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Tradition Tradition in San Francisco's Tenderloin celebrates the American bar. Find out what the Bourbon & Branch guys are doing in SF with Party Earth. San Francisco United States 37.7854741 -122.4128549
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Tradition - Bar in San Francisco.
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Party Earth Review An old-school cocktail den intended to celebrate the American bar, Tradition walks the line between a private tavern for SF’s coolest clientele and an in-vogue saloon for those who just want a quick ‘n’ proper drink. Run... ... read full review

  • Metro:

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

  • Phone:


  • Links:

  • Hours:

    M–Sa 6pm–2am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth Tradition Review

The Scene

Tradition in San Francisco's Tenderloin celebrates the American bar. Find out what the Bourbon & Branch guys are doing in SF with Party Earth.

An old-school cocktail den intended to celebrate the American bar, Tradition walks the line between a private tavern for SF’s coolest clientele and an in-vogue saloon for those who just want a quick ‘n’ proper drink.

Run by the same guys behind speakeasy Bourbon & Branch, the bar features the requisite barren façade and inconspicuous entrance, as well as a monochromatic main room that’s mostly undecorated save for a few vintage alcohol signs and antique lights.

Walk-ins usually must sit at the long center bar or in the barrel-stacked mezzanine, but the rows of stools – many reclaimed from an old courthouse – fill up fast with hipsters and yuppies and curious tourists ready to snort some good spirits or sling the Prohibition-era mainstays that make up the limited walk-in drinks menu.

Savvy patrons know to reserve one of the nine private booths – known as “snugs” – which reflect different themes and can accommodate up to nine people. Snug occupants are welcome to order anything on the extensive menu, but most of the trendy friends and savvy cocktailers stick to their booth’s individual theme, sipping tropical drinks beneath carved masks in the Tiki snug, old rye in the shadow of Gaelic crests in the Scottish snug, and so on.

Those who prefer whiskey, meanwhile, can head to the second bar on the mezzanine, whose barrels of in-house hooch lure mature connoisseurs to belt the night away…

…as doe-eyed newbies try to remember to make a reservation before hitting Tradition next time.

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Tip from Jonah:

Reservations aren’t required if you just want to drop in, but go for the full experience if you can. Apart from the snugs, Tradition makes it easy to reserve one of their few tables online.

  • Crowd

    Mature hipsters, trendy yuppies, speakeasy scenesters, couples and first-daters, curious tourists, groups of friends looking to celebrate, whiskey buffs, mid-20s to 40s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Old-timey ambient tunes usually pummeled by loud conversation.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Bar chips.

    Walk-ins are usually afforded a spot when there is room inside.

    Reservations required for the snugs, which accommodate two to nine people, depending on the snug. Back in the old days, the snug – sometimes called the smoke room – was a tiny room usually blocked out with frosted glass so that no one could see who was inside.

    Drinks traditionally cost more when ordered in the snug, and they were used not only by well-to-do patrons, but also by cops, priests, and other folks who preferred not to explain why they were tipping one back. Female clientele also frequented snugs, as their presence in a bar was largely frowned upon by guys who clearly didn’t understand the added benefit of having drunk women around them.

  • Prices

    Bar chips $3. Beer $5–$8, wine $10–$12, cocktails $8–$11+.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual cool: blazers, tailored pants, button-downs, Doc Martins, vintage dresses.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Any night for a solid crowd, or earlier in the week for a better chance of snagging a snug.

  • Close By

    A stone’s throw away and run by the same folks, the speakeasy Bourbon & Branch (501 Jones Street) features a Prohibition vibe in full force, right down to the staff dressed in suspenders and flapper garb.

