Frozen cocktails are cropping up all over the city this summer. You may want your bartender to serve a tropical concoction accompanied by the quintessentially kitschy pastel paper umbrella. Or not. Either way, it turns out San Francisco has a bit more of the Barbary Coast/Caribbean/South Pacific Tiki bar theme going on than one might imagine at first glance. Two of these spots have been around forever and two are brand new with outdoor patios opened just in time for summer.
6150 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Bring three friends and dive into this dive bar’s scorpion bowl. Accoutrements include four straws balanced around a tiny city of orange slices and maraschino cherries speared by paper umbrellas. The jukebox jives with the vibes from this Outer Richmond tiki joint where it feels like a college Ratskeller circa 1970 all over again. The cocktail menu doesn’t tell you what’s in the drink, but nobody is complaining about the alcohol content. Getting a well-spiked something-or-other from the friendly bartenders is easy…getting a place to sit down is less so. Trad’r Sam is cash only, as it has been since the 1930s.
950 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
Upscale mini-umbrellas accompany your happy hour cocktail at this throwback dating to the end of World War II. Calling its libations “decadent,” the Fairmont Hotel’s original tiki palace offers funky South Pacific touches about as subtle as the fake rain showers around the band’s floating platform barge on the indoor lagoon. Get a rum-packed blended pineapple punch of Tonga Colada and dance the night away in honor of the Professor and Mary Ann. There’s a claim to the city’s best Mai Tai. It’s not frozen, but the whole place is frozen in time, so do you really care at this point?
340 Stockton St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
Lollipop-colored paper umbrellas aside, some prefer a spicy bite of sophistication and class in their glass. The Lime & Lychee Bite (ask for an L&L to impress) at this Union Square hotel bar features American Star Distillery’s Caviar Lime Vodka from Santa Barbara and house-made chili syrup made from fire-roasted Serrano chili peppers, macerated and infused into neutral sugar syrup. It’s twice strained and shaken with crushed ice, not blended. “Be careful, this stuff is spicy,” sounds like a challenge worth taking up.
12 4th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
What opened May 1st, has an outdoor patio, seats 50 up on the roof, a 10-foot long fire fixture and pours a mean Loveable Trixter? Bar Manager Brian Means has introduced a menu of creative hand-crafted cocktails. This one is made with Plymouth Gin, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, shaken with ice, double strained and served over cobbled ice. The flavor profile is soft juniper and lemon zest on the nose accompanied by blackberry jam and sage. It’s slightly sweet, but quickly offset by the fresh and bright acidity from the lime juice. It’s a great summer cocktail, and what a treat to sip it ‘en plein air’ atop Hotel Palomar’s new space. Add this to your summer to-do list.
1300 Battery St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
According to Dustin Sullivan, lead barman, Dark ‘n Stormy Slush is so popular that it’s off the menu. Based on the classic Bourbon Slush, because the recipe calls for ginger beer, rum and lime blended and frozen overnight, one cannot simply make more once it sells out – which it did every evening. “We literally didn’t have enough freezer space in the restaurant to keep up with the demand,” says Sullivan. “So we took it off of the menu and now it exists as a sort of ‘secret item’ for people in the know.” And there you have it. And, if they have it, don’t be surprised if it’s served in a mini-Mason jar with a slice of lime.
2032 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94129
The Caribbean comes to Cow Hollow in May in the former Nettie’s Crab Shack historic space. Look for the 150-year-old Canary Island Barbary Palm tree just outside, you can’t miss it. Inside, everything’s changed. LED-illuminated birdcages containing tropical plants hung in a 35-foot atrium reinforce the tropical mood. Anthony Parks of Bergerac/Audio is consulting on the bar menu to include shareable punch bowl classics. And, Palm House has a dedicated spiked slushy machine in-house serving up a rotation of tropically inspired flavors including passion fruit, mango, prickly pear and passion fruit. It’s nice for sipping on the black-and-white tiled patio.
Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on Examiner.com.