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After becoming a true Tiki Person after being gifted the Smuggler's Cove book, being able to visit in-person was like arriving in Mecca. We got there on a Friday evening, and it was BUSY. We didn't have to wait to get inside, but once we were in, there wasn't anywhere to really go. I was able to snag a seat at the main floor bar, which was wonderful for watching the master bartender make a dozen extremely complicated drinks at a time without breaking a sweat. The decor was cool but not the most memorable, but it might be easier to appreciate the details without the massive crowd. This won for the best drinks we had that night, but Last Rites was a major contender for 2nd place. If (I mean, when!) I visit again, I'll try to hit it on an off day or time. Still it gave me shivers to be in such an iconic part of modern tiki culture, and you can't skip it.

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Tiki Bar

Smuggler's Cove

San Francisco, California, United States

Smuggler's Cove was opened December 8th, 2009 by Martin Cate, a renowned rum expert and longtime tikiphile who was one of the founders of Forbidden Island in Alameda. Smuggler's Cove specializes in all varieties of rum and rum drinks, with a particular emphasis on historic and exotic cocktails. Cate has attracted some of the top bartender talent in the talent-rich city of San Francisco. Smuggler's Cove regularly appears on the lists of the best bars in the world. It has proven incredibly popular: if you go on a weekend, be prepared to possibly wait in a line for entry.

The decor is a blend of nautical and tiki. The dimly-lit bar spans three floors: the main and lower levels each have their own bars, and an upper half-level is a tiki hut that overlooks the main floor. There is a waterfall between the main floor and the lower floor, with a small pool at the bottom. The construction was led by Ignacio "Notch" Gonzalez, of San Jose's Top Notch Kustoms.

The offerings can be overwhelming in scope: over 500 rums, and more than 75 cocktails. If you're intent on trying as many as possible, consider entering the Rumbustion Society; those who complete the list are rewarded for their efforts.