Whether in search of a last-minute Christmas gift, host/hostess offering or party supplies for New Years Eve, chances are you will end up in search of a good liquor store.
Luckily, we have quite a few spots in the Bay Area that are helpful to both the cocktail geek and cocktail meek. Here's a list of some of my favorite spots to pick up a bottle or two of something unique or simply to restock your liquor cabinet in time for company.
My go-to place to buy spirits in the Bay Area is undoubtedly Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley. Don't let the "corner liquor" exterior fool you -- this place is stocked with some of the best and hardest-to-find bottles and will make the spirits geek (that's me!) weep. Ed Ledger, the owner, knows his stuff and stocks some weird and wonderful things along with standard spirits. Warning: If you know anything about spirits, you will not be able to resist buying. A lot.
Another top pick, that is in the city and central to downtown is K&L Wines in SoMA. While the store is small, it has a large selection, great prices, and some unique items that spirits buyer Dave Driscoll brings in under their house label called Faultline. A bonus is that it also ships and has a huge Peninsula location.
Also near downtown is Cask from the Future Bar folks (Bourbon & Branch, Tradition, Wilson & Wilson) that along with a small, but remarkably well curated selection of liquor also has some seriously professional grade bartending equipment. The small shop usually has some helpful folks behind the counter who can show you what you're looking for, even if you're not sure.
Tucked away in plain sight, right off Union Square is the massive Scotch whisky selection at the appropriately named Whisky Shop. The selection of brands and styles, from blended to single malts, is impressive, but can feel overwhelming if you don't know what you want. Just ask for help from the knowledgeable staff and don't forget to pick up a couple of Irn-Bru, the bright orange Scottish soda purported to cure hangovers.
Up on Fillmore is D&M Liquor, which also ships and has an impressive selection of bottles, along with "starter kits" with all the booze and bitters you need to start your bar. It also has a great American whiskey and brandy selection.
Over on Duboce and in the Inner Richmond are two locations of the American whiskey specialists at Healthy Spirits. They also stock a great selection of beer in case you like to chase your whiskey with a good beer (we do).