Set in the Tenderloin, San Francisco’s notoriously unsavory neighborhood, Bourbon & Branch, a 1920s styled speakeasy, has earned its badge as one of the best cocktail bars in the city. After finally trying it out, I can honestly say the only downfall is the absence of a helipad so that I could be helicoptered in and out of there. (It is not the type of area you want to be wandering around alone come nightfall.) But even with its slight misgivings its air of secretiveness and exclusivity made it all the more alluring.
After giving the password I received upon making a reservation, we were led away from the sordid streets to an opulent space where the Charleston hummed in the background and the dark, rich space was ever so slightly illuminated by the grand chandelier at the center of the room. Perhaps I was under the influence of Ernest Hemingway’s Moveable Feast, but I felt like I was in Paris during the Roaring Twenties.
After being seated, we were greeted with a literary masterpiece of another sorts – the cocktail menu. A most extensive list, I asked the waitress for a few recommendations to help narrow the playing field. Among the suggestions was the rattlesnake cocktail. As potent as the name suggest, the cocktail includes whiskey, egg whites, sweetened lemon juice and absinthe.
My better judgement told me that a cocktail with absinthe might be just as lethal as a snake bite, but the proposition was too interesting to pass up. This playful cocktail marries the tangy with the sweet creating a lovely, balanced drink. The whiskey is ever present and lingers just so on your taste buds with just a hint of anise flavor.
The Savoy Cocktail Book says that the rattlesnake cocktail “…will either cure a rattlesnake bite, or kill rattlesnakes, or make you see them.” I can’t speak to the first two, but I am pretty sure if you have more than one of these libations the latter becomes true.
Visit Bourbon & Branch at 501 Jones St., San Francisco, CA 94102