Ring the outside buzzer and in true speakeasy fashion, only the right password “books” uttered at the front door gains entry into the secretive library back bar in this Tenderloin gem. Once inside, whisk past the secret passageway door that doubles as a bookshelf, and you’ll find yourself at a dimly lit bar surrounded by floor to ceiling shelves full of books. Fully stocked with some of the best liquors around for making some distinctively tasty libations, Bourbon and Branch prides itself on making drinks only with fruit juice squeezed by hand, purees and extracts made in-house, and mixers that do not come from a tap. Adding to its authenticity, this establishment operated as a real speakeasy from 1921 to 1933. Per their web site, the term speakeasy was coined from the manner a patron would order a drink without raising suspicion, behaving quietly and speaking easy. The Branch in this place’s name refers to the term branch water, which was used in the 1800s to refer to pure clean water from a tiny stream called a branch. A bourbon and branch was basically the request for a bourbon and water.
Reservations are required for drinks in the main bar, but the rear bar is open anytime without having to call ahead. The JJ Russell room is a secret basement bar that can be rented for special events. During prohibition times, patrons would have to order a special brand of cigar for a trap door to open that would lead to the downstairs bar. Connected to this room are five secret exit tunnels that are still in effect today, allowing for a quick underground escape to various streets close by. With its dim lights, old aromas that seem to be ingrained in the wood, and the old records playing in the background, drinks here truly feel like a time warp to a much different era. Just be sure to review the strict house rules before visiting as cell phone use, taking pictures, and ordering cosmopolitans are definite no-nos. |Bourbon & Branch|
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