San Francisco

Bar 821 Gets Interior Facelift, Expands Selection With New Focus On Amaro

Back in February, we answered reader queries about Bar 821's temporary closure with news that the bar was receiving a makeover and expanding its selection to include the city's largest selection of amaro, the popular Italian herbal digestif.

Originally set to reopen on February 23rd, the revamp took a bit longer than expected. However, Bar 821 is officially back in business with a greatly expanded arsenal of liquor and later weekend hours, now remaining open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.

We swung by the other day and chatted with bar manager Danielle Mallory as she walked us through the highlights of the interior changes and newest prize possession: enough amaro to make an Italian movie star cry.

"We greatly increased our spirits selection. We've almost tripled the amount of liquor," said Mallory. "We have the biggest collection of amaro out of any bar in the city. The owner went kind of nuts."  The newly acquired cache of bitter spirits is showcased beautifully by brand new shelving and lighting behind the bar, which also made room for the newly expanded collection of tequila, mescal, whiskey, and everything else. 

In addition to the new shelving, there's also a new bar top, which is pushed out several feet toward the center of the space, allowing for an extra bartender to comfortably work behind the bar. The booths in front have also been removed, and will soon be replaced with a sleek wooden bench.

Along the south wall, several high tables and metal stools have been added and, if you look up, you'll notice that fancy new ceiling tiles have appeared. The exterior of the space also got some love in the form of a snazzy paint job and a window sign advertising the bar's new focus on amaro.

Speaking of amaro, Mallory wasn't kidding when she said the owners went a little crazy with the selection. "They're big spirits nerds," she told us, and the new selection reflects that passion.

For example, they now have 15 varieties of fernet alone (contrary to widespread belief, "fernet" is actually a type of amaro, not a "brand" unto itself). Additionally, they have some pricey and rare varieties of amaro, including Borsci (pictured below). "It's said that if you ever come across a bottle of this you should drink it, because it might be the last one you ever see," Mallory told us. "We have two."

A shot of this stuff will set you back a whopping $30, but the majority of other options will run you about $8 or $9. Mallory told us they will also offer flights of fernet, including one called the "Sweet and Salty", which offers three different 1-ounce tastes for $20.

A new amaro-forward cocktail menu is also set to debut this week, including the "La Diabla", which is 821's take on the classic El Diablo, made with fernet, creme de cassis, lime juice and Bundeberg ginger beer. The new cocktails will be a bit more expensive than the bar's previous offering, at $10 each. However, budget-minded amaro lovers should note that there's a new happy hour from 4pm to 7pm that offers a half pint of beer and a shot of amaro (bartender's choice) for $8.

Mallory is personally looking forward to the new endeavor. "I'm really excited to introduce people to amaro. It's really popular in Europe and it's just starting to pick up speed in the United States. Amaro is really interesting because of how many different flavor profiles there are amongst the different varieties," she told us. "I'm excited to talk about and introduce people to all the different flavors. I think it will be a great new offering for the Divisadero stretch."

Here's to new beginnings for a neighborhood staple. Cheers!

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