Best Cocktails

Best Cocktails

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow might have considered that time between the daylight and the dark -- when the night begins to lower, heralding a pause in the day's occupations -- as the children's hour, but we prefer to think of it as the cocktail hour, thank you very much. Fortunately, there are genius bartenders all over the city who take our preoccupation seriously.

Bix

56 Gold (at Montgomery), 433-6300, www.bixrestaurant.com

Bix is the city's pre-eminent supper club, with an art deco setting that's the perfect backdrop for an icy cocktail. The gin martinis (brought to your table in a silver shaker) are famous, but we've enjoyed expertly made Negronis, Sidecars, and the Dark 'n' Stormy (Gosling's Black Seal Rum and ginger beer).

Ana Mandara

891 Beach (at Polk), 771-6800,www.anamandara.com

What better setting than the two-story tropical colonial mansion of Hanoi, eerily transported to Fisherman's Wharf, in which to enjoy the delightful house cocktail, the Ana Mandara (Skyy citrus vodka flavored with mint and lemongrass)? The name means "beautiful refuge," and we believe it when we take refuge in our second drink. (Next time we might try the Beautiful Refuge itself, rum blended with orange and pineapple juices.)

Cortez

550 Geary (at Taylor), 292-6360, www.cortezrestaurant.com

We like sitting at the bar under the colorful, circuslike mobiles and sipping one of the original cocktails on offer: a terrific concoction called the Journalist (Damrak gin, Cointreau, red and white vermouth, lemon juice, and bitters), icy and silky in a chilled martini glass, and another named the Glow (OP vodka, Cointreau, and lemon juice, with a final fillip of mandarin liqueur).

Absinthe

398 Hayes (at Gough), 551-1590, www.absinthe.com

Though it's named for the wormwood-based Green Fairy, the place offers delicious house specialties that are considerably more complex than pouring absinthe over ice. Endearingly, many of them are based on recipes found in old cocktail guides: the gin-and-mint Ginger Rogers from a 1914 book called Drinks, the rum-and-grapefruit Nevada from a 1928 tome, Here's How.

 
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