned hip hangout. Their Sazerac is a crowd-pleaser, but don’t miss the Comstock burger or fresh oysters. Plus, live jazz pumps up the vibe every night!
2. Tadich Grill: A Slice of 1800s Charm
Tadich Grill’s the real deal, steeped in San Francisco history since 1849. This seafood joint in the Financial District serves up killer dry martinis alongside fresh seafood delights like cioppino and clam chowder. It’s a ‘get in early’ deal for the best seats!
3. Bix: Swanky 1930s Vibes
Take a trip down Gold Street to find Bix—a hidden gem that teleports you back to the ’30s. Grand decor, live jazz, and a split-level dining setup scream elegance. Their cocktails like the BIX Sidecar or BIX Boulevardier are a hit, paired perfectly with their modern American cuisine.
4. Moongate Lounge: Lunar Calendar Cocktails
Moongate Lounge in Chinatown is a sleek ode to the Barbary Coast. It’s a treat for the eyes with velvet booths, marble tabletops, and restored murals. Chef Brandon Jew’s dishes from Mister Jiu’s downstairs are a hit. But the real stars? The rotating cocktail menu inspired by the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
5. Li Po Cocktail Lounge: Dive Bar Delight
Li Po takes you back to the Chinatown nightlife of the 1930s. It’s a nostalgic dive bar adorned with red leather booths, Chinese lanterns, and a standout golden Buddha statue. The star here? Their infamous Mai Tais – strong enough to charm even Anthony Bourdain!
A Sip of San Francisco’s Rich History
These bars aren’t just about drinks; they’re a peek into San Francisco’s vibrant past. With each sip, you’re tasting the city’s wild, historic spirit, and these spots keep that legacy alive. Cheers to that!