501 Jones Street,
(at O'Farrell Street),
+1 415 931 7292
View bar's website
Can be a challenge
In 1923, Bourbon & Branch started its life as JJ Russell's Cigar Shop. Needless to say, selling cigars wasn't a high priority. When patrons knocked on the door, gave a password and requested the right cigar brand, then a trapdoor opened and they were led into the basement Prohibition bar.
The trapdoor still exists, and at the bottom of a marble staircase is the original bar - complete with 1920s painted wallpaper, bullet holes in the wall, and an escape route through the ladies' lavatory.
A password is still needed to get into Bourbon & Branch. This takes you into a room above the original bar where there's a long counter in the front room and a collection of private booths at the rear. We were e-mailed a list of rules before arriving which included 'Patience is appreciated', which seemed appropriate as the drinks took a long time to come, but they were definitely worth waiting for.
We drank a William Won't Tell, which contained Black Maple Hill, Smoked Apple Calvados Liqueur, Carpano and Benedictine. The bartenders also recommend Noah's Mill bourbon, Crown XR - a rare Canadian whiskey, and Tapatio XA which isn't usually available in The States.