5 Great Bars in Sonoma County
When you’re craving a delicious craft cocktail in Sonoma County, you’re in very good luck - there are many terrific bars and lounges waiting to serve you classic and unique blends of local and international spirits, plus top-notch local wines, beers, and ciders, too.
You might be in downtown Sonoma, and dreaming of an elegant Fig Kiss of Figcello di Sonoma, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and cranberry juice served at the iconic the girl & the fig; or a seasonal-sensational Farmer Carrie's Margarita at the hip-divey new Starling Bar, made with muddled Kenwood strawberries, black pepper tincture, reposado tequila, citrus juice and a salt-pepper rim.
Really, every Sonoma County town is a unique destination for intriguing, tasty drinks. Consider hiring a driver, to take you around to multiple spots, so you can focus on enjoying the cocktail flavors without worrying about driving. (It’s also a great idea to go as a group, and share drinks. Sipping across a variety of cocktails adds to the exploratory pleasure.)
Try these five wonderful places to wet your whistle:
Fern Bar, Sebastopol
This gorgeous, garden-inspired spot is the work of Lowell Sheldon and Natalie Goble, the talented duo who also owns the excellent Handline nearby. They draw produce from their own nearby Two Belly Acre farm, for quaffs like a Wimbledon that is a twist on the classic Pimm’s spice- and citrus-infused gin.
Here, the cocktail sings with homemade gin infusion, a blend of gin, vermouth, Cointreau, sliced cucumber, raspberries and strawberries, rosemary sprigs, mint leaves, pineapple sage leaves, and sliced orange, all mingled for 24 hours. Then the barkeep mixes the beauty with lemon juice, homemade ginger gum syrup, cucumber chunks, raspberries, and Angostura Bitters, all poured over ice and garnished with mint and more cucumbers and berries.
The décor celebrates plants and fashion, as well, with lots of ferns flourishing in-wall and hanging planters, fern-print wallpaper, tufted leather banquettes, faux fur throws on lounge chairs, macramé art, and nightly live music.
And for cocktail lovers who aren't in the mood for spirits, the barkeeps whip up excellent mocktails, too, such as the refreshing Spirited Away in a mix of makrut lime, matcha, lemongrass-galangal syrup, and Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit that tastes similar to gin.
Details: 6780 Depot Street, Suite 120, Sebastopol.
Stay over at Sebastopol Inn, tucked behind the historic Gravenstein train station right across the street from Fern Bar.
Duke's Spirited Cocktails, Healdsburg
The upscale, Prohibition-inspired lounge tempts with produce-inspired quaffs and the charm of a stylish, 1933 building. Created by former Spoonbar staffers Laura Sanfilippo, Tara Heffernon, Steve Maduro and Cappy Sorentino, the trendy spot concocts drinks made with herbs and flowers grown at home by Heffernon, plus fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Sanfilippo's orchard and vineyard.
Drinks change seasonally, but some standouts include the Ms. Bojangles of Four Roses Bourbon, house root beer, Fernet Branca, bitters and phosphate; or the Night Vision of Sebastopol's Spirit Works Barrel Gin, carrot, caraway, lemon, and Bordiga Dry Vermouth.
The setting is oh-so-stylish, as well, with chalkboard menus, bronze industrial lighting, a long bar, raw wood and metal communal tables, and a party atmosphere that goes well into the late night.
Details: 111 Plaza Street, Healdsburg.
Stay over in a private vineyard rental home at Healdsburg's Simpson Vineyard Estate.
Bird & the Bottle, Santa Rosa
A masterpiece from owners Mark and Terri Stark, this always-packed lounge sits in the center of the restaurant, with more lounge seating on one side, and a somewhat secluded dining room on the other. Here's the ritual: make a reservation for lunch or dinner, arrive, and go directly to the bar to meet and greet well-known regulars including community leaders, artists, and winemakers, then head to your table. If you're really lucky, you might just walk in and snag a seat at the bar.
The theme is small plates and cocktails, so get some chicken skin cracklings to nosh on while sipping a Shiso Pretty, a crisp quaff of St. George vodka, spiced pear, shiso shrub and lime, or the I'm All Ears, a bold blend of butter washed mellow corn whiskey, tamarind, elote orgeat, egg whites, and bacon Tabasco bitters.
Details: 1055 4th Street, Santa Rosa.
Stay over at The Sandman Hotel, a retro-renovated roadside inn in Santa Rosa.
Geyserville Gun Club, Geyserville
The groovy, darkly-lit hideaway is owned by Dino Bugica's team, who also own the Michelin Bib Gourmand and Zagat-rated Diavalo Pizzeria down the street. Set in the historic Odd Fellows Building, G.G.C. serves clever, seasonal cocktails like a Spaghetti Western of Petaluma's Griffo Stout Whiskey, Carpano Antica, Campari, tobacco bitters and orange bitters; or the lighter, refreshing Day Drinker of light rum, raspberry syrup, fresh lime and ginger beer.
Round the party out with fresh fish crudos, Latin and Asian street food, and delicious bar bites like a bacon-wrapped Tijuana Dog smothered in jalapenos, fried onions, pico de gallo, Cheddar and secret sauce.
21025 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville.
Stay over at the recently renovated, quaint Geyserville Inn just up the block.
Whisper Sisters Cocktails & Provisions, Petaluma
The cocktails lead the marquee at this spirits-driven eatery and lounge in downtown Petaluma, as the work of former Drawing Board Bar Manager Danielle Peters, her brother Wendall Peter, and her fiancé Erin Clossey. There's lots of love put in these pretty drinks, like the pink-orange toned Driftwood, mixing lightly earthy French-Caribbean rhum agricole, herbal Cocchi Americano Italian aperitif wine, apricot, lemon, bitters and smoky vanilla Palo Santo tincture, all presented in a coupe glass with an edible flower garnish.
It's easy to spend hours in the dark, sexy space, basking in the glow of backlit bottles lining an entire wall and marveling at displays of fresh fruit, liqueurs, bitters, tinctures, and sodas, plus glittering bottles in all kinds of premium local and imported labels. Sample the Torch Singer, featuring Windsor's Sipsong Spirits grape-based botanical gin and Monarch Bitters celery bitters, and nibble a chicory and asparagus salad tossed with radish, grapefruit, curried pepitas and Parmesan in citrus-thyme vinaigrette.
Details: 190 Kentucky St., Petaluma.
Stay over at the eclectic, French-inspired boutique Metro Hotel nearby.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet