Elevate your virtual holiday happy hour with these San Francisco cocktails

Here are some San Francisco cocktail recipes to shake (or stir!) up your repertoire and give you a taste of the city's unique cocktail culture at home. 
Elevate your virtual holiday happy hour with these San Francisco cocktails

The holiday season is here, and we bet you've got lots of virtual happy hours with friends and family on your calendar. Looking to up your cocktail game? Here are some San Francisco cocktail recipes to shake (or stir!) up your repertoire and give you a taste of the city's unique cocktail culture at home. 

Mai Tai

San Francisco is where tiki culture as Americans know it was born, so why not start with the classic mai tai? You may not have The Tonga Room's indoor tropical storm to complete the ambience, but this delicious cocktail will have you feeling tropical in no time.


  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1 oz. amber rum
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ oz Cointreau or triple sec
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 drop pure almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon superfine granulated sugar
  • Dash of grenadine
  • Garnish: an orange slice


  1. Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 1 cup ice cubes.
  2. Strain into a glass filled with ice cubes.

(Recipe courtesy of epicurious.com)

Cable Car

The Cable Car was created in 1996 by Tony Abou-Ganim at the Sir Francis Drake’s Starlight Room. It’s an interesting twist on the classic sidecar (get it?) that swaps the original’s cognac for Captain Morgan’s spiced rum.


  • 1½ oz. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • 3/4 oz. Marie Brizard Orange Curacao
  • 1½ oz. ​lemon sour
  • Garnish: orange peel spiral
  • Garnish: superfine sugar for rimming


  1. Rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar.
  2. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Strain into the prepared glass.
  5. Garnish with an orange peel spiral.

Pro tip: It is important to use superfine sugar when rimming a glass. The granulated sugar you use everyday in the kitchen does not stick as well. You can also add cinnamon to the sugar rim to expand the spice profile.

(Recipe courtesy of Tony Abou-Ganim) 


Few drinks are as iconic as the martini, the “only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.”  Aficionados are adamant: a martini is made with gin, not vodka. (But we’re not looking if you prefer the former over the latter.) Its roots can be traced back to an old classic: the Martinez (allegedly invented in the Bay Area city of the same name), which called for gin, vermouth, and maraschino liqueur. Sometime in the 1860s, the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco dropped the liqueur from the recipe and the martini was born.


  • 3½ oz. gin (or vodka)
  • ½ oz. dry vermouth
  • Olive or lemon twist for garnish


  1. Pour ice, gin and vermouth into a glass shaker.
  2. Shake and pour into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with olives or lemon twist.

(Recipe courtesy of Caliplate)

San Francisco

A spin-off of the classic martini, this version uses sloe gin, which is technically not a gin but a sweet liqueur that pairs well with a variety of mixers. This version uses both varieties of vermouth and two bitters, and has gained acclaim as a perfect drink for before or after dinner. 


  • 1 oz. sloe gin
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Dash of aromatic bitters
  • Cherry


  1. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a chilled​ cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with a cherry.

(Recipe courtesy of The Spruce Eats)

Tequila Sunrise

This popular cocktail may have first been mixed elsewhere, but it was perfected across the Golden Gate Bridge in nearby Sausalito. That seems fitting, since the views at dawn as the sun rises over San Francisco Bay are simply intoxicating.


  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 4 oz. orange juice
  • ½ oz. grenadine
  • Garnish: orange slice
  • Garnish: maraschino cherry


  1. In a highball glass filled with ice cubes, pour the tequila and orange juice.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Slowly pour the grenadine around the inside edge of the glass. It will sink and gradually rise to mix with the other ingredients.
  4. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

(Recipe courtesy of The Spruce Eats)

Pisco Punch

When the Bank Exchange & Billiard Saloon opened in 1853, it was only natural that they would offer a variety of punches. Duncan Nicol is credited with the original recipe of pisco, pineapple, lime juice, gum arabic, and water, which was described at the time as “like lemonade but comes back with the kick of a roped steer.” While the bartender took his own recipe to the grave, others have tried to replicate it. Here’s one we love.


  • 2 oz. pisco
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. sugar
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon finely diced apple
  • 1 teaspoon finely diced pineapple
  • 4 ice cubes


  1. Make the pineapple flavored simple syrup by mixing the pineapple juice and sugar in a small saucepan, bringing to a boil, and stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Mix the pisco, pineapple simple syrup, and juice of 1 lime in a cocktail shaker. Add 4 cubes of ice and shake for 30 seconds.
  3. Place 1 teaspoon of finely diced apple and 1 teaspoon of finely diced pineapple in a 4 oz. cocktail glass.
  4. Serve the cocktail strained over the fruit garnish.

(Recipe courtesy of food52.com)

Irish Coffee

Not a cocktail, per se, but there's never a wrong time to have one. The Irish Coffee may have been invented on the Emerald Isle, but it was perfected at San Francisco's Buena Vista Cafe. 


  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1½ oz. Irish whiskey
  • Heavy cream, slightly whipped


  1. Fill glass with hot water to preheat it, then empty.
  2. Pour hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full.
  3. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
  4. Blend in Irish whiskey.
  5. Top with a collar of the whipped heavy cream by pouring gently over back of spoon. Serve hot.

You can watch the master bartenders at the Buena Vista Cafe make their own here. 

House Cappuccino

This distant cousin of the Irish Coffee traces its origins back to the eve of Prohibition. First created at Tosca Cafe in North Beach, the House Cappuccino was a must-have on the menu when this historic venue reopened in 2013.


  • 3 to 5 ounces cream
  • 2 ounces cappuccino
  • ½ ounce Buffalo Trace Bourbon
  • ½ ounce Marie Duffeau Armagnac

Equipment Needed

Electric milk frother or cappuccino machine with steam wand and foaming canister.


  1. Heat cream in a small pot until nearly simmering, and then turn heat off.
  2. Use milk frother to create foam. Set aside.
  3. In a separate pot, heat the 2 ounces of cappuccino on low, whisking constantly so it doesn't burn. Turn heat off just before it simmers. Use milk frother to aerate slightly.
  4. Pour cappuccino mix into glass, and then add bourbon and Armagnac.
  5. Top with hot cream and foam. Serve.

 (Recipe courtesy of 7x7)

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