Happy hours aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. In fact, they’re a highly individualized adventure that says a lot about who you are, the people you spend time with, and whether you’re out for a quick buzz, a confab, or a romantic rendezvous.
For this list, we’ve sifted through hundreds of options to find bars and restaurants that offer great drinks, great food, and great values — for coworkers, friends, and lovers alike.
The Jet Set: Duke’s Spirited Cocktails, 4-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday: It’s all about seasonal craft libations, aka farm-to-glass drinks that include herbs, fruit vinegars, fruit purees, and top-shelf artisan booze. 111 Plaza St., Healdsburg, 707-431-1060, drinkatdukes.com.
Best First Date Happy Hour: Bird & The Bottle, 3-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday: Calm your nerves with a Tito’s vodka martini or a tasty margarita for just $4 before your date arrives. If things go well, the $2 street tacos are a hearty handful of corn tortilla-wrapped smoked pork shoulder, housemade pastrami, Korean chicken thigh, or fried cheddar cheese curd with spicy crema, sprouts, and slaw.
If things go really well at your Bird and the Bottle date, pump it up with a $6 cocktail like the Dirty Dilbert (gin, jalapeño, cucumber, and lime). Got stood up? Soothe your feelings with the vodka-spiked Shiso Pretty ($6), because you deserve it. 1055 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4000, birdandthebottle.com.
Best All By Yourself: Jackson’s Bar & Oven, 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday: The after-work crowd piles into this friendly Railroad Square spot daily, and things can get a little Tetris-like when folks are jockeying for position at the bar. Stake out a space early, order a couple martinis ($6) with truffle fries, and watch as everyone lets their hair down for the day.
Want to make a friend or two? Order a pizza ($10) and offer your bar-hugging neighbors a slice. Who’s lonely now? 135 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-6900, jacksonsbarandoven.com.
Best Girls Night: Cascabel, 3-6 p.m. daily: Don’t cry for me, margarita, the truth is, I’ve never left you. Evita would really want you and your gal pals to hit up this Montgomery Village hot spot.
At this Mexican grill and restaurant, ordering jalapeño jelly fries and Tecate shots is a win-win. 909 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-521-9444, cascabelbayarea.com.
Best Food: Spirit Bar, 4-7 p.m. daily: With nibbles by Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen and the cozy charm of the Healdsburg Hotel, it’s not surprising that space is at a premium for this haute happy hour. You’ll leave both full and well-lubricated after a Tito’s vodka cocktail for $7, draft beers for $4.50, and solid local wines for $7.
The draw at Spirit Bar's happy hour is the hearty bites — including lobster corn dogs with mustard cream ($10), French fries with bearnaise aioli ($6), and a burger with house-made bacon and fries ($13). Consider upgrading to a filet mignon burger with coffee-braised shiitake mushrooms and a housemade roll ($17.50) or churros with salted caramel sauce ($8). 317 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, drycreekkitchen.com/spirit-bar/happy-hour.
Best Craft Cocktails: Perch and Plow, 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday: Park yourself in the lounge early and plan to camp out for at least an hour as you sip stellar craft and classic cocktails including the Lemongrass Sidecar (Sacred Bond brandy, vanilla, lemon juice, lemongrass cordial), a chamomile daiquiri with chamomile-infused rum, a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Cucumber Gimlet.
New Perch and Plow bar manager Marilyn Rodriguez is a cocktail rock star, pushing the boundaries of mixology with combinations of smoke, salt, infused liquors, and flora and fauna that are as pretty to look at as they are tasty to drink. If you can’t decide, try a cocktail flight of five signatures for $29 to share with friends. Staying simple? Happy hour wines and cocktails are all $7, select beers are $4. Gut-filling fish tacos, five-spice chicken wings, fontina mac and cheese, and house fries with black garlic aioli are just $5 each. 90 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, 707-541-6896, perchandplow.com.
Best Deal: Ricardo’s Bar and Grill, 2-6 p.m. daily: We almost feel bad outing this adorable neighborhood eatery, because the locals are going to be really mad when they find you sitting on their barstools. But come on, $4 for a Tom Collins, Manhattan, martini, Cosmo or margarita? Coors Light is a cool $3, and if you really insist on a glass of wine, it’s $5. Appetizers are pretty straightforward, but that’s no problem when they include mac and cheese fries, pulled pork tacos, and mozzarella sticks. 2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-545-769, ricardosbarandgrill.com.
Most Elevated Experience: Rooftop Bar, 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday: Get high in the sky, or at least as high as Healdsburg gets, at the Harmon Guesthouse’s relaxed rooftop bar. The fire pit is a coveted location as things get cool in the evening, though on warm afternoons, you’ll be glad for a little breeze blowing off Fitch Mountain. Sliders, truffle fries, and oysters are all $5 or less, bubbles are $7, classic martinis, Bloody Marys, and Palomas are $7; and beer is $5. The view, however, is priceless. 227 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707 431-8220, harmonguesthouse.com
Mos Mezcal: El Gallo Negro: Though they don’t have an official happy hour, they do have some tasty daily specials worth checking out. Monday features $6 margaritas all night (not the syrupy stuff, but freshly made with lime). On Tuesday, tequila flights are $15, and on Sunday, mimosas, Bloody Marys, and Micheladas are just $3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Owned by the Diaz family, who owns restaurants in Windsor and Healdsburg, the food focuses on Oaxacan specialties with their famous 30-ingredient mole. 8465 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor, 707-838-9511, elgallonegrowindsor.com.
Best Classics: Stark’s Steak & Seafood, 3-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday: If for no other reason than their classic Beefeater martini for a mere $3.50 (limit two), Stark’s is the reigning monarch of the classic cocktail happy hour. But wait, there’s so much more. Prefer a vodka martini instead? They’ve got those, made with Hangar 1 for just $6, as well as an Old Fashioned with bourbon, brown sugar, and lemon ($7) and a Moscow Mule (also with Hangar 1 vodka, $7). These aren’t headache-inducing well drinks, but proper cocktails for distinguished palates.
Happy hour wines at Stark's are $6, and Gordon Biersch Pale Ale is a thrifty $2.75. We’d be remiss not to mention the $6 happy hour bites menu with a quarter-pound Angus burger with fontina, caramelized onions, truffle aioli, and pickles. And then there’s the prime rib banh mi sandwich, tuna tartare taco, potato skin fondue, or truffle fries. We could go on, but it would just be cruel. 521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-5100, starkrestaurants.com.
Best for Early Birds: Salt and Stone, 2:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday: Rise and shine for this post-lunch happy hour in Kenwood, because by 4 p.m. you may have a hard time finding a seat — even next to the fireplace. Classic well cocktails are just $5 and happy hour wines are under $6.50. Oysters are the happy hour specialty, but everything on the happy hour menu is $6, from oysters casino to truffle fries, fish tacos, a quarter-pound taco, or dessert of the day. Life’s too short not to eat dessert with a highball before dinner. 9900 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-6326, saltstonekenwood.com.
So Nice They Do It Twice: Handline, 3-5 p.m., 8:30-10 p.m. daily: It’s not complicated, but it is a solid deal: $4 beers, $6 glasses of wine, and a dozen oysters for $24.
And while the small bites ($6-$9) of smoked trout chowder, fish tacos, beef empanadas, and incredible kanpachi and mushroom tostaditos are super-delicious, one of the biggest perks of this Sebastopol spot is the seasonal porch where kids and grown-ups can enjoy the sun, eat some soft-serve ice cream, and enjoy neighborly Sebastopol at communal tables under a giant live oak tree. 935 Gravenstein Highway S., Sebastopol, 707-827-3744, handline.com.
Speakeasy Spot: Starling Bar, 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 2-4 p.m. Bloody Mary Sunday: Unlike some of the flashier farm-to-glass cocktail spots, Starling is a way-under-the-radar neighborhood bar with a focus on fresh cocktails. The happy hour menu always includes a margarita made with agave, a house-made ginger beer mule, and a barrel-aged Boulevardier made with rye, Campari, and Bonal Gentiane (a herbaceous aperitif) — all for $6. They’ve also got a $6 Boilermaker and the Cherr-ity Shot, wherein a fiver gets you a shot of whiskey and spiced cherry brandy, with all proceeds going to local charities.
Stick around for Starling's signature cocktails like the bacon-infused bourbon sour, black walnut Manhattan, or the punch bowl for two ($19) with rum, fresh fruit, spices, and citrus in a glass bowl. They don’t have a big food menu, but their pimento cheese and chips is always a winner. Plus, they’re open until 2 a.m. daily, making it a favorite after-hours hangout for restaurant industry folks. (Courtesy photo) 19380 Highway 12, Sonoma, 707-938-7442, starlingsonoma.com.
Best Happy Hour With Your Boss: The Front Room Bar & Lounge, 4-6 p.m Monday-Thursday; 3-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday: The dark, clubby vibe of this hotel lounge is perfect for classy on-the-clock strategic planning with your boss or co-workers. Cozy leather seats are prime real estate, but bar tables for two are a bit more intimate. Wines by the glass and weekly cocktail specials are just $6, draft beers $4, and there are $3 Buds, should you be on a shoestring. Tasty fish tacos or barbecued short rib sliders are $7 each. 4330 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa, 800-421-2584, vintnersresort.com/dining/the-front-room-bar-and-lounge.
Best Bro Bar: Belly Left Coast Kitchen, 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday: When isn’t it happy hour at this downtown Santa Rosa restaurant? They’ve got food and drink specials daily, with your best bet being Taco Tuesday from 2 p.m to close, with solid tacos, a full bar, and an impressive collection of craft brews. The rock star vibe and beer-centric drink list makes for plenty of fist-pumping, dude-licious fun. 523 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-526-5757, bellyleftcoastkitchen.com.
Best For Couples: Seared, 4-6 p.m. Sunday-Friday; 4-5 p.m. Saturday: Sometimes a longstanding romance needs a little lift, and the prices on these happy hour cocktails are enough to get you both in the mood for conversation — or whatever. Delightfully delicious sippers like the Petaluma lemon drop, margarita, Bon Vivant (vodka, passion fruit, elderflower liqueur, and vanilla simple syrup with a sugared rim), and gingery Moscow Mule go down easy at just $6 each. All draft beers are $4 and house wines are $5. Fill up with hearty bites at budget prices: Prime rib dip, filet mignon skewers, pork belly, and ham Cubano ($7), or a trio of raw oysters for $4.50. 170 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-762-5997, petalumaseared.com.
Class Act 1: Oso, 5-6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday: Try some lower-alcohol cocktails that are strong enough to do the trick, but won’t leave you making grass angels in the Sonoma Plaza. Tasty sangria and agave tequila margaritas both pair perfectly with mole-braised pork tacos. Summery Lillet Blanc spritzers and a raspberry framboise Champagne cocktail are well-matched with some tasty ceviche. 9 E. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-931-6926, ososonoma.com.
Class Act 2: The Plaza Bistro, 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday: Sonoma locals know this is the spot for hopping happy hours with well cocktails from $4-$6 each, house wines at $6, and beers for $5. Bar dishes like Caesar salad with grilled chicken, potato skins and sliders are $6 each. Go early, because seats are prime real estate during happy hour. 420 First St. E., Sonoma, 707-996-4466, theplazabistro.com.
Grocery Store Happy Hour 1: Oliver’s Tavern Off the Green: 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday: A huge list of local beers on tap (and we mean huge) are $1 off during happy hour. Stick around for the barbecued pulled-pork potato skins ($8.99). Frequent live music and events. 9230 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor, 707-687-2050, oliversmarket.com.
Grocery Store Happy Hour 2: Community Market Garden Taproom: 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday: Ten taps with craft beers, ciders, wine, and probiotic beverages like kvass and kombucha. Get $1 off pints and glasses of wine at happy hour. Special locals-day hours 4-8 p.m. on Thursday. 762 Sebastopol Ave. #100, Sebastopol, 707-407-4020, cmnaturalfoods.com.
Written by Heather Irwin