Bourbon & Branch is a glimpse back on the 1920's and the era of Prohibition when the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverage was outlawed. You'll experience the ambiance of that time in an actual speakeasy that operated illegally at this location from 1921 to 1933. From 1921-1923 our address is listed in the San Francisco Telephone Directory of the day as "The Ipswitch - A Beverage Parlor". In 1923, an industrious young man by the name of John J. Russell purchased the business as a "going concern" with it's solid base of customers. With his connections to the most notorious bootleggers from Vancouver, BC., he operated his bar under the guise of "JJ Russell's Cigar Shop". He did not sell many cigars. The speakeasy managed to avoid the attention of the governments Prohibition Agents for the remainder of prohibition. History was on JJ Russell's side, as it has been documented that a bar has operated at this Jones Street location since 1867.
Our name comes from Branch Water a term first used in the 1800s referring to pure, clean water from a tiny stream called a "branch". An order for "bourbon and branch" is a nostalgic request for bourbon and water.
We have a set of house rules that everyone is expected to follow to maintain the "Speakeasy". The term comes from a patron's manner of ordering alcohol without raising suspicion - a bartender would tell a patron to be quiet and 'speak easy'.
The origin of the word predates Prohibition by at least 30 years. Samuel Hudson, a newspaperman in the late 19th century, said he heard the term used in Pittsburgh, PA. in the 1880s by an old Irish woman who sold liquor without a license. She told her clients to "spake-aisy" if they wanted to buy some. The Cassell Dictionary of Slang lists the word as coming into usage around 1890. The term "spake-aisy" was used even a century before this, where it referred to smugglers' hideouts.
Open: Mon - Sun 6pm to 2am