Time Out San Francisco Bar Awards 2018

Instagram: @justnlstewart
The Smouldering Rose photographed by Justin L Stewart Photography

The last time Time Out handed out Bar Awards, I discovered a life-changing spritzer that shook up my opinions of that category. 

This year Time Out’s local event focused on dear old San Francisco and the ways in which its cocktail scene deserves a round of applause. And we’ve earned it — not least for our historical contributions to the modern state of craft cocktails. Need context for San Francisco’s influence, alongside New York and London, in reviving and evolving our drinking landscape? Check out Robert Simonson’s excellent book A Proper Drink.

So San Francisco is historically innovative. But what about today? I headed to the Time Out San Francisco Bar Awards to learn who won the prize for “Most Creative Bar Menu” and find out how that honor breaks down in terms of inspiration and perspiration.

Cold Drinks at China Live bustled with bar staff and press. The vibe was congenial. A few minutes before her bar’s win for Best Bar Crew, Claire Hunter, Manager of Benjamin Cooper, said “I love and respect everyone in this room.”

It was occasionally hard to hear the winners over the sound of hospitality staff celebrating one another’s prizes. But it was worth listening carefully: few of these category shortlists featured an obvious winner. Has Trick Dog, Mister Jiu’s, Pacific Cocktail Haven, or True Laurel earned Most Creative Drink List? The answer, clearly, is “yes.” The answer is also Mister Jiu’s, according to the trophy.

Mister Jiu’s creative bar manager Danny Louie humbly declined to talk about his triumph (I think there might have been a bit of a blushing involved) but folks nearby were delighted to praise him on record. “He’s the best,” proclaimed Ryan Fitzgerald of ABV (whose Gin and Celery cocktail won Best Cocktail in San Francisco).

“He has no ego,” shared Danny’s wife, Lisa. She talked about Louie’s background as an artist and fashion designer informing his cocktails’ visual appeal. Other interviews confirm his approach with an artist’s eye: in a 2017 Liquor.com interview Danny said: “I approach building a cocktail much like I approach fashion… It’s all about layers of texture, color and (with drinks) temperature.”

Art isn’t the only inspiration, according to Lisa. As a San Francisco native, Danny finds motivation for his liquid art in the city itself and its colorful people. Golden Gate Park has also played a role in the past with sounds and smells that find echoes in his cocktail concepts.

Time Out’s SF Bar Awards 2018 winners are listed below, and make sure to head to Time Out for the reasons each winner was chosen, the runners-up, and some great photos.

  •       Bar of the Year presented by Milagro Tequila: Pacific Cocktail Haven
  •       Best Legacy Bar presented by Flor de Caña: Aub Zam Zam
  •       Best Wine Bar presented by Segura Viudas: Birba
  •       Best New Bar: True Laurel
  •       Best Speciality Bar: Whitechapel
  •       Best Bar-Restaurant Program: The Saratoga
  •       Best Bar Crew: Benjamin Cooper
  •       Best Beer Bar: Monk’s Kettle
  •       Most Creative Drinks List: Mister Jui’s
  •       Best Cocktail in San Francisco: “Gin & Celery” at ABV
  •       Most Instagrammable Cocktail: “Golden Flamingo” at The Snug

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