Elixir is one of the oldest bars in San Francisco. Opened in 1858, Elixir is San Francisco’s second oldest continuously operating bar, right behind the Old Ship Saloon, which opened in 1851. It is located in the Mission District, just a block away from Mission Dolores, which is the oldest building in San Francisco, dating back to 1776 (although the current building was finished in 1791).
When Elixir first opened, it was located at the end of Mission Plank Road, which served as a main thoroughfare for the busy Yerba Buena commerce area. Like The Old Ship Saloon and The Saloon in North Beach, the bar was built to provide a place for the large number of people drawn to the San Francisco Bay Area during the Gold Rush to eat and drink. San Francisco expanded a lot during this time prompting a large number of new businesses to open and homes to be built.
The iconic bar was a popular and busy attraction for locals and visitors until tragedy struck in the early 1900s. The 1906 earthquake and fires in San Francisco completely demolished a lot of buildings, including Elixir, which burned to the ground. However, the owners decided to rebuild the bar at the same location and Elixir has been operating without incident (for the most part) to this day, however the bar changed ownership and even changed names many times. In the 1940s, it was called The Hunt-In Club, in the 1960s and 1970s, it was known as Swede’s, in the 1980s, it was a gay bar called La Bandita and then became Jack’s Elixir Bar in the 1990s before the current owner, H. Joseph Ehrmann, bought the place and shortened the name to Elixir.
Despite all of the changes made throughout the years and the amazing restoration by the current owner, you can still feel the history when you walk in the door. A reminder of how things used to be prior to prohibition and women’s suffrage, you can still see the “women’s entrance”, which was common after women were finally allowed in bars as well as the stockroom that was converted to be a women’s restroom. Some of the features like the floors and walls had to be upgraded, but Ehrmann did his best to preserve some of the old features and add some new period fixtures to replace the ones that were taken down decades ago. The place is filled with cool, little trinkets and accent pieces that bring you back to the early days of SF.
Despite the “cool factor” of being San Francisco’s second oldest drinking establishment, Elixir is, ultimately, a bar. It’s located on 16th St in The Mission District, which is one of the busiest areas of the city in regards to bars, restaurants and nightlife. Elixir offers a great selection of creative cocktails, a large selection of beers and is one of the best whisky bars in the city. It’s the perfect spot to grab a drink on a weekday or party it up on the weekends.