Forever 21, or 18 or 12 or Whatever
Glossy Booze: Mid-December Edition

New Bars and Old New Bars

Sfbgcover San Franciscans should immediately leave work and run screaming to their local newsbox to pick up this week's San Francisco Bay Guardian. Why? Because you'll find me waiting for you inside. In the Scene insert I have two stories. One of them is on some new recommended bottles of booze. The other is on new watering holes that have opened in the city this year.

I realized that I've written the New Bars story for the past three years. Maybe it will be fun to compare my brilliant observations over the years. Let's find out:

New Bars Story 2006

  • "At least 15 bar-bars, five wine bars, and five clubs opened in the city, as did a bunch of restaurants that serve great drinks. It takes a strong liver to keep current, further blurring the line between journalism and alcoholism."
  •  "Several bars went from upscale to downscale this year, proving that not every lounge needs to be ultra."
  • "Three more art bars opened in 2006, following the success of all the other art bars in town."
  • "American whiskey bars are big, big, big this year, and now there are three new venues in which you can order a sazerac cocktail or a rye Manhattan."
  • "A large number of new restaurants have such great cocktail programs they cause certain writers to spend inordinate amounts of time and money in them without ever trying the food."
  • "Now that every neighborhood in San Francisco has a wine bar or three, the new venues are starting to specialize."


New Bars Story 2007

  • "Whereas in previous years the lines between bars and art galleries got blurry, this year it’s hard to categorize venues as bars or restaurants or wine bars or cocktail lounges or nightclubs."
  •  "Most of the new wine bars are not really bars at all, though- they’re either wine retail outlets with tasting bars inside, or they’re small plates restaurants by another name."
  • "Some of the best drinking is to be had in eateries with all those fresh fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients in the kitchen just begging to be muddled into cocktails where they belong."
  • "The line between bar and club blurs ever more when there is DJ and bottle service and they serve light appetizers and are open at 5PM. Clubs are opening earlier for increased happy hour drink sales and are demoting space for the dancefloor; in effect becoming cocktail bars with a club crowd."
  •  "For a while, all the beer and wine-only bars were selling soju and sake cocktails in an attempt to stay trendy. This is still true at restaurants without full liquor licenses, but now we’re seeing more beer-focused venues that build the concept around the brew, not the food."
  • "It seems the least popular type of drinking establishment to open this year is the thing we used to know as a bar, where they don’t serve food (or the food only serves to keep you drinking, like the popcorn machine in Tenderloin bars) and there isn’t a dancefloor or cocktail waitresses or bottle service and there still exists a magic time called happy hour."


New Bars Story 2008

  •  "Not too long ago I’d come home from a night of barhopping with ringing ears and smelling of cigarettes. Now half the time I get home reeking of braised calamari and elderflower with an earful of soft jazz. Most of the new watering holes to open this year were restaurants and hotel lobbies with extravagant bar programs and cocktail lists."
  • "Now that good drinks are in demand at every new restaurant, bartenders are barhopping from venue to venue."
  • "Though hotel lobby bars have traditionally been places to find traditional drinks, now many of them are promoting innovation and eco-cocktails."
  • "A different grape spirit, pisco, a brandy from Peru or Chile, is showing up on the menu at dozens of the best bars in the city."
  •  "Since sitting quietly and sipping is the new raving until dawn, there isn’t too much point in building new warehouse nightclubs. Instead, a few older spots were freshened up and sometimes renamed."

Hopefully the full story will go online soon for the not-in-SF readers. In the meantime, check out CitySearch's Top 10 New Bars of 2008- which includes a few of them I missed.

Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF is now available for sale.

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