Bourbon and Branch
- Night Out
May 11, 2018
Housed in a former speakeasy, San Francisco’s Bourbon and Branch successfully replicates the sophisticated ambience of the 1920s without feeling like a theme bar, although how charming you find the conceit is likely to depend on your tolerance for the whole ‘secret venue’ thing: the bar has no signage and a password (check their website for details) has to be given at the door to gain entry. The name stems from the nostalgic term for bourbon and water, not that you’d ever order anything so basic, not when the range of libations on offer include several top quality hand-numbered bourbons. House rules – no mobile phones, no name dropping and “don’t even think of asking for a Cosmo” -ß- keep things running in a smooth speakeasy style, though the warning ‘please be patient our drinks are labour-intensive’ tells you not to expect super speedy service. The book-lined library bar is very much in keeping with the Prohibition era aesthetic and there’s something rather lovely about drinking quality spirits surrounded by old books, as if you’re sneaking off to have a drink in some upper class mansion. The beautifully furnished Russell Room is a former cigar shop complete with secret exits, perfect for making your escape in the middle of a raid. It doesn’t serve food, alas, but the drinks use market fresh, locally sourced herbs and fruits they don’t serve any juices or purees they haven’t squeezed themselves and all mixers come from the bottle, not draught. The venue also holds cocktail making classes through its Beverage Academy.
What their peers say
“If you like speakeasies, this is your bar. Look for the Anti-Saloon League sign hanging out front. If you don’t have a reservation for the front bar, there is standing room in the library, or plenty of space in the newly-opened cellar (which was a speakeasy during Prohibition, and some people find cooler than the front room).” Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown of Mixellany Ltd.