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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Review: Bourbon and Branch

So, last week I brought up the San Francisco speakeasy, Bourbon and Branch. I was so completely enamored with the concept that I went out of my way to make sure I got there this week.

Located in the middle of San Francisco's Tenderloin (A good place to go for your crack or methamphetamine needs), it is a very unassuming bar. It has a sign on the building that is completely unrelated to the business itself. What does it say? It's a speakeasy people! I'm not going to just hand out all the info willy nilly!

The Prep
I left a message on their website to have them call me for reservations that night. They answered the phone with a "Hello?" like it was someone's house. I, in fact, wasn't sure that I had dialed the right number. I mentioned that I wanted to make reservations for that night and the guy helped me to pick a time. I wanted 8 o' clock but he said he was booked and I went for 7. He asked me how long I wanted to stay and I told him about an hour and a half. Reservation set. Wait! I thought he was supposed to give me a password! None. That blows.

The Location
The door has no sign. The sign that is on the building does not refer to a bar at all. You walk up to the unassuming wooden door and press the buzzer. Someone answers the door and looks at you like you are in the wrong place. We let them know we had a reservation and they welcomed us in.

The place is divided up in to 3 sections. The bar area has some seats at the bar, clearly available for drop-ins, and a few booths. Then you walk up a few stairs to another section with more booths. Another set of stairs swing back around and go to a balcony area that overlooks the bar.

The rooms are very dark with single candles on each table. The music is 20's style piping through a decent sound system. The booths are probably the most up-to-date looking part of the whole equation with funky tables attached to traditional upright booth seats. Would be nice if they were a little more comfortable, but they definitely are well designed for intimate conversation or having a drink with a few friends.

However, we didn't really need reservations for the Wednesday night. It was busy enough to have noise, but not so busy that we couldn't have walked in (and definitely could have shown up at 8 o' clock).

The Staff
This is my second most favorite part of the place. Their staff has to be one of the best in The City. The two girls that helped us, Tina and Andrea, were absolutely gorgeous and knew pretty much everything about the drinks on the massive menu. There was no "Let me check on that one" or "I'm not sure, let me ask." These girls knew their drinks, had excellent recommendations, and are without peer in cocktail knowledge of any place I've been. Did I mention they were hot?

The Drinks
My favorite part. The owner's name is Todd and he is a true artist. And I'm not talking some Tom Cruise wanna-be who's throwing bottles around in lieu of actually making a decent drink, I'm talking a thoughtful, brilliant, artist. I wish I was as good at what I do as he is at what he does.

The drink list is several pages long and full of things you'd never think of, or twists on traditional drinks that make them that much better (A Gimlet with cucumber infused vodka, A Clockwork Orange with a cinnamon rim). They were out of some of the bourbons that I was hoping to try, but the bourbons aren't exactly the ones you can get at BevMo, so it's understandable.

I started off with a Cucumber Gin Martini (with homemade cucumber infused gin) and went on to some of the bourbons. Then I came back to the Cucumber Gin Martini. It was absolutely amazing, probably the best mixed drink I have ever had in my life. Folks, I've done a LOT of drinking, that's saying something. The smell was of cucumbers, but the taste was a crisp and wonderful gin. The after-taste had almost a buttery feel. Mind blowing in every way.

When to go
From overheard conversations with the owner, weekends get packed and you want the reservations. If you try to just show up, they'll take your cell phone number and you can go grab some dinner nearby (Or more questionable things, since it is The Tenderloin) and they'll call you when something comes up. Weeknight's are less hectic and allow you to drop in with less of an issue.

The Price
Cheap! Well, for San Francisco. In a town when straight-up vodka martinis can be US$15, getting a mind-altering Cucumber Gin Martini for US$10 is a no-brainer. Almost all the cocktails are in the ten dollar range and even the great bourbons are around fifteen. Though they have some pricier ones for the aficionado, even their inexpensive ones are smooth and well worth drinking.

The Verdict
This is going to quickly become the destination spot for any wise drinker that is visiting San Francisco and has the great hangout feel for the type of person that wants to be in a real joint. The drinks by themselves are worth going for, but the great staff, the destination location, and price make this a grand slam.

Go there now, but don't tell them I sent you. It's a secret.

Bourbon and Branch - [bourbonandbranch.com]

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