Casements is ready to change your perception of what an Irish bar in America can be.
Its owners aren’t new to the game: Gillian Fitzgerald, Sean O’Donovan, and Chris Hastings have been involved in running nightlife in various capacities before. But Casements brings a different element to San Francisco’s bar scene.
“We were sick of the American perception of Irish bars,” Fitzgerald said to Eater SF. “We wanted to defy expectations.”
Walking into Casements is like meeting the lovechild of Instagram’s #industrialchic hashtag and millennial apartment bingo. The interior design of Casements is the definition of trendy: exposed brick, geometric lighting, old books, gold frames, and a whole ledge brimming with a mass of leafy plants that capture the dreamy lushness others could only hope to achieve. (These plants are fake, which I suppose is the secret to keeping your plants green.) There’s a (real, non-digital) jukebox that holds a wide variety of tunes, from Fleetwood Mac to Bjork.
It’s cozy and relaxed with bar seating and a surprising amount of tables neatly tucked into its small space. Leather bound notebooks decorate the tables and bar. If you’ve got a pen, Casements invites you to scrawl a few words or doodle a little while you wait for your drink. Flipping through its pages, you can see what others have written or drawn in the past: a Pablo Neruda poem, an inked rendering of an octopus, letters to friends. The best of Casements comes across in these little details — the diaries are a homage to gay Irish revolutionary and activist Roger Casement who was executed in 1916 for being a leader in Easter Rising, a fight for Irish independence. Before his execution, Casement still was fairly popular. But the British government outed him by publishing his diaries, an action that cost Casement his followers and essentially sealed his fate.
Casement’s likeness is reimagined in a bust behind the bar and framed portrait in the back of the space. This sharp attention to the particulars reflects itself in Casements’ cocktails: Casements is a big believer in the classic chef’s aphorism, “what grows together, goes together.” While adages can raise red flags, it’s clear that Casements has fine-tuned each of its cocktails enough to bring the philosophy to its bar in the best ways. The Peas for Bees ($14) serves as an example: A pink drink with an ice cube frozen with green peas, the Peas for Bees contains pea citric acid shrub, strawberry, and lime along with Yola mezcal, making for a sweet cocktail with a little bit of edge.
Other drinks of note include: the Ode to Orleans ($12), a boozy coffee slushy with Kerrygold Irish cream, Andytown Cold brew, maple syrup, Powers whiskey, and a tempting layer of cream sitting on top; the Samhain Old Fashioned ($13), where Buffalo Trace whiskey, grapefruit and sage reduction, and cardamom bitters make for a slightly sweeter, crowd-pleasing (“This is the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had,” a friend said), extremely smooth take on the classic drink; and the Bitter Ex ($13), which balances the right amount of sherry, honey, and pineapple juice for a drink that leans into the bitterness of the Cynar with grace. If you’re not a fan of cocktails, Casements also carries dozens of whiskeys and gins, and has Guinness on tap.
Before Casements had their real opening, the owners already knew exactly what they wanted it to be: a neighborhood bar with a real sense of community. This isn’t a bar that wants to intimidate you into awe with expensive cocktails or dramatic decor. Casements is the kind of bar that wants to welcome you with inventive drinks and a cozy atmosphere, its subtle homages and quirks encouraging you to think of your neighborhood space in a new light.
Casements, 2351 Mission St.
Grace Li covers arts, culture, and food for SF Weekly. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.