Located in an unglamorous neighborhood, “Bourbon and Branch” is a nondescript building that has been running as a speakeas...
Located in an unglamorous neighborhood, “Bourbon and Branch” is a nondescript building that has been running as a speakeasy for about a century and a half. When looked from inside, it appears to be an outright swanky bar.
One can’t enter this secret and historic bar without making a reservation or knowing the secret password required to enter the unmarked door. After getting inside, one needs to proceed toward a hidden bookshelf door from the main lounge to “the Library”, a smaller bar stacked with books.
In point of fact, “Bourbon and Branch” also refers to Bourbon whiskey with plain water.
This plain-vanilla building has been functioning as a bar since 1867 and serves libations even on Sundays nowadays. During the Prohibition Era, it operated illegally from 1921 to 1933 and somehow managed to go unnoticed by federal Prohibition Agents. By harnessing a connection with Canadian bootleggers in Vancouver, it never fell short of illegal liquors.
During 1921-23, its address was listed as “The Ipswitch: A Beverage Parlor” in the San Francisco telephone directory.
In 1923, the business was bought by a Mr. John J. Russell. In the basement of the building, he opened his bar and operated “JJ Russell’s Cigar Shop” upstairs as the legitimate front. This embodiment persisted through 1935. It is said that to visit the bar, one had to give a knock on the door of the cigar shop and had to utter the password correctly.
After entering the shop, a particular cigar had to be requested. This opened the trapdoor and the patron was then escorted downstairs to the speakeasy. Once used by patrons for quick and safe exit, the five secret underground tunnels continue to be in operation.
Currently, it has three separate rooms where one can enjoy the speakeasy atmosphere of the 1920s. The main room needs a reservation and includes a table for seating and the complete cocktail menu. If you’ve come to Bourbon & Branch without a reservation, you’ll need to access “The Library” which is a standing-room-only and provides only some part of the full menu. For entrance into the library, one must tell the mandatory password “books”.
Famous for its diverse stock of rare and premium liquors, Bourbon & Branch serves them in limited batches. Handmade purees, juices, and extracts are used. It is especially known for its wonderfully crafted mixed drinks which are priced accordingly.
Maintaining the speakeasy feel of the past, Bourbon and Branch have set these house rules.
“Please Speak-Easy -No Cell Phone Use -No Standing At the Bar -Don’t Even Think of Asking For A “Cosmo” -Smokers, Use Back Door -No Photography -Please Be Patient, Our Drinks Are Labor Intensive -Please Exit Bourbon & Branch Quietly”
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