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Best Places To Get Whiskey Dick San Francisco 2008 -

When you want something to chew on, something to help you ponder life's deeper mysteries on the way to a memorable hangover, it's gotta be that thick amber-colored soul-stroking elixir known as whiskey. Here are a few places where you can wrap your lips around scotch, bourbon, rye, Irish, and Canadian alike.

Whiskey Thieves
839 Geary (at Hyde), 409-2063

One of the most convivial lowdown saloons you can imagine, with pool, pinball, an adamant pro-smoking policy, a very welcoming vibe, and, most important for our purposes, a stellar selection of scotches, bourbons, ryes, and Irish. The bar is manned by a squad of publicans who not only know the pros and cons of every whiskey on the planet, they know exactly which one you're in the mood for.

Nihon
1779 Folsom (at 14th St.), 552-4400
www.nihon-sf.com

The polar opposite of Whiskey Thieves, Nihon is a cool, glam, retro-dot-com nightspot where the regulars keep their favorite bottles in the establishment's storage locker and the elite relax in their own upstairs red-plush hideaway. The impressive whiskey selection (some 250 bottles, 150 of them single malts) include such treasures as a 50-year-old MacPhail's at $4,100 per bottle; for a smaller stipend, the barkeeps are adept at mixing up Sazeracs, Manhattans, and other whiskey-based classics.

The Alembic
1725 Haight (at Shrader), 666-0822
www.alembicbar.com

This cozy, crowded Upper Haight storefront offers a bountiful selection of beers, gins, rums, and tequilas, but the real focus here is whiskey, everything from a shot of Jim Beam to a snifter of 25-year-old Balvenie. A dozen ryes, a few dozen scotches, a whole lot of bourbon, and a myriad of Irish, Canadian, and Japanese whiskies are at your service, and the staff mixologists take their mission in life to heart (the house cocktail menu has to be one of the most literate and scholarly in existence). Good small plates, too.

The Whisky Shop
360 Sutter (at Stockton), 989-1030
www.whiskyshopusa.com

When you're in the mood for a little at-home tippling, head to the Whisky Shop, one of the country's outstanding purveyors of scotch. Over 400 varieties are on the premises, among them an unparalleled collection of hard-to-find bottlings from small distillers that have gone out of business or don't import to the United States. (Bruichladdich's limited-edition 50.7 percent proof Blacker Still and a Johnnie Walker Blue distilled during the reign of George V are two especial treasures.) The shop is located in the back of the Wm. Glen & Son Scottish imports emporium, where kilts, tweeds, sweaters, shortbread, and a variety of tartan doodads are available to put you in that scotch-sippin' mood.

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