Party Earth Review The word “speakeasy” may be bantered about a lot, but Bourbon & Branch has the distinction of operating in a location that actually was one – in the form of JJ Russell's Cigar Shop – from 1921 to 1933. Much like in its... ... read full review
501 Jones Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
MUNI F Line: Market Street & 5th Street
Library Room W–Sa 6pm–2am
Civic Center / Tenderloin, San Francisco –
The word “speakeasy” may be bantered about a lot, but Bourbon & Branch has the distinction of operating in a location that actually was one – in the form of JJ Russell's Cigar Shop – from 1921 to 1933.
Much like in its heyday, the venue still sports an unmarked door, requires a password to enter, and leads guests through secret passageways and hidden rooms. The house rules are simple – no cells, no standing, and “don’t even think about asking for a Cosmo” – and the prohibition vibe is in full force, right down to the staff dressed in suspenders and flapper garb.
Cocktail connoisseurs settle in on elaborate iron stools and art deco booths in the main room, pondering whether to begin with a snifter of rare bourbon or a selection from the long list of invariably strong potations.
Since many of the drinks take several minutes to create, it’s clear why another rule is “be patient,” which seems just fine by the middle-aged lawyers, youthful grad students, and newly minted professionals who all pore over the menu with equal intensity.
Those without a reservation can still sample a smaller menu in the password protected Library Room, though with space for barely a few dozen people among the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the wait can be long.
It may be that requiring a password gives the place a highbrow infusion of cool, or maybe it’s the possibility that the ghosts of gangsters still patrol the halls, but regardless of where its allure stems from, one thing is sure – Bourbon & Branch elevates the cocktail experience so high, it’s a wonder it’s not illegal.
Hard-drinking artists, rumpled writers, excited young cocktailers, leftover literati, affluent concert-goers, Downtown attorneys and brokers, and up-and-coming tech industry types, mid-20s to late 40s.
Ambient old-time swing tunes.
No food. Beverage Academy cocktail classes held year round. Reservations required for the main room.
Beer $6–$10, wine $10–$12, cocktails $11–$14, bourbon $11–$95, scotch $11–$75. Cocktail classes $75–$95.
Casual to upscale: Internet company t-shirts, jeans, jackets, business suits, leather shoes, pencil skirts, polos, cocktail dresses, classic vintage wear.
Thursdays through Saturdays for the full throwback experience – reservations required – or Wednesday to sneak a peek at the Library with less of a wait.
Wilson & Wilson is a second smaller bar that is technically separate from Bourbon & Branch but located right next door, though reservations are required. The venue offers a $30 prix fixe menu for patrons to sample some of B&B’s amazing cocktails.