San Francisco Cocktail

Classic San Francisco Cocktail
The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
170 Calories
0g Fat
10g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 170
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 6mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 91mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The San Fransisco cocktail is one of the best sloe gin drinks you will find. The gin-based liqueur with the sweetened taste of sloe berries pairs well with various mixers, including the vermouth in this simple variation on the perfect martini.

A relatively obscure classic drink, the San Francisco cocktail made one of its first print appearances in "Cafe Royal Cocktail Book." Published by the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild in 1937, the book was a collection of drinks from the 1920s and '30s, including one that would later be known as the margarita.

Sloe gin is a British liqueur, and the martini has a strong connection to San Francisco. Though its history is unclear, it's possible that U.S. bartenders migrating to Europe during Prohibition had some influence on this cocktail. A modern "San Francisco cocktail" is radically different; the vodka drink includes banana liqueur and tropical fruit juices.

This San Francisco cocktail is easy to mix up. You'll mix equal parts of sloe gin and both varieties of vermouth, accenting the trio with aromatic and orange bitters. Less alcoholic than many other martinis, it is an excellent dinner drink. Enjoy it as a sweet apéritif, or serve it after a meal, pairing it with cheesecake and desserts with a hint of chocolate or fruit.

"Sloe-Gin is a misunderstood ingredient that makes exceptionally succulent cocktails that should be at the tip of everyone’s tongue. This San Francisco cocktail is new to me, but it is in essence a Sloe-Gin Manhattan. It is smooth, and sweet, and delicate. This recipe highlights the sloe-berry liqueur in a very discerning and mature way." —Sean Johnson

San Francisco Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 ounce sloe gin

  • 1 ounce dry vermouth

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

  • 1 dash aromatic bitters

  • 1 dash orange bitters

  • Cherry, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for a Classic San Francisco Cocktail
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  2. In a cocktail shaker, pour the sloe gin, dry and sweet vermouth, and both bitters. Fill with ice.

    Mixing a Classic San Francisco Cocktail
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  3. Shake well.

    Shaking a Classic San Francisco Cocktail
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  4. Strain into a chilled​ cocktail glass.

    Straining a Classic San Francisco Cocktail
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  5. Garnish with a cherry. Serve and enjoy.

    Classic San Francisco Cocktail
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios


  • Generally, it's best to stir spirit-only cocktails, but the San Francisco cocktail is a good exception to that rule. Sloe gin is thick, and shaking aerates the drink and lightens up the mix. However, this is also a matter of personal preference, so try it stirred to see which method you like best.
  • Vermouth has a shorter shelf life than distilled spirits. Once the bottles are open, store the fortified wine in the fridge and use it within three months.

How Strong Is the San Francisco?

Sloe gin varies by brand, though the average is 26 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 52 proof). That ensures that the San Francisco cocktail is nice and mild, with an alcohol content in the 16 percent ABV (32 proof) range. That's about half the strength of a gin martini and just a touch stronger than a glass of wine.

What Drink Is San Francisco Known For?

San Francisco bartenders have been mixing up great drinks for a very long time. Some well-known drinks were either created there or found a second home in the city. The Bay Area is famous for the gin martini, its predecessor, the Martinez, pisco punch, and the unforgettable mai tai. The Buena Vista Café continues to make Irish coffee the way it was originally designed in Ireland. More recently, both the cable car and lemon drop martini were conceived in San Francisco bars.