Bourbon & Branch

Bar / Speakeasy
Bourbon & Branch "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." San Francisco United States 37.785797 -122.41299
4.24 10
Bourbon & Branch - Bar | Speakeasy in San Francisco.
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Ratings:
Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

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 –... ... read full review

  • Metro:

    BART: Powell
    MUNI F Line: Market Street & 5th Street

  • Phone:

    415-346-1735

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    M–Sa 6pm–2am
    Library Room W–Sa 6pm–2am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth Bourbon & Branch Review

The Scene

"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."

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.

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Tip from Jonah:

If you don’t have a reservation but still want to check out part of the venue, the password ‘books’ will get you into the Library.

  • Crowd

    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.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Ambient old-time swing tunes.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    No food. Beverage Academy cocktail classes held year round. Reservations required for the main room.

  • Prices

    Beer $6–$10, wine $10–$12, cocktails $11–$14, bourbon $11–$95, scotch $11–$75. Cocktail classes $75–$95.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual to upscale: Internet company T-shirts, jeans, jackets, business suits, leather shoes, pencil skirts, polos, cocktail dresses, classic vintage wear.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Thursdays through Saturdays for the full throwback experience – reservations required – or Wednesday to sneak a peek at the Library with less of a wait.

  • Close By

    Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency is a second, smaller bar that is located behind a nondescript door in Bourbon & Branch, though reservations are required. The venue offers a $30 prix fixe menu for patrons to sample some of B&B’s amazing cocktails.

Bourbon & Branch User Reviews

Average rating:
Go for the key password
Laryn P. Jun 7, 2013
Kinda funny that this is the main attraction to getting into the bar. Library. :) But, it's nice to see some originality and theme going. I do love this place, don't get me wrong. But I don't think I'd give it 4 stars. It's mellow, great antique furniture, and great drinks. It's kinda boring though. If you go w/ a couple friends, you better hope they are fun :). Great stop in place though, and if you are wanna dress up like most SFers, then you can go flapper style.
Blast From the Past
Maryellen G. Feb 20, 2013
Bourbon&Branch is a wonderful location for people who like to unwind and enjoy a drink, but do not appreciate loud crowds of college age kids who have had a few too many cosmos. Instead, the speakeasy B&B provides a more sophisticated experience without being overly stuffy or pretentious. It does this by providing customers with entry passwords, a gourmet drink menu, and light background music which does not detract from conversation. People looking to get loud and dance, stay home. This is a spot to converse and exchange ideas with the many interesting people you may meet.
Authentic & Intimate
Jackie P. Feb 13, 2013
It's not just the experience: making the reservation, getting your password, ringing the bell, and actually using your password to get in the door, that requires one to venture out to this unique venue. It's the ambiance. The tin ceilings, the dim lighting, the intimate high booths, the burgundy velour wallpapering, and did I mention the best 'libations' in San Francisco. The bartenders and cocktail waitress' fit in with the atmosphere with their quite, cool, calm and confident demeanor.
Shticky, kitsch, fun, unique experience.
Ed H. Oct 5, 2012
The comments below sum it up nicely, but to belabor the point...the whole experience of ringing a doorbell (or knocking on the door), seeing the door open, listening to a door man (or door woman) ask me for a password, having to provide the right password (which is never a problem because the password is provided on the website and is often the same password night after night) is, in my opinion, a really fun and unique experience. And Bourbon & Branch carries out the theme of speakeasy-sheik quite nicely...from the name to the decor to the concept of an annex/standing room area set aside from the main room with the bar (appropriately called "The Library"). The place is cool, and the libations are worth the price.
Worth the wait
Jayson M. Aug 15, 2012
Look, it's ridiculously popular. You'd be wise to make reservations far in advance and you're still probably going to have to wait a bit. It's definitely not going to be your local "go to" bar, but that's not what this place is all about. I've never had a drink here that wasn't amazing and unlike anything else I have ever put in my mouth (wow, left the door wide open on that one). This is a special occasion place. Get gussied up, go with some solid old friends you haven't seen in awhile, take your father in-law, that sort of thing. If you aren't into the legit speakeasy scene you will definitely find this place pretentious as hell. And it is, let's face it, but at least it is pretentious for a reason (not like some stupid club that only exudes an air of exclusivity because rich buttheads are dropping way too much money on cheap champagne).
best speak easy in SF
Emily B. Aug 1, 2012
Bourbon & Branch is completely worth the extra hassle that it takes to get your foot in the door. A lot of bars are claiming to be speakeasies these days, but this place is the real deal (as in "you better remember the password they gave you via email when you made the reservation or you're not getting in")! The mixed drinks are all delicious, but I always get a mule. The fact that I like their mule means a lot because it's my favorite drink and I like to think I have high standards for mixology bars. If you don't have reservations and you get there early enough you can hang out in the Library which is just as fun but standing room only and the guy who guards the door is usually kind of rude. Dress nicely but it's not necessary to wear a dress.
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