Thanks to the influence of television and American sitcoms, the image in my mind of the all-American father and family man was stoic, stern, and always accompanied by a strong drink. Not to say Fathers everywhere partake in the tradition of fireside metaphors and two-fingers of whiskey on the rocks. However, for those who do, and with Father’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to pay tribute to this visage of the American dad with an exploration of another American classic: the speakeasy. During the Prohibition era of the 1920s and early 1930s, the speakasy was an establishment that illegally sold alcoholic beverages. Not to be confused with your downtrodden blind pig (or tiger), these classier, upscaled, and secret watering holes had innovative bartenders attempting to mix cocktails with a slew of flavors to overpower the repulsive taste of rotgut hooch that replaced your standard bar shelf of liquors. Not to mention, you literally had to “speak easy,” i.e. quietly, so as not to alert police or neighbors. Thankfully, America made it through those darker (albeit not completely dry) days—and the speakeasies faded into the history books of America…or did they?
Today, a well-informed gentleman can still lead his friends down a dark alleyway and pass through the nondescript doors of a happily thriving American speakeasy—but without the fear of arrest. Here are some of California’s best kept secret speakeasies:
San Francisco is a city that has always taken its drinking seriously—even when it wasn’t legal. Here are five (not quite so) hush-hush speakeasies you may want check out the next time you’re suited up and looking for a stiff drink in the Bay.
Bourbon & Branch (501 Jones St. in the Tenderloin)
Arguably the city’s most popular speakeasy, Bourbon & Branch is a true original. Dating back to Prohibition, the secretive Tenderloin parlor opened in 1921 and has been serving thirsty guests ever since. With a secret entrance, hidden library room, and mixologists aplenty, drinking at Bourbon & Branch is like taking a step back in time.