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Drink 2014: Cocktail Listings 


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Casanova Lounge: Hipsters and locals pack the worn velvet couches of this charming, dimly lit Mission District dive for pocket-change happy hour specials, cool DJ nights, and a stocked jukebox. The decor accents — like vintage lamps and black velvet paintings — might make you wonder if the owners had raided every thrift shop in the county, while the retro-hip fashions of the regulars only reinforce that idea. Nightly DJs spin everything from indie, Britpop, and punk to Latin boogie, soul oldies, and honky tonk. Unless it's a major holiday, there's never a cover charge. 527 Valencia, 863-9328,

Comstock Saloon: The Barbary Coast re-created by the Comstock Saloon would have appeared to the denizens of the 19th-century vice district as a utopian fantasy. The saloon's booths are occupied by mixed groups, the bartenders have all their teeth, and the booze won't make you go blind. That doesn't make the romance it stages any less potent, because everything about the place is so beautifully realized. Jonny Raglin and Jeff Hollinger's take on classic cocktails such as Pisco Punches and South Sides is deft, and even defter is the way the menu lightens and modernizes old-timey dishes so they feel as contemporary as a well-made Manhattan. 155 Columbus, 617-0071,

E&O Asian Kitchen: E&O is a big, fun-filled Disneyfied version of some Southeast Asian trading post, with towering ceilings, a split-level dining room, equatorial-rustic objets d'art, and a tasty selection of Indonesian, Malaysian, and Vietnamese delicacies. The dumplings, spring rolls, satays, and stir-fries are especially tasty with one of the house tropical cocktails or a flagon of Indian lager, and don't pass up the crunchy corn fritters, the house specialty. The mood is frolicsome and festive; opt for the mezzanine if you're in a more intimate mood. Tasty, reasonably priced lunch menu, too. 314 Sutter, 693-0303,

Elixir Saloon: The Hunt-In Club. Swede's. Club Corona. There's allegedly been a bar at this address since the mid-1800s — with the current corner space in operation since just after the 1906 quake — and you can sense some of that history at Elixir. Ornamental antique lamps hang from the deep crimson ceiling, illuminating walls cluttered with framed artwork that reflects the saloon's past, while a vintage dark-wood bar back looks to be older than the age of many clientele combined. And speaking of clientele, Elixir's demographic and atmosphere can change with the hour: it's sunny and bright during the day, then shadowy and candlelit at night, and the crowd can be either raucous and loud or refined and quiet. Some come for the classy artisanal cocktails, served in a manner that made Elixir the city's first "certified green" bar. Others are content to pump money into the digital jukebox, which may play hardcore punk and classic jazz or Top 40 hip-hop and twanging country. If you're not into what's happening at the moment, come back another time. The bar'll still be here. It probably always will. 3200 16th St., 552-1633,

Hi-Lo Club: You could walk right past the Hi-Lo and not even know it — the exterior not only looks like an old storefront, it IS an old storefront. Despite the wall of windows, however, this Polk Street destination keeps the lights low, creating an air of semi-mystery that makes its abraded walls and antique lamps feel like something out of a Jeunet & Caro movie. 1423 Polk, 885-4788,

Hog and Rocks: Hog and Rocks is a neighborhood bar designed by people who love to eat. Its cocktail list is impressive — you've never seen as many variations on the Old Fashioned in one place — and the food is, too. While the noise level rivals that of a My Bloody Valentine concert, it's worth enduring for a dozen oysters and the kitchen's marvelous ham tasting plates, which include Kentucky country hams and Italian prosciutto. 3431 19th St., 550-8627,

Holy Water: The team behind Churchill has brought its formula to Bernal Heights, with 10 approachable, unpretentious cocktails, and a printed vinyl image of an early-20th-century mass baptism along an entire wall. Now Bernal's diverse group of residents doesn't have to climb back up that mountain to get home after a drink. 309 Cortland,

House of Shields: "The House of Shields sold a while back," writes Hank Armstrong in Saloons of San Francisco. "The layers of nicotine that over the years blackened the walls are gone, the wood restored." That was published in 1982. Yet when new owners bought this venerable downtown bar in 2010, hands were wrung anew at the prospect that promised renovations would destroy its century-old character and whitewash its history. Fear not. The House of Shields remains as it always was: a dusky, dignified, dark-wood-paneled antique saloon where classic cocktails trump contemporary trends. The old blown-glass chandeliers have been repaired, the timeworn tile floors cleaned, and the bronze statues polished — not that you'd notice with the perennially low light levels — and the outside neon that once advertised live music now simply promises cocktails within. Everything else is much as it was when the House of Shields opened in 1908. Far from being reimagined, the "new" House of Shields has simply been refreshed. 39 New Montgomery, 975-8651,

Iron & Gold: The old Argus Lounge space has been shuttered, de-cluttered, and reopened as Iron & Gold, a new cocktail lair with stripped-down decor featuring quasi-rustic lamps and reclaimed wood accents. 3187 Mission, 824-1447,


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