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Best Cocktail Bars: Smuggler’s Cove

July 21, 2011

“Best Cocktail Lounge of the Year”

“Best New Cocktail Lounge in America”

“Top 3 Spirit-Specific Bars in America”

The list goes on for Smuggler’s Cove. So for this, our fourth monthly installment of the Best Cocktail Bars, we travel to the epicenter of West Coast rum mixology, San Francisco, to profile this new but already legendary bar.


What if you could go on Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride and actually get a rum drink on the ride? That’s what you can expect from the bar Yelp reviewer Toni L. calls ‘Like Disneyland for Alcoholics’.

Best Cocktail Bar Smugglers Cove

Created by local designer ‘Notch’, the atmosphere is tiki but not tacky. In a small, cozy space that sometimes feels like a smuggler’s cave, an authentic vibe of mystery and danger covers the whole 300 years of rum’s illicit nautical history.

The music builds the vibe but is kept low so you can actually hear what that girl is saying to you.

The characters on both side of the bar are what really makes a place and this is what makes Smuggler’s Cove shine. It’s a place where you could walk in with a parrot on your shoulder and no one would blink an eye but don’t think you’re going to a tourist stop like Margaritaville as it’s all done in a way that brings the San Fran’s outlaw nautical cocktail history to life.


The mixology at Smuggler’s Cove is all about owner Martin Cate and his personal mission to re-educate the world on rum’s role as the greatest of spirits.

Rum Drink Master Martin Cate

While he creates a vibe that’s over-the-top fun he’s get serious when he talks of how most people’s experience of rum is as a syrupy and artificial flavor and not the great variety of rum blends from simple to complex that are available.

Here’s Martin on rum”

“There just isn’t a more fascinating spirit in the world…. Revolution, triumph, piracy, war, sailors, celebration, and unspeakable human tragedy are in every glass. No other spirit has the history or the versatility.”

Accordingly Smuggler’s Cove stocks over 200 rums from around the world including their own blend.

The mixologists behind the bar are top professionals and as equally passionate about the 70+ types of cocktails they create. From Prohibition-era Havana rum drinks to exotic Caribbean and Tiki concoctions, they insist on fresh fruits and exact measurement so you can appreciate what rum can be when freed from mass production.

You and your crew can try the popular Scorpian Bowl or you can personally make your way through their three levels of Rumbustion Society.


It’s at 650 Gough Street in the heart of San Francisco if you can find it.

Smugglers Cove Best Rum Bar Location

We say if because this is a bar that’s as hard and rewarding to find as treasure. A red and green light (to help you find your way to your home port after) are the only outside clues to help you find the liberated spirits inside.

Got an epic rum bar? Help the world find the way to it by letting us know.

Denizen is a new choice in white rum created by master blenders in Amsterdam. We specifically crafted it for the new golden age of rum mixology. It’s getting critical reviews such as “Finally! a white rum that tries to be rum” it’s available in great cocktail bars in the New York area and online at sites such as


THIS JUST IN: Martin advises us that they are now up to 300 rums. That’s a beautiful thing.


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