- Bourbon and Branch – We have to start with the tried and true here. This is probably the most well-known speakeasy in San Francisco. To enter, you’ll need to make an online reservation. You’ll receive an email with your password to get in. You’ll stand on Jones St outside a nondescript door and punch a buzzer. A voice from inside will answer and you’ll give your password before being let inside by a bouncer. The 1920s atmosphere inside makes the experience exactly what you imagined. Dim candlelight illuminates the leather booth seats, wood tables and full bar. Wait staff dresses in decade-appropriate attire as they bring you some of the best craft cocktails to be found in the city. After enjoying your cocktail(s), ask to go to the Library. Your waiter will lead you through a moving bookcase at the back of the bar into the less-secret part of B&B. This bar has a main entrance on O’Farrell. Enjoy a drink while admiring the wall of beautiful antique books and energy of this part of the bar.
- Bourbon and Branch tops our list mostly because of the additional super-secret bars hidden within. Wilson & Wilson sits behind a wall that doubles as a door and requires a second, even more secret password than the one used to get in the front door. Behind the wall you’ll find a few intimate tables and a small bar space, making this the perfect spot for a date night. The cocktails in here are served inside of tea pots – even more stealthy than in the main room. Make a reservation through the main B&B site and plan ahead a few days to ensure your spot. Occasionally you can visit this room for a movie night or a cocktail class.
- Ipswitch is an even more secret bar within Bourbon & Branch. To get in here you’ll have to reserve the Russel Room (a private room for parties of 10-30 within the space) and have prior knowledge of its existence. The staff will let you and one or two others into the room through a floorboard in Russel Room. You’ll descend underground into a minuscule two-seat bar with lockers full of booze.
- Remedie is actually brought to us