15 Romolo: The dim bar hits the perfect balance of Barbary Coast and design boutique, flavored with a few drops of rockabilly dive. The bartenders switch up their featured drinks frequently, so it's hard to know if a concoction that's there one week will be there the next. The mixologists have been known to get inspired by a root or berry from the morning farmers' market, so prepare yourself for something fresh and creative. The hearty food menu has shareable snacks and a formidable burger. 15 Romolo Place, 398-1359, 15romolo.com.
83 Proof: This is a bar that takes its cocktails very seriously. The bartenders are alchemist savants, thumbing through their comprehensive knowledge of spirits and herbs, veggies, and fruits to design your perfect drink. You tell them what flavors you like and they'll build a cocktail to match. Each bartender has his or her specialty: some favor rum, some whiskey or scotch, but all are friendly, unpretentious, and incredibly attentive. They love what they do, spending time to explain the flavors as well as the bar's history. The building has a bit of S.F. folklore and notoriety tied to it: It was a Chinese Triad bar that got closed down for more than 10 years following a violent shootout, and prior to that it was a longshoreman's bar. The original 1936 flooring remains. 83 First St., 296-8383, 83proof.com.
The Alembic It's not to everyone's tastes: too loud/too hipster/too much of a bar/too fancy/ew, bone marrow? But in addition to stellar cocktails (one favorite, the Southern Exposure, contains gin, mint, and celery juice), the kitchen puts out some of the most unabashedly creative food in this city. Its American bistro menu is seasonal as well as science-friendly, and wildly affordable to boot. Cocktails extra, of course. 1725 Haight, 666-0822, alembicbar.com.
The Armory Club: No, it's not a strip club. Owned and operated by the people behind Kink.com — headquartered directly across the street — the Armory Club prefers its pants fancy, serving high-end cocktails in an environment that's one part 19th-century bordello and two parts 21st-century tech money. 1799 Mission, 431-5300, armoryclub.com.
Aub Zam Zam: Upper Haight cocktail oasis with a Persian decor theme and famously delicious drinks. Anthony Bourdain likes it, so why shouldn't you? 1633 Haight, 861-2545.
Bar Agricole: There are two grand gestures at work at Bar Agricole: ingredients of pristine integrity (house-made bitters, locally distilled spirits, biodynamic vegetables custom-grown for the chef) and a space so epically designed it resembles an opera set. Thad Vogler's drinks are deft and artfully presented, and the ambitious food menu complements the gorgeous interior. 355 11th St., 355-9400, baragricole.com.
Beretta: This popular, noisy place, decorated in spare grays and browns with filigree painted in the corners, feels as much like a bar as a restaurant. The front of the room, with a tall communal table set at the same height as the long bar, often feels like a crowded cocktail party. True to its looks, there's a long list of specialty cocktails, while the menu features an assortment of antipasti, salumi, a few risottos and entrées, and a dozen thin-crust pizzas — the margherita with house-made burrata has become a citywide favorite; less classic is a spicy coppa and salami pie with a chile-spiked tomato sauce. 1199 Valencia, 695-1199, berettasf.com.
Bergerac: Out of the old Mist space comes Bergerac, a bar that's modeled off of Villa Nelcotte, a French Mansion where the Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street. This chic bar is known for its cocktails that were created from customer requests. 316 11th St., 255-9440, bergeracsf.com.
Bloodhound: This hunter's lodge-themed bar in SOMA is not safe for PETA members: decor includes mounted animal skulls and an antler chandelier. Try the bar's namesake cocktail, which combines Campari, grapefruit juice, and Hangar 1 vodka. Head to the back for a game of pool, pour your money into the jukebox, or take a shot at the Buck Hunter arcade game. Disclaimer: Aim can sometimes be impaired from alcohol consumption. 1145 Folsom, 863-2840, bloodhoundsf.com.
Bourbon & Branch: Bourbon & Branch conjures the feel of a Prohibition-era speakeasy. It's in an inconspicuous, windowless building beneath a decoy sign reading "Anti-Saloon League." A reservation and a "secret" password assigned at the time of your reservation will lead you to a bi-level space overlooking the bar when it gets crowded. It's easy to get overwhelmed by its 40-page menu, which features champagne cocktails, absinthe elixirs (Death in the Afternoon, for example), and Oaxacan Old Fashions. In the background, saloon fiddle, sleepy jazz, or dolorous blues play softly from the sound system. There are a few house rules one must follow: Be patient, don't lurk, no cell phones, no cameras, and exit quietly. 501 Jones, 673-1921, bourbonandbranch.com.
Box & Bells: Oakland's Box & Bells in Rockridge is known for its highly indulgent food menu of slow-roasted meats and sausages, but the drink menu is also replete with rich cocktails. 5912 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 923-2000, boxandbells.com.
Brass Tacks: Taking up residence in the former Marlena's in Hayes Valley, this new bar's owners have given it a full remodel, opting for hardwood and a fancy chandelier, along with a jukebox. Cocktails with interesting names are uniformly 10 bucks, and the draft beer menu features local and regional selections like Anchor and Stone. There are a few wines on tap as well. 488A Hayes, brasstackssf.com.
Burritt Room: This bar/lounge/venue inside the Crescent Hotel is sleek and polished, but with enough antique design elements to bring it down to earth. The same aesthetic applies to the bar, which is located on the second floor. Chandeliers and candles give warmth to the deep wood floor, modern couches, and stark white piano. The bar is front and center with a jaw-dropping selection of spirits. Beer and wine are here, too, but very much an afterthought — you're here for a cocktail. 417 Stockton, 400-0554, crescentsf.com.
Cantina: Cantina has mastered the art of fresh Latin cocktails — available here by both the glass and the pitcher. Bartenders muddle drinks made with their house-grown citrus (supposedly the trees are in Santa Clara) while Union Square/Nob Hillers get rowdy. Signature drinks include the Five-Spice Margarita and Blackberry Cabernet Caipirinha, and wine and beer aficionados also have plenty of choices. If it's jammed up front at the bar, retreat to the back or downstairs where there's a lot more lounge space. 580 Sutter, 398-0195, cantinasf.com.