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Best San Francisco Bars for Rum Lovers

Updated on September 2, 2010

Rum.  Drink of the Islands.  Thinking about drinking it sends you to Caribbean locales where more than just the waxes are Brazilian and more than just the food is hot and spicy.  Maybe you can’t quite get away from the city for a Caribbean vacation but you can retreat to paradise in your own back yard with a trip to some really fun rum bars in San Francisco. There's one true rum bar in the city: Smuggler's Cove. There's one rum-rich Caribbean-themed bar in the city: Tonga Room. And then there are a few other noteworthy places where you'll find great rum and relaxation that reminds you of hanging out in island breezes.

A
Smuggler's Cove:
650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

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The best rum bar in San Francisco

B
Tonga Room:
950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA

get directions

Wonderfully campy Caribbean themed bar

C
Hobson's Choice:
1601 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

get directions

Perhaps the best rum selection in San Francisco

D
Absinthe:
398 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

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Best place for upscale top shelf rum

E
Savanna Jazz:
2937 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

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A jazz bar with an on-site rum bar in San Francisco

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Smuggler's CoveTonga RoomHobson's ChoiceAbsintheSavanna JazzTrader Vic's mai tai
Smuggler's Cove
Smuggler's Cove
Tonga Room
Tonga Room
Hobson's Choice
Hobson's Choice
Absinthe
Absinthe
Savanna Jazz
Savanna Jazz
Trader Vic's mai tai
Trader Vic's mai tai

1. Smuggler's Cove, 650 Gough St., (between Ash St and McAllister St.), Western Addition/NOPA, 415.869.1900

This is the true real amazing rum bar that you must check out in San Francisco. There's an extensive list of cocktails available here and nearly all of them are made with rum. Of course, there's also an extensive list of the different types of rum that you can choose from at this restaurant. The website of the bar probably describes it best:

"Traditional drinks of the Caribbean islands

Classic libations of Prohibition-era Havana

Exotic cocktails from legendary Tiki bars"

If you're up for a serious challenge at this bar then get there punch card where they'll check off the different drinks as you've tried them so that you can keep track.

2. The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, 950 Mason St. (@ California St.), Nob Hill415.772.5278

This bar’s got a Caribbean theme that’s like something off of The Vegas Strip. A floating tiki boat is where bands take the stage for cheesy live music performances, an indoor monsoon storm is timed to take place every half hour and if that’s not bad enough, this place is even located inside of a hotel. It’s not your normal San Francisco spot, but if you really want to get campy and go Caribbean, the mai tais here are said to be superb. And it's a great spot for people watching since it's the kind of place that an odd selection of curious onlookers will come to check out at least once.

3. Hobson’s Choice, 1601 Haight St. (@ Clayton St.), The Haight 415.621.5859

Is there such a thing as a rum snob? If there is, selection is crucial, right? So the spot in San Francisco for the rum drinker who will turn up his nose at anything less than the broadest array of choices is Hobson’s Choice. It is reported to have the best rum selection in the country which may be a bit of exaggeration but it should keep elitist rum drinkers in the Bay Area happy enough. Plus, I imagine that a rum snob is way more laidback than, say, a wine snob and the casual couch-and-lounge atmosphere of this joint should suit that style. It's located in the Haight which hints at the kind of casual fun you'll enjoy here.

4. Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, 398 Hayes St. (@ Gough St.) Hayes Valley 415.551.1590

Ah, but perhaps you are not a rum snob but rather a rum-snob-wannabe. In that case, broad selection could cause you problems so you should probably go with a swankier spot that’s guaranteed to only give you the good stuff. Order El Presidente (made with Barbancourt 3-star Rum) or the Old Havana (made with Goslings dark rum) if you want to get a rum-based drink that’ll make it seem like you know what you’re sipping. This isn't a Caribbean-themed spot per se but is worth checking out if you're looking for really good rum in San Francisco.

5. Savanna Jazz, 2937 Mission St. (@ 25th St.) The Mission 415.285.3369

Striking a perfect balance between laidback and swanky is Savanna Jazz which made the list of San Francisco “rum bars” because it actually has a rum bar on location. This unique spot is a jazz bar where Latin (primarily Brazilian) jazz makes your drinking and dining experience hot, hot, hot. For something super hot, have more than just the rum from the rum bar; get an on-fire rum-based banana flambé dessert.

6. Trader Vic’s, Emeryville

Finally, I'll go ahead and mention one chain restaurant. Most people don't do chains in San Francisco but there's always a time and a place for everything. There's actually no longer a Trader Vic's in the city but there's on in Emereyville where you might go for shopping. The thing to get here is the rum-rich mai tai. And it's better if you know the inside scoop on how to make sure that you get the local treatment if you happen to end up in this establishment. Order the mai tai (which is “world famous”) but make sure that you ask specifically for the “San Francisco Mai Tai”. Rumor has it that this’ll get you the better, stronger mai tai which is made from scratch as opposed to the one that’s made from a mix which is what all the other people ordering it are going to get. 

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