Friday, July 18, 2014

San Francisco: Union Square Cocktail Tour

Union Square Cocktail Tour  Departs near Union Square, (415) 355-4044.  Sat 4-6pm & W 7-9pm.  $64.  We sat in comfy chairs in the lobby of the Hotel Serrano while our guide, Zev, began this tour with a background lesson in everything cocktails.  The 1860s to 1920s was the golden era for cocktails, but they are coming back, complete with fresh-pressed citrus juices, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that San Francisco is the epicenter of a cocktail revival, since I’ve been enjoying them here for quite a while.  But--though it had to start somewhere--it was news to me that it was in S.F. that women first began sitting next to men in a bar.   I also learned that it is cocktail-crazed S.F. along with New York and London that are the top three places in the world to drink a cocktail.  Our tour took us to three bars I’d never before experienced.  In fact, I rarely go to a bar for a cocktail, instead usually opting for one with a meal in a restaurant, so it was special fun to traipse through the Union Square area with a pack of new buddies to bars awaiting us with trays of cocktails and an owner or barkeep to educate us about what we were drinking.

Chartreuse Swizzle in Clock Bar at Westin St. Francis in San Francisco
At the Clock Bar in the Westin St. Francis, where central poles display the time around the world, we had a Chartreuse Swizzle topped with a sprig of mint.  Made with peppery 110-proof Green Chartreuse containing 130 ingredients, this spirit is produced by French monks and is famous as both a cure-all and a hangover-producer. 

Peruvian Pisco Punch at Cantina bar in San Francisco
In the vivacious, independent, dark and deep Cantina, which boasts having the country’s most complete selection of Latin spirits, we downed a pink Peruvian Pisco Punch with an aromatic slice of orange peel in the bottom—the quintessential S.F. cocktail, having been served here since the early 1800s. 

Pequito Picante at Burritt Room bar in San Francisco
And at chef Charlie Palmer’s brick-walled Burritt Room in the Mystic Hotel, by the Stockton Tunnel, we had a spicy Pequito Picante.  It is interesting to know that the space was once a speakeasy as well as an insane asylum, but now, bartender Brian says, “We have fun here.”  And the music is really good. 

This tour takes about two hours.  It is a flat route and covers about ½ mile.  No food is served, so consider eating something before and/or after, and bring a bottle of water so you don’t get too hammered.  Bars and drinks on a particular tour can vary.  You must be age 21 or older to participate, and group size is limited to 12, which seemed perfect.  Tips for the bar servers is included, but do tip your guide 10-15 % if you are happy with him/her. 

More things to do in San Francisco.  
Way more things to do in San Francisco.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


  1. Very nice! Looks like a great way to spend an evening.

  2. If it has cocktails, I'm there! :) Looks like lots of fun, and reasonably priced.

  3. There has been such a resurgence of cocktails! This sounds like fun~

  4. Now this sounds like something I would love to do. Union Square is a favorite place to shop and hang out!

  5. Love my cocktails. My husband and I will try this tour! Thank you. Next week I am taking a walking food tour of the Mission District.

  6. Looks like a fun way to experience Union Square. I would definitely take your advice and eat first so I could make it through still standing!

  7. Westin St. Francis is all about the fabulous classic San Francisco! And if there are cocktails, all the better.

  8. Thanks for the tips on where to go for drinks in San Fran! That city really has some amazing culinary offerings -- and some excellent chocolate!

  9. Now this sounds like a terrific way to see a little bit of the city, meet some new people and enjoy a few drinks! I think it's cocktail hour for me!

  10. Fun to learn the historical tidbits about cocktails. Yes, cocktail culture is a big deal and growing. What a fun tour -- I'll have to check it out.

  11. What an awesome tour, but I'm such lightweight I would get hammered for sure.