KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Speakeasy and Carry a Swizzle Stick: Bourbon & Branch
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Thursday, January 25, 2007
Speakeasy and Carry a Swizzle Stick: Bourbon & Branch
"Hey, how about a quick drink after work tonight?"

"Sure, I'll make the reservation."

Seriously, reservations? For a DRINK? SERIOUSLY? This was my reaction when I first heard about Bourbon & Branch's...unique policy for allowing you to pass through their hallowed doors. However, since I adore what the name imparts -- "branch" refers to branch water, an old-timey term for pure water that spilled from a tiny stream called a "branch," thus the drink "bourbon and branch" means bourbon and water -- I am willing to jump through a few hoops. A few.

I go to make a reservation via their slick website and I'm faced with the normal requests: date, time, number of people, length of time...wait. LENGTH of TIME? I have a drop-down choice of one hour, one and a half hours, and two hours, with a caveat that states if we intend to stay longer than two hours, I should please contact their "private events request."

Not really that accustomed to or thrilled by the idea of being held to a specific time when keeping track of said time renders the enjoyment of lingering over a good cocktail and good company pointless, I bristled a bit. Then I put me and my date down for a full two hours.

This kind of snobbish stuff really gets to me. For months I avoided this bar on Divisadero because they had a list of rules on the door, which included things like "If you have found us, do not tell others." On the other hand, I appreciated the "We only serve nice people" rule. But it bugged me that they didn't seem to have a name, like they were just amping up the exclusivity. One night my husband and I broke down and went to Bar 821 -- which we refer to this day as "The No Name Bar" -- and had a great time sipping Champagne cocktails and Belgian beers with an extremely friendly, down-to-earth, and not at all snooty bartender.

So, having taken you through that down that shady sidetrack, you can well imagine my reaction when I sent my reservation, waited breathlessly while the Wide, Wide World of Web churned and decided whether or not to accept me as a person, and then got this notice: "We have a set of house rules." Oh, lord -- SERIOUSLY?

We are located at the corner of Jones and Ofarrell Streets, under the Anti-Prohibition League Sign. Ring the door buzzer for our host or hostess, we look forward to serving you.

The password for the door : [hey, get your own reservation!]

You will be asked for this after ringing the doorbell.

You can modify or delete your reservation here
If you have any questions contact us by email or call 415.346.1735

* 1. Please Speak-Easy.
* 2. No name-dropping.
* 3. Patience is appreciated.
* 4. No cell phone use.
* 5. Don't even think of asking for a "Cosmo."
* 6. Smokers, use back door.
* 7. Please exit Bourbon & Branch briskly and silently.

Okay, I admit it. They had me at "password." It's just like a real Speakeasy of old! I can only hope that when I ring the buzzer, a panel in the door will slide back, and a head full of Brylcreem will demand the password from me.

I will report back on what I ordered, how we were treated, if the drinks came in coffee pots, and whether there was an impromptu raid on the place. If any of the above confuses you, go rent Some Like it Hot instantly.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curses! I was planning on covering B & B myself. Of course, trying to get my friends to agree on a precise time and then actually be prompt about it was difficult, at best.

I look forward to a visit in the near future.

1/25/2007 9:06 AM

Blogger Anita said...

At first, I found the idea of reservations enchanting. But as it actually went down, I found the whole thing tiresome. I probably wouldn't have minded if they actually followed through...
our Bourbon & Branch writeup

1/25/2007 11:36 AM

Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

there is a bar/club like this in London. It's in an old gas & electric tower, looks like it hasn't seen a human in 100 years. there are no windows. well there is a bit of a peep thing that's disguised... and if the door person seens any signs of a man she will not open the door.

I made it in only after I went there alone.

I can't wait for part two!

1/25/2007 11:42 PM

Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

when i was in atlanta in november we walked into a bar that was near empty and were asked if we had reservations. i laughed out loud and immediately demanded we leave but was overruled - namely because i wasn't driving. cocktails started at $25 and i sent my drink back it was so bad. i get exclusivity, and trying to be unique, but more often than not, these places go way overboard and the staff assume the role as though they are nothing short of royalty that has lowered themselves to acknowledge you. that being said, if you said it's good, that good enough for me, since you are the queen of cocktails! :)

1/27/2007 3:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how people feel about the less than comfortable booths in the back room. We were a party of 6 normal sized adults and after sitting there knee-to-knee for 1/2'n'hour one of my friends exclaimed " it feels like we're flying coach!".
The waitresses try their best to make you feel "cool". but it just felt the Starbucks of Speakeasy. The drinks werent tasty enough to make me come back, not to mention they were out of main ingredients included in my first two drink choices.The best thing about the whole place are the ceiling light fixtures.

2/09/2007 9:56 AM


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