Can one person drink at every bar in San Francisco?

Mr. Smith’s – SOMA

Mr. Smith’s is actually a lounge/club, but for happy hour they open the main floor as a bar with no cover charge. I went on good authority that the bartender David made some of the best drinks in town, and while I was there I took a tour of the multi-level booze complex.

It’s easy to get turned around in the maze of Mr. Smith’s, but I think that adds to the charm. Upstairs there is a tiny, posh modern Victorian parlor, cozy and luxurious at the same time. In the basement their nightclub is quite the opposite, with low ceilings and cement walls lending the atmosphere of an underground dancing dungeon. However, I was there for the main bar, which early in the evening is more of a place to unwind after work than the youthful party scene that happens later on.

I started with something I vaguely remember as having blackberry and gin that was pretty amazing, but the drink I came for was David’s award winning Harlem Marmalade. Harlem Kruiden is an intensely herbal and anise flavored liqueur that would do well with most Fernet lovers but can be tricky to mix into a balanced cocktail. David managed to make a really fantastic mini-cocktail with the Harlem using his own homemade orange marmalade. And that marmalade- I wanted to eat an entire jar of it! The jams and marmalades that David makes himself are alone worth a trip to this SOMA watering hole. Order anything at Mr. Smith’s with jam listed in the ingredients, and you will not be disappointed.

Haarlem Marmalade

1 oz Harlem

3/4 oz Lemon juice

1 Bar spoon homemade triple citrus orange marmalade

Add Harlem and fresh lemon juice to shaker. Add jam and ice. Shake very hard to break down jam. Double strain and pour into a shot glass.

While I don’t think I will be dancing it up in the basement any time soon, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the happy hour at Mr. Smith’s. It’s still a bit fancy and loungey for my taste, but I actually love the aesthetic of the bar, and the drinks are in my mental top ten list of San Francisco.

Mr. Smith’s

34 7th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 355-9991

2 responses

  1. their spicy basil gimlet is a thing of divine beauty.

    when i discover anything on a drink menu with basil in it, i am intrigued.

    “i’ll have the basil gimlet.”

    “you want it spicy?”

    “uh… naw, i’ll pass.” at the time i was feeling well, un-spicy.

    “oh come on, be brave, you’ll be missing out if you don’t get the spice.”

    “ok, lemme have it.”

    goddamn, did he let me have it. it’s an amazing cocktail, sweet, and citrusy with the perfect amount of heat.

    February 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    • Basil is the best! I have been using it ever since a certain DNA bartender served me a basil/ginger-ale/absinthe cocktail many moons ago.

      February 12, 2011 at 9:09 pm

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