Forget gin and tonics. There's a cutting-edge cocktail scene growing in San Francisco—and veteran mixologist Thad Vogler of the new Bar Agricole has it all mapped out.
Why my town
"In San Francisco, we hit that sweet spot between preciousness and showing we really care. We embrace fresh ingredients, and we're increasingly committed to technique."
First-stop cocktail spot
"At The Alembic in the Haight, Daniel Hyatt does a few drinks based on the classics from the bar at London's Savoy hotel. I really love the Opera—it's got gin, maraschino liqueur, Dubonnet, and orange bitters. You also can't go wrong with the traditional whiskey cocktails." 1725 Haight St., alembicbar.com, cocktails $10.
It wine bar
"Terroir is this spot in SoMa that has natural biodynamic wines, all very affordable, with an emphasis on small, funky bottles from lesser-known regions like Jura. And across the street from it is a food truck called Spencer on the Go. You can bring your braised skate cheeks or escargot puffs to Terroir to have with your wine." 1116 Folsom St., terroirsf.com, wine from $10.
"The guys at Beretta are really smart and funny—they're a**holes, but in a good way. And the pizza isn't bad either. You can get a Margherita with a killer cocktail until 1 a.m.—late in this town." 1199 Valencia St., berettasf.com, drinks from $9, pizzas from $10.
Innovation on ice
"Jackie Patterson at Heaven's Dog in the SOMA Grand has an amazing palate; her creations are simple but subtle, which is to say that they're just right. I always order a drink called the Green Wire, made with green Chartreuse as the defining ingredient. Get that with the shumai dumplings and you're good to go." SOMA Grand, 1148 Mission St., heavensdog.com, drinks $10, dumplings from $8.
A taste of Korea
"Pyung Chang Tofu House in Oakland does hot pots and casseroles—those really hearty, complex, spicy Korean dishes, all incredibly cheap. You can have them with soju, a Korean liquor, but I like the barley tea." 4701 Telegraph Ave., 510/658-9040, entrées from $10.
Secretly great touristy hotel bar
"I love The View Lounge bar at the Marriott Marquis at 4th and Mission—you look right out on the city and the Bay Bridge. The time to go is in the evening, when you can take in the view with something on the rocks." San Francisco Marriott Marquis, 55 4th St., marriott.com, cocktails from $13.
Old-school happy hour
"Tosca Cafe in North Beach is such a beautiful bar. I like to go there around 5 p.m., when there's opera on the jukebox, and get some sort of overproof whiskey." 242 Columbus Ave., toscacafesf.com, drinks from $6.
"Red's Java House is one of those places where the menu lists things like 'Cheeseburger and Pabst Blue Ribbon for $5.75.'" Pier 30 at Bryant St., 415/777-5626, burgers from $3.75.
At my place
"I'm most excited about this gin cocktail with Riesling and house-made stone fruit bitters we're doing at Bar Agricole. To snack on, try the pickled sardines and Espelette crackers, or the grilled fava beans with lemon and sea salt." 355 11th St., baragricole.com, cocktails from $8, small plates from $8.