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Seven Single-Spirit Bars That Aren’t Afraid to Play Favorites

Pick your poison. 


Read more Best of San Francisco 2018 here.

The bar: Trou Normand
The spirit: Brandy
Thad Vogler has hand-selected an impressive collection of imported brandies, armagnacs, and calvados at this Bar Agricole offshoot. In fact, le trou Normand is the French practice of taking a big mid-meal slug of brandy. 140 New Montgomery St.
The order: Pago Pago (Ravignan armagnac, lime, ranci seco, cassis; $15)

The bar: White Cap 
The spirit: Sherry
Matt Lopez and Carlos Yturria’s Outer Sunset haunt gives off a strong surf vibe, but forget the Tecate and lime. Instead, Yturria has curated a collection of 15 sherries, of all things. 3608 Taraval St.
The order: Lava Lamp (Smirnoff vodka, Tio Pepe fino sherry, Aperol, raspberry, lemon slushie; $13)

The bar: Barcino
The spirit: Vermouth
This Hayes Valley tapas joint offers 13 different Spanish vermouths—the kind for sipping pre-siesta, not for washing your martini glass with. Served over ice with an olive and an orange slice, they’re a little tart and surprisingly refreshing. 399 Grove St.
The order: Yzaguirre Rojo ($9)

The bar: Bar 821
The spirit: Amaro
This tiny place on Divisadero is easily overlooked; the drinks it’s slinging inside shouldn’t be. The bar stocks nearly 90 amari, apparently the largest collection in town—and by any count, a lifetime’s worth of face-puckering potions. 821 Divisadero St.
The order: Fernet Vallet ($10)

The bar: Mezcalito
The spirit: Mezcal (duh)
The smoky Oaxacan cousin to tequila has achieved ubiquity stateside, but with more than 60 bottles in its wood-paneled library, Mezcalito has staked its claim as the spirit’s rightful American home base. 2323 Polk St.
The order: Barrel-aged negroni (Unión mezcal, sweet vermouth, Campari, mole bitters; $12)

The bar: Bar 888
The spirit: Grappa
Grappa, that eye-watering Italian hooch, may come from leftover wine grapes, but inside the InterContinental San Francisco hotel it takes first billing. More than 100 bottles line the bar; find it in cocktails, straight up, or in a caffè corretto. 888 Howard St.
The order: Grappa sour (Sibona grappa, lemon, egg white, bitters; $12)

The bar: Tsunami Panhandle
The spirit: Shochu
Like Bar 821, Tsunami is owned by Khaled Dajani (he also owns Nihon Whisky Lounge). Here, he has curated a list of 102 bottles of shochu, the Japanese distilled liquor (not to be confused with sake, the fermented rice wine, or soju, a lower-ABV Korean version). 306 Fulton St.
The order: Hyakunen No Kodoku barley shochu ($30 a shot)


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco 

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