Bourbon and Branch - anyone been?
If so, how's the drinks?
Even if the speakeasy premise could be fun or stupid depending on your point of view, you gotta like a place where one house rule is
7. Don’t even think of asking for a “Cosmo.”
From the website:
"Our bourbon selection includes the hand numbered ... Noah’s Mill, Buffalo Trace, and Rittenhouse 21 Year. For scotch we have such rare gems as the Monkey Shoulder, Glenmorangie Margaux Finish ... and the Balvenie 1971. Our rums and tequilas .. include the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Year and the Tapatio ... We have but one Canadian ... the Crown XR (only 7,500 cases produced)."
Bourbon & Branch
501 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94102
I just tried it out last night. We decided to make a 6:30 res. since I thought the after work crowd, as opposed to the weekend crowd, might be more enjoyable. I was just in NYC last month and went to the Pegu Club, which is supposedly one B&B inspiration, so I was anxious to compare.
First of all, I don't understand why they want to make it all "underground", but they have a giant, brightly lit sign for their "Anti-Saloon League" right on the major street corner. I can think of a lot of other bars that make themselves known (or unknown) with much more subtlety, but hey...
We were 10 minutes early and I thought they'd give us a hard time but showed us right to our table. Our server was alright, nothing special, and brought us a kir royale amuse while we read the menu. Overall I was a little underwhelmed by the cocktail list. I feel like to anyone who has ever spent time at Absinthe, the "forgotten cocktail" ground has been already covered. The original creations section was fairly short but some stuff seemed interesting. I got one called the Dirty Thumb or some such name that was lemon oil, mint, and elderflower muddled with Plymouth gin. My boyfriend go the Aviation, one of my favorites from Absinthe. Both drinks were strong but mellowed out after a few minutes (or maybe it was we who were mellowing out??), and both were really good. Boyfriend said he recogized one of the bartenders as also working at Nopa (where they also have pretty great cocktails).
I had booked 1.5 hours and, since we hadn't yet eaten dinner, we were pretty well done on one drink a piece. I'd definitely order the Aviation on future visits.
I'm into the decor. It was intimate and overall was just right for an after-work/pre-dinner drink. I can't see spending my whole night here though.
As we were leaving, I asked the door guy about the bar seats--it didn't seem like they were really part of the whole reservation thing. He told me that if they have seats open at the bar, they have no problem taking walk-ins. So that's cool--there are enough other good bars in the area that I would probably do a walk-by in the future to ask about the bar seats.
I though the drinks at the Pegu club were more interesting though overall, but then, I'm not in NY!
went here last friday evening and really enjoyed it. we had an 8:30 reservation and ended up being 10 minutes late, but it didn't seem to be a problem. during the short (3 minute) wait for our booth the host asked what we liked to drink and made some recomendations. upon being seated we were offered an amuse of pear? champagne....which was nice....and glasses of water. the waitress took our orders and it did take a while to get our drinks. understanding that these aren't your run of the mill drinks and that the place was packed we didn't have a problem with the wait. the host even came over and offered us more of the pear champagne. i started off with a revolver (bourbon, tia maria, and maybe orange?) and my companion had a cucumber gimlet. the revolver was very tasty, but a tad sweet for my tastes. the cucumber gimlet was cool and refreshing....a perfect drink for a summer patio. second round was a glass of bourbon for me, and the same cucumber gimlet for her. around 9:45 the waitress came and told us it was time to settle up. so we did, and left. it was affordable, $40 for 4 drinks, and a really good time. i will definitely be back as there were a lot of drinks on the menu i would have like to have tried, and it wasn't loud....which can be very nice sometime.
The cocktails are pretty good but I found the place kinda soulless. The day I went the door bell was broken and my boyfriend and I stood outside for about 10 minutes when someone else walked out the door so we could let ourselves in. Then I discovered that the hostess was sitting at her stand in front of a computer where she could watch live video of the outside of the front door. It irks me to think that she didn't bother to let us in despite our knocking. The bartender did chastise her but we got no apology.
I wouldn't rush out to the Tenderloin to drink there again.
Branch water is a very old Texas term for spring water back when most people got their water from wells on their property. Well water in Texas can be very...well...nasty. And spring water which was/is rare in many parts of Texas was vastly preferred because it was fresher (hadn't been stewing in Texas rock/soil which imparts the previously mentioned nasty flavor).
So when people splurged on good Bourbon, they wanted to make sure it wasn't destoyed by being mixed with icky well water so they ordered a bourbon with branch water.
FYI - That's why cowboys loved canned tomatoes - they could eat the tomatoes and drink the tomato water, another way to avoid well water and not be worried about not finding branch water.
i've been 3 or 4 times now and the service has been great, and the drinks fantastic. My favorites thus far:
Cucumber gimlet - cucumber infused gin with a splash of champagne and i can't remember what else, but its incredible
Rouge No.10 - black pepper infused gin, muddle strawberries, lime, and pastis. the pepper flavor is unexpected and delightful.
Pimm's Cup - their version of the classic cocktail. it tastes like there's no alcohol in it, but don't be fooled.
the one drink i've had that i wasn't crazy about was the Angel's share - a little too bourbon-y for me.
The one downside to B&B is that if you go with 6 people (the max # for one table) its quite cramped - the booths need about 8 more inches. also, its quite dark so reading the menu can be a task. All in all though, I would recommend it highly. The bartender is extremely friendly, as are the rest of the staff (that I've dealt with, anyway), and the drinks are unique and well-made. they even super-cool their ice so that you don't end up with a watery drink.
as far as the allotted time thing goes, it hasnt really been a problem for me. I tend to just over-guess how long i'll be there and reserve it for that.
The drink menu is extensive and the waitresses are knowledgable enough to make recommendations based on preferences. I had a very strong bourbon drink and a less strong bourbon drink w/ lime and ginger. Both tasty.
The Speakeasy/Reservation gimmick is catchy enough to pique interest. Luckily there are plenty of regular bars without a gimmick and where patrons can sit for as long as they like.
Personally I'll be back and I hope it continues to do well on a tough corner.
I've been a few times and love it. Personally, I love having a quiet (well, relatively quiet) place to have a drink with friends. The allotted time thing doesn't bother me - I'm not a huge drinker (of hard alcohol, anyway) - and I love going to just have one or two drinks. The drinks are delcious, I've always had great service and the decor is pretty cool. It's also a great place to go before dinner - easy to time with the reservation system.
Any drinks you recommend? From the tons of stuff I've read if you get beyond the schick, some of the drinks are excellent. The problem seems to be that the noise about the setup is drowning out info about the actual drinks. It would seem it is time for B&B to drop the act if they are serious about the booze.
I found the place surprisingly unpretentious especially after the rigamarole it takes to get into the place. (which really isn't much) It's pleasant on the inside. You get an intimate booth in which to have a drink or two with your companions without having to force your way througha crowd or yell. My friend thought his mixed drinks were good (they use fresh juices). I had a sip and agreed, but I like the whiskey straight up. The mixed drinks included a lot of older cocktails and new inventions. I was tempted by the combinations but am hard pressed to remember what they were. Our waitperson was friendly knowledgeable and efficient. Whiskey thieves around the corner has a great selection as well for cheaper, but the experience is worlds away. not better or worse just different. Once in a while it's nice to shell out a little extra to be waited on.