A Notable Absence…

View from the top of the ladder at Hard Water, San Francisco
Not too many people got to look at the whiskey wall at Hard Water from this angle at the top of the ladder. But for those of us who worked here, it was a view we took all too for granted.

At the end of August The Bourbon Review published its list of America’s Best Bourbon Bars for 2022. Notably missing from the western region list was Hard Water, located in San Francisco. It had been a fixture on the list for as long as I had been working there, from January 2015 until March 2019, when COVID shelter-in-place orders came into effect for California and we closed our doors. The owners of Hard Water did not choose to take advantage of any of the various easements that came into place during 2020 (like food and drinks to go or bottle sales out the door) and the question of whether Hard Water would ever reopen remained unanswered. In fall of 2021 it looked like it might relaunch but in early 2022, word spread that it was officially shuttered for good.

Hard Water's Farewell
Closed with something of a whimper and not a bang!

I don’t know how many other beloved whiskey watering holes failed to weather the pandemic but I am sure Hard Water was not a solitary casualty on the 2022 list. The cliche is to say ‘But [it] was so young and had so much more to offer!” and this was very true of Hard Water. When we closed we were in the process of building out an annex space next door which, among other things, would have given us very needed room for special events: tastings, barrel launches, meet ‘n’ greets, classes, etc. Alas, that wasn’t going to happen.

So, here’s a toast to my beloved bar, Hard Water, now just a sainted memory.


I published a newsletter for Hard Water for a number of years. I’ve collected links to those (hosted on mailchimp) elsewhere on this website if anyone’s interested in peeking at them. And the insta account is still up, if you want to revisit some of the old photos. Also some of the old/rare/private barrel bottles are showing up at The Slanted Door in San Ramon, if you’re interested in taking a peek there.

This was the more common view and the first thing anyone saw when they walked into the Hard Water.
This was the more common view and the first thing anyone saw when they walked into the Hard Water. (Distortion provided by Apple iPhone. The wall is flat.)