A city with as wild and exhilarating a nightlife as San Francisco is not to be missed – seek out a modern speakeasy harking back to Prohibition days, embark on a journey through time by discovering one atmospheric bar’s cocktail menu or find a spot in the city’s most lavish bars. Whatever your choice of entertainment, Elite Traveler has listed some of the best bars and clubs for an evening out in the City by the Bay. These are the best things to do at night in San Francisco.
Bourbon and Branch
This modern speakeasy, which harks back to the days of Prohibition when secret, swanky lounges were the hot spots, is one of the city’s trendiest bars.
The current venue is on the site of a speakeasy that operated illegally from 1921 to 1933, and the jazz, wooden bar, secret tunnels and library theme give Bourbon and Branch that authentic feel. There’s even a hidden location inside the bar that requires a password for entry, where you can sip a selection of scotch, bourbon, rum and tequila. In keeping with the inconspicuous atmosphere, a set of “House Rules” adds to the fun by limiting cell phone use, photography and asking guests to please “speak-easy.”
Relaxed and cheerful, Alembic has become a favorite among San Franciscans for the quality of its cocktails and laid back atmosphere. The bar staff here don’t just serve you a drink; they create beautiful cocktails for you to enjoy. The cocktails includes expertly crafted classics like a bourbon old fashioned as well as “new school” options such as the Southern Exposure with gin, celery, lime and mint. There’s an extensive spirits list with numerous choices for bourbon, whiskey and rye, including the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project. Upscale American small plates, a la carte menu and chef’s menu are also available for late-night bar bites. Relax on a barstool and enjoy the casual, urban-rustic decor, Edison bulbs and all.
Located in The Westin St Francis, this cocktail bar is the work of Michelin-starred Chef Michael Mina. The elegant atmosphere draws on the classic San Francisco vibe with modern touches. Each season, Clock Bar creates a menu to take guests on a “journey through time.” Everything from the cocktail names to the glassware is inspired by a specific time in history, from San Francisco in 1904 to Paris in the 1920s. A Gilded Age-inspired menu includes choices like Mr. Twain’s Tipple – a gin, blood orange and lemon cocktail that’s a nod to author Mark Twain. The The bar is situated in the lively Union Square area, ideal for extending your night to the many other bars and restaurants in the area.
Favored for its lavish interior design, the Redwood Room pays homage to California’s natural beauty – the massive redwood trees that tower over the region. Inside Clift Hotel, the decor includes original redwood paneling, said to have been carved from a single tree. The sophisticated setting also features a large, etched-glass bar and furniture designed by Philippe Starck. Stay for dinner, dessert or lighter fare, but make sure to try one of the cocktails. There’s a Redwood Room Martini that’s perfect for sipping in the bar’s famously oversized chair. On the weekends, head here for live music from native San Francisco DJs and other artists.
St. Regis Lobby Lounge
One of the swankiest bars in the city, the St. Regis Lobby Lounge upholds the level of luxury you would expect from the established hotel group; for this reason, an evening here is considered one of the best things to do in San Francisco at night.
Everything about the bar looks and feels sumptuous, from the dark decor to the leather seating. During the day, the lounge is known for its Art of Tea experience where guests enjoy a modern interpretation of 19th-century afternoon tea. The bar serves seasonal beverages, specialty cocktails and – an Elite Traveler favorite – The St. Regis Red Snapper. For $125, you can treat yourself to The World’s Greatest Martini, made with Nolet’s Reserve gin and Carpano Bianco Angostura orange bitters.
On the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, a Kimpton Hotel, in Union Square, Starlight Room boasts dazzling panoramic views of the city skyline. The regal hotel recently underwent a refurbishment, updating the accommodations while preserving its landmark appearance. The opulent atmosphere carries up to the Starlight Room – a glamorous nightclub with the charm of a century gone by. Red velvet curtains and high-back booths evoke an Art Deco feel complemented by the starry sky. Take a look at the “Stars in Starlight” menu for a selection of signature cocktails with San Francisco flair like the Cable Car created by renowned mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim.
Occupying two penthouse floors at the original Bank of Italy building, this club is housed in a national historical landmark. While this social club is for members only, they offer a “Visiting” plan for patrons who live outside the area. With a focus on “the finer things in life” – custom-tailored suits, hand-rolled cigars and crafted cocktails – it’s the place to be for an exclusive experience and one of the top things to do in San Francisco at night. Order a “Bucket List” cocktail like the $130 Pappy Vanhattan at the bar, then move on to the lounge which overlooks the must-see Transamerica Pyramid building. Private parlor rooms seat four to eight guests and are each decorated in a different menswear-inspired theme, from tweed to leather. Compete in billiards in the Game Room, sample a 500+ whisky list in the Whisky Corner or practice your swing at the Golf Simulator. There’s also a Wine Cave where members can share bottles, as well as wine lockers for storing your special wines when away.