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Nightlife for Your Entire Life

An inclusive drinking guide for every San Franciscan—from the barely legal to the effusively senior.


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Ah, youth! The time of life when hangovers last, at most, 30 minutes, Sunday is Funday, hookups are as easy to come by as PBR, and you don't even have a beer gut—yet. Celebrate these good times. Just keep the drinks cheap. By Annie Tittiger

The College Throwback
Soda Popinski's (Nob Hill)
What contains a drink wheel, a beat-up Nintendo 64, and Moscow Mules served in a boot (aptly called the Mule’s Kick)? No, it’s not your old fraternity—it’s Soda Popinski’s, the California Street hangout soaked in collegiate-level nostalgia (and, sometimes, belligerence). Come for a game of Super Smash and cozy up to your neighbor: This place tends to get packed like a Sigma Epsilon Halloween party. 1548 California St. (near Larkin St.), 415-857-1548

Cheers, Circa 2014
Asiento (Mission)
Nothing gets a group of twentysomethings to gather like a game of truth-or-dare Jenga—that and strong, affordable Manhattans (at $9.50 a pop). Snag a high-top table up front and get into a heated game of Catch Phrase, or sit back in a red armchair in the lounge area, which manages to be simultaneously spartan like a SoMa loft and cozy like a Pac Heights living room. Surrounded by records piled high on plywood shelves along the wall, listen to the DJ spin funky electronic beats. If you buddy up with him, he’ll gladly take requests—just don’t make us endure “Timber” on repeat. 2730 21st St. (at Bryant St.), 415-829-3375

Cocktail Academy
Oddjob (SoMa)
Part of the mid-Market boom, this haven of “bespoke mixologist mastery” (their words, not ours) was opened in November by Jordan Langer, Jeff Whitmore, and Pete Glikshtern (Big, PublicWorks, and Jones). The menu is 007-inspired—both the Henchman and the Honey Rider, whiskey-based cocktails, will knock you back in your seat. But the real secret to this swanky joint is the SRO bar (“standing room only or single room occupancy—you decide,” again, their words) tucked in the back. It has no menu, just a bartender who crafts drinks to suit your taste buds. Custom cocktails ain’t cheap (as in upwards of $16 each), but if your workplace is Twitter, just around the corner, chances are that penny-pinching is not one of your concerns. 1337 Mission St. (at Washburn St.)

The Hot Spot
Wild Hare (Lower Pacific Heights)
Anyone who lives within a 15-block radius of the new bar from Tonic Nightlife Group (Bullitt, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem) will tell you, Wild Hare is the spot this dingy dive–riddled neighborhood has been waiting for. It’s got strong drinks, good crowds, tatchos (yes, tater tot nachos), and lots of Fireball. The Alice in Wonderland theme shows up loosely in doors fitted with convex glass, purple and green pin-striped wallpaper, and random taxidermied rabbits. It’s a general boozing station, sans the sneaker-sticking grime that a few decades of partying inevitably leaves behind. 2801 California St. (at Divisadero St.), 415-539-3200

Rousing Romance
Hi-Lo Club (Polk Gulch)
Cozy handcrafted wooden booths? Check. A menu with both frilly cocktails and manly brews? Check. Lights dimmed just enough to catch come-hither glances? Check. There are few ways in which Hi-Lo Club isn’t an ideal date spot. With weathered gray walls and Edison bulbs neatly lined over each booth, this bar is equal parts mellow and sophisticated, perfect for noncommittals who don’t want to try too hard (but don’t want to look like they’re not trying at all). Be a savvy date: Going at prime time on weekends means that you’ll be fighting the hordes for a seat. Weeknights are best for wooing. 1423 Polk St. (near Pine St.)

Brewskis and Bustle
Hopwater Distribution (Tendernob)
Like the rumble of a stampede, you hear this Bush Street beer haven before you see it. Hopwater might have opened its doors quietly in February, but it’s been deafening ever since. In a space stripped down to brick walls and steel beams, there’s nothing to distract you from your brew (unless you’re a Female Seeking Male, that is—good-looking straight guys turn out in droves here). Belly up to the copper-plated bar and order a Tunnel Vision IPA from Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, or one of the 30 other California choices on tap. Owners Chris Barry, Jon Guinea, and Sky Wegman work the taps and happily dole out suggestions. 850 Bush St. (near Mason St.)

Year Abroad Bar
Amélie (Polk Gulch)
French majors pining for their days of studying abroad, rejoice: Amélie will transport you right back to your favorite lounge in Lyon, even if you’ve only seen the movie. Moody red lighting and plush whitelounges by local firm DMG Designs give the bar its European je ne sais quoi, and bartenders from Turkey and Spain serve wines from France to Israel (so hot right now). Don’t be surprised to find yourself singing along to some MC Solaar or Hocus Pocus. 1754 Polk St. (at Washington St.), 415-292-6916

Making the Video, Castro edition
Beaux (Castro)
With shirtless bartenders and a discount on Fridays for anyone with a college ID, Beaux caters to the young, the gay, and the restless. Pink, purple, and blue
lights illuminate the dance floor from every direction—like an Usher music video, except that you’re surrounded by a critical mass of young men gyrating to Lana Del Rey remixes instead of video vixens. 2344 Market St. (near 16th St.)

Vegas, San Francisco
EZ5 (Chinatown)
Go solo to this zebra print–wallpapered bar with light shows going off in every direction, and you’ll feel like you’ve crossed over into the Twilight Zone. But roll in 20 deep, and it’s your very own private club. Mama, the blond-haired Chinese woman who runs the place, will gladly accommodate your crew with table service at the low-slung white leather couches. There’s plenty of room to dance, and you can even take over the DJ booth if you know how to work it. 684 Commercial St. (near Kearny St.), 415-362-9321

Bros’ Night Out
The Taco Shop at Underdogs (Outer Sunset)
This place offers 10 plasma screens, team banners dangling from high ceilings, and tacos, Nick’s way—basically, everything a growing boy needs to sustain himself through a game (including beer, but that’s a given). It gets packed with young, spirited fans, so arrive early to snag a seat at one of the communal tables in back. 1824 Irving St. (near 19th Ave.), 415-566-8700

Modern Day Cabaret
Monarch (SoMa)
Surrounded by shimmering walls, packed with hair gel and short skirts, and pumping house music from state-of-the-art speakers, the Monarch dance floor is a familiar staple on the late-night dance scene. But upstairs, beyond the acrobat suspended from the ceiling, is the new Emperor's Drawing Room, a speakeasy-style lounge meant for cooling off and re-upping your drink before going back to dropping your booty. 101 6th St (at Mission St.), 415-284-9774