Bourbon & Branch
The goal of Bourbon and Branch is to take drinkers back to the speakeasy days of the Prohibition. To get in, you have to say a password into an intercom on one of the seedier stretches of the Tenderloin. Once the door opens (don't worry, it always does), you'll be ushered into a dark and cozy bar with hidden rooms, secret exit tunnels, candle-lit bookcases, and a fine collection of rare whiskey. The fact that there was an actual speakeasy at the location in the twenties helps make Bourbon and Branch one of the best secret bars in the city.
Okay, so Bourbon & Branch hasn’t been much of a secret since it opened in 2006, but it is definitely one of the most speakeasy-feeling bars on this list. That’s in part because it once was a bonafide speakeasy (or at least a room in the basement was) but mostly because it was designed to evoke everything one might experience when trying to drink during the 1920s when booze was illegal. That includes needing a password (and a reservation) to even get inside, lots of dark wood, cozy booths, and expertly concocted libations (a side of patience is, however, required). What you won’t find is mingling (your reservation comes with seating and standing at the bar is not allowed) or mayhem (imbibers are requested to literally “speak easy”). Still, it’s a lovely throwback to a throwback that’s worth another visit.
How to get in:Make a reservation online (credit card required). Present the password at the door. Be prepared to only stay for 90 minutes since that’s the reservation time limit. Want to get in without all of the fuss? The Library (hidden behind a bookshelf, of course) is open for any walk-ins with the password, which is always “books.”