By TERESA HAMMOND
It’s no small feat to select The 50 Best Bars in the World, yet each year for the past eight, a survey produced by Drinks International has done just that.
For the 2016 list, the group reached out to 476 bar experts, considered to be the strongest and most diverse to weigh in with their views and input for the best in the world. Those included in the academy of voters were asked to select their five best bars in order of preference.
A total of 652 bars received votes from the esteemed panel. The academy was then asked to vote from the final list.
Fourteen of the top 50 selected happen to be in the good ol’ U.S. of A, scoring second only to Europe, which hosts 22 of the esteemed bars.
While none of the top 14 in the U.S. will be found in the 209, three of the 14 call the city of San Francisco home. Offering unique décor, menu choices, as well as experiences, the trio of Smuggler’s Cove, Trick Dog and ABV were selected as the best of the best for the World’s 50 Best Bars 2016.
Smuggler’s Cove is made to order for the cocktail enthusiast with a fancy for rum, umbrella drinks and all things tiki. The discreet 985 square foot space appears to be nothing special from the outside of its 650 Gough St. location. Upon entering, however, visitors find themselves aboard a triple décor pirate ship complete with barrels, ropes, Polynesian antiques and hundreds of bottles of rum.
“My favorite thing about Smuggler’s Cove is knowing that people love to come through our door,” shared longtime bartender Christopher Ward. “People are genuinely excited to come see us. It’s like an amusement park without the crying children.”
And just like an amusement park, the local bar offers its fair amount of thrills in the way of cocktails. One drink in particular which delights guests is the Top Notch Volcano. The combination of rums, pineapple, fresh lime, passion fruit, maraschino liqueur and fiery cinnamon alone give it a unique taste. It is the pyrotechnic feature of this cocktail for four, though, that is an undoubtable show stopper.
“I think our typical customer is 25 to 55, professionals, many in tech,” founder and owner Martin Cate said of Cove clientele. “Pretty equal split in men and women. The crowd gets younger as the night goes on.”
Rum and Polynesian culture not your thing? Not a problem. The team at Trick Dog located at 3010 20th St., may be just the right fit. The team behind the counter and on the floor (and sometimes bar top) are esteemed professionals when it comes to serving up a cocktail. Now celebrating its fourth year as a neighborhood bar by day and destination bar by night, Trick Dog offers a little something for every taste bud and their pours do not disappoint even the pickiest of palates.
If there is one thing co-owner and founder Josh Harris wants people to know about Trick Dog, it would be that it is a bar first, that just happens to also offer food.
“The cocktails are extremely important to us, because that’s where we came up,” Harris said of himself, as well as partners Scott Baird and Jason Henton.
The three men began in the business as bartenders.
“Scott always had one foot in the bar and one foot in the kitchen,” Harris said.
He also confided that while the food offerings are equally top notch it is the focus of the cocktail menu which drives the bar and its offerings.
Trick Dog offers a unique take on the cocktail menu, by recreating itself via theme every six months.
“We’re pretty confident that San Francisco only has two seasons,” Harris said of the six month rotation, noting that the bar shuts for one week at the start of the year, as well as summer to refresh the space and retrain the staff on the coming cocktail menu.
“The idea as it stands today was definitely not a premeditated thing,” he said of the menu periods. “We set out to build a bar that was the type of bar we wanted to go to.”
Past menu themes include: Pantone, inspired by their journey to open the once barren space; Chinatown, paying homage to a San Francisco icon; and Election, in observation of the 2016 Election. The newly released menu is themed Mural Project, featuring drinks inspired by work from 14 local artists.
“Fast forward to now,” Harris continued, “the fact that we still feel that way and to see that people come in and experience the same thing … that’s the best part.”
Rounding out the three best of the best is ABV located at 3174 16th St., with outside seating and a simplistic interior, the location gives the feel of a neighborhood bar by day. A place one may sit and enjoy some finger food with family or friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
If finger food is not your thing, this would not be your stop as the staff prides themselves on the eating experience being ‘fun’ and perhaps unpretentious. Not to worry, diners are treated to finger bowls of hot water and expandable towels at the end of their meal.
Like the other two named bars, this location offers unique and well poured cocktails, made with precision, care and fresh ingredients. The counter to ceiling back bar hosts a variety of budget brands, as well as top shelf liquor.
The industrial rustic interior is both inviting and welcoming, making it common for visitors to settle in and stay for a few.
The bartenders are both friendly and informed, prepared to aid clients looking for a bit of fun in the way of drinks or an old stand-by.
For the complete list of 50 visit