The Barfly’s Guide to San Francisco

By: Maxine Sheppard

March 21, 2011

This month our Flying Barman Marc Plumridge sends his expert recommendations from one of our very favourite cities in the world: San Francisco. We simply can’t get enough of the place – we’ve already written about its great hotels and revealed the city’s best bits in our Insider’s Guide. But now it’s over to Marc to tell us which drinking dens get the Barfly seal of approval…


Bourbon & Branch

The Library at B&B

The Library at B&B ©


“Bourbon & Branch is the best known speakeasy bar in San Francisco and one of my favourites in the world. Step inside and you’ll be transported back to the 1920s and the prohibition era. It’s a popular place, so you’d be wise to plan ahead and make a reservation for the main bar, but for the ultimate cocktail experience, make sure you get yourself into the intimate, floor-to-ceiling book-lined library. Ring the buzzer and quote the password to gain access. (Last time I went it was ‘books’, and according to the website this still remains the case.)

B&B serve up some of the finest cocktails around; not just a vast array of bourbons, but everything you can imagine”¦try a Clover Club with Bombay Dry or a Julep served up with Woodford Reserve for a truly sublime experience.

501 Jones St (at O’Farrell Street) San Francisco



Beretta © Beretta

Beretta © Beretta


The city of San Francisco remains one of the leading lights in the fast-paced food and cocktails industry, and venues tend to come and go with every new trend. All credit to Beretta then, for consistently remaining at the forefront of the San Francisco dining and drinking scene throughout these continual waves of change. Here the simple Italian-inspired food is served up with care and grace accompanied by great classic cocktails and contemporary twists. Try the Dolores Park Swizzle: rum, lime, maraschino, absinthe and bitters, or their own version of the classic Paloma alongside a thin crust pizza for the ‘full’ Beretta experience.

1199 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Rickhouse Bar

Headed up by some of San Francisco’s best bartenders (led by Eric Castro) Rickhouse Bar is a place to enjoy handcrafted cocktails, local beers and boutique Californian wines. With a self-described ‘precious and peculiar’ selection on offer, be sure to ask for classic serves and steer clear of the run of the mill drinks. I suggest kicking things off with a Mary Pickford, a Southside Fizz or a Gin Daisy and let the bartenders steer you on from there”¦



Rickhouse © Rickhouse Bar

Rickhouse © Rickhouse Bar


246 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA

Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant

The go-to bar for all tequila lovers, with one of the largest selections of tequila outside Mexico. Head over for a casual bite to eat (the handmade guacamole is tremendous) and share a pitcher of Tommy’s famous twist on the classic Margarita, made with Cazadores Reposado Tequila for a genuinely authentic experience.”


5829 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco

If you can’t make it out to the Outer Richmond neighbourhood, try the recipe for an Old Tommy’s Margarita anyway:


Margarita at Tommy's by rick on Flickr

Margarita at Tommy’s by rick on Flickr


  • 50ml fresh lime juice
  • 50ml fresh lemon juice
  • 50ml sugar syrup
  • 50ml mild agave syrup
  • 50ml of water
  • 50ml of Cazadores Reposado Tequila (or a tequila of your choice)

Make a fresh sour mix by combining the lime, lemon, sugar syrup, mild agave syrup and water. Stir well and place to one side.

In a cocktail shaker add 50ml of tequila and use 50ml of the fresh sour mix you just made.

Shake hard with cubed ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked/cubed ice and garnish with a wedge of fresh lime. Delicious!

Virgin Atlantic operates a daily flight to San Francisco from London Heathrow.


Thanks to Flickr photographer rick for the Tommy’s Margarita image.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Places