On a seedy stretch of Jones Street in the dark heart of SF’s drugged-out, ragged Tenderloin District, Bourbon & Branch is an unlikely upscale mainstay. The outfit literally functioned as a Speakeasy from 1921-1933, during the US Prohibition-era, and the bar’s fidelity to the period means you’re sure to knock-back an Old Fashioned alongside locals peering from under the bill of a fedora or cloche hat. No outdoor signage indicates Bourbon & Branch; at an unmarked, painted-black door, a classy-looking bouncer in a swanky, bygone-era suit only admits would-be patrons who know the secret password, which changes regularly. (Hint: Make reservations online to secure the entry code; otherwise, you’d better be in the know.) Dress matters here; meaning, no schlepping or sneakers. Show some respect and don your finest duds—all the better if the garb is vintage 20’s or 30’s-style.
The drinks are expensive for a reason—there are no trendy cosmos or sugary Jack-and-coke cocktails here. There are only high-brow, small-batch and even hand-numbered bottles of fine, rare spirits. Proud, rakish bartenders with studied coifs and fitted, pin-striped vests take mixology to new levels, concocting libations according to strict, brilliantly-crafted recipes that call for the highest-quality, house-made mixers. No cell phones, no photography and no cosmos—don’t even think about it.