Tradition User Reviews

Average rating:
One of the best bars in San Francisco for a Prohibition-era cocktail
Keane L. May 15, 2013
Opened by the masterminds behind Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse and Local Edition comes Tradition. This cocktail bar nestled in the Tenderloin once started as a dive bar by the name of Mr. Lew's Sazerac Emporium. Rightly so, the mixologists at this spot make one of the finest Sazeracs in town. After a healthy remodel, Tradition was open with almost three times the space of its predecessor. Guests are now invited to lounge along two bar areas, booths, tables or an upstairs lounge. The Sazeracs are, of course, great here, and I particularly enjoy the Old Fashioned. If you're feeling more bold, they also have a full menu of straight whiskeys aged in a diverse number of casks. It's a whiskey-lover's dream!
The Tenderloin? I put my faith in Tradition.
Danielle B. Mar 24, 2013
I needed a stiff drink. A place where the scotch could be described as "peaty", and after two Sazeracs your date's cheeks were rosy. Tradition came through for us, providing me and my date with the best version imaginable of our favorite drinks, plus an intimate booth with dim lighting where a gal and a guy can just talk for a while. Or skip the booth, and you can sit in front of the bartender, sifting through pages and pages of time-honored cocktails. Your chair will be just a little too low for the height of the bar. But this makes you feel cozy, almost like a kid waiting for their treat. Once you decide, the bartender will create a masterpiece from a tumbler. Most of the ingredients you might recognize, but there's also a little magic in there too. I want to spend all my time here. I want to take my grandpa here and hear his stories about war, take my girlfriends here for ladies' night out, and return on Friday night with a hot date. Did I mention the waitresses wear suspenders? Why? I'm guessing it's Tradition.
Tenderloin Oasis for Vintage Libations
Jessica H. Mar 4, 2013
Tradition may be hard to find, but is definitely worth the search. We came here with a group of friends, some just visiting the city and others deeply local, and were lucky enough to snag one of the cozy booths on a wintry Monday night. Once you’ve made your way inside, the main bar is warm and welcoming. Vintage and art nouveau advertising posters cover the stamped plaster walls, and dim antique light fixtures create a golden glow. The extensive drink menu—I mean pages and pages—is organized by era, and made it exciting for everyone to try something new. Favorites included the citrusy South Side and an especially good Old Fashion. Be patient, each handcrafted cocktail takes a few minutes to make. Overall, Tradition encompasses everything you want in a bar dedicated to Americana. The cocktails are unique, delicious, and strong, the booths are intimate, and the mixologists wear bowler hats.
Classy bar anyone can go to
Rose D. Feb 11, 2013
Unless you know what you are looking for, you might just walk by Tradition. The only signage is a 'T' to let you know of Tradition's existence. The cocktails are fantastic, especially the old fashions and hot totties (assuming you like whiskey which you should). Last saturday I organized a surprise birthday for my best friend, I reserved a table for '10', but had invited 20 people to the event. Most bars would have started to turn people away once 10 people had skipped the line and dropped our party name, but the staff was incredibly helpful and let all of us slip through and therefore surprise the birthday girl. Tradition knows how to keep the bar full, without making it impossible to get a drink. Not only is the venue visually appealing, and the staff is fantastic. Some popular establishments tend to breed a culture amongst their employees that feels snobby to say the least, there is none of that with Tradition. You don't have to put a card down to make a reservation, you just have to be ready to have a good time. Definitely will be going back. The end.
Rachel G. Dec 10, 2012
This has got to be one of the best bars in the good 'ole Tenderloin district. The decor is one of the best things about this place. You can pre-reserve little seating rooms on the right side of the bar for your group. Here you can still enjoy the bar lifestyle, but with a little bit more privacy than the rest of the bar. There is a small upstairs area with their own distilled whiskey and scotch in wooden barrels. Another thing I love about this place is the garnishes! I know that is a minor detail to love, but when you come here you will understand what I am talking about. The garnishes really prove how much these owners car about the art of cocktails.
Bourbon & Branch guys do it again!
Nick S. Oct 4, 2012
Quickly becoming my new favorite watering hole in San Francisco. Has a very old-style saloon feel, so it’s as if you have been transported back in time when you walk through the door. Bartenders play the part with their derby hats and suspenders, serving up amazing drinks from the center of the main room. The booths….apparently called Snugs, I didn’t know that… down one side, and it’s really cool to go here with a small group so you can try cocktails made only for that area. There isn’t much seating if you don’t have a reservation, so most people kind of gather on the other side of the bar. If you have been to B&B you know these guys take their drinks very seriously. It’s all custom, and all very historic, like the kind of stuff you great grandfather probably drank. Personal fave is probably the Louisiana, but I have honestly never had a bad bit of hooch here. Don’t be in a rush, it takes 10 minutes or more sometimes to make these things. They have beer as well, but you’d be stupid to order beer here.
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