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Smuggler's Cove

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650 Gough Street, San Francisco, US

WITH ITS WORLD FAMOUS REPUTATION, 550+ rums, three levels, waterfall and pond, canon hanging from the ceiling, and more tropical kitsch per square inch than just about anywhere, you might visit Smuggler’s Cove expecting a gargantuan Trader Vic’s-style restaurant/entertainment complex. But you’re more likely to find a line waiting to get into this tiny tiki bar in which only two bartenders work at a time. 

While the décor is a pirate-Polynesian fantasy, the cocktails served here and the bartenders who make them outshine anything about the interior design. The staff mixologists (many of who have worked here for five years or more) whip up measured, made-to-order, often eight-ingredient rum cocktails from the 70-strong drink list with amazing speed and agility, leaving you wondering where they keep their extra arms. 

Rather than a multitude of variations on tropical fruit punch, the cocktails are selected from the widest span of history and geography and include everything from the simple staple J Wray & Ting to the citrus-blast of the Jet Pilot. 

The bar has a strong local following of tiki geeks and rum lovers who come dressed in the finest floral attire and are rewarded for their loyalty with both cocktail and rum-tasting affinity clubs, earning them access to secret menus of additional rare sippers. 

Those who pass the Master of the Cove level (300 rums sampled) are taken as the bar’s guests on a rum distillery trip with owner Martin Cate.