San Francisco, CA

Trade Routes on Polk Street offers a cocktail journey worth exploring

Carlos Hernandez

San Francisco’s bar scene has been through quite the journey since the pandemic. Numerous shutdowns have disrupted a once vibrant city for a night out for drinks. One of my favorite things to do in the city when I visit is to attend bar crawls and find new bars to drink at, sometimes a great one is right around the corner in an alley you didn’t know existed.

The guy who plans the bar crawls I go to moved to Tokyo during the pandemic (good for him) and so during this visit I haven’t had quite the same experience looking for new places to try. Trade Routes on Polk Street popped up on my radar while scanning blogs and news articles though and was quickly bookmarked in my Google Maps list for San Francisco when I saw the decor inside.

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The main bar at Trade Routes.Carlos Hernandez / CarlosEats.com

I love travel-themed anything (yes I have bought a world map shower curtain), but Trade Routes also looked like plenty of time and love went into the ambiance and the cocktail menu. I was not disappointed when I finally made it there this week. I also just happen to be reading a book about world conquistadors and the creation of the colonies that became the United States.

The center of the bar has a lit-up map and the bar has a nice arrangement of liquor bottles on display. The clientele was your usual Bay Area locals and it was slow since it was early in the week, perfect for discussions with the bartenders. I was impressed with their hospitality and friendliness and they informed me they are currently in the process of extending their hours.

The actual cocktail list is a little short at this time with only six available to choose from as well as wine and beer. Of course, it is about quality more than quantity.

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The Royal Pardon up close.Carlos Hernandez / CarlosEats.com

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The Royal Pardon from the bar.Carlos Hernandez / CarlosEats.com

My first drink was the Royal Pardon made with vodka, licor 43, passion fruit, honey, and lime. The passion fruit is what drew me to the cocktail and it did not disappoint. I never really drank too much of it until a visit to San Juan had me hooked before the pandemic. This drink was well-balanced and honestly a delight to sip.

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Uncharted Waters cocktail at Trade Routes.Carlos Hernandez / CarlosEats.com

I followed up the drink with an Uncharted Waters cocktail featuring pandan infused reposado, pineapple infused campari, vermouth, coconut water. It was boozy, yet delicious. Just the ingredient list had me excited. It brought an instant buzz and put me in a good spot where I stayed until I decided to head home and call it a day.

Both cocktails were fairly priced at $13. When I initially saw the size of the Uncharted Waters I was skeptical until I had my first sip and felt the libation.

The mix of flavors was unlike anything I’ve ever really seen on the east coast in Florida, where we lean more towards tiki-inspired cocktails or hotel classics, but that is exactly why I love drinking in San Francisco. The unique element of each bar is always a fun time and so are the people in busier times.

The ambiance of the neighborhood bar was pleasant,and cozy. I would very much like to return to Trade Routes in the future for another adventure and would recommend it.

Trade Routes. 1750 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109.

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I am a writer who covers a number of topics from food to politics and everything in between. Contact: carloshernandesu@gmail.com

Tampa, FL
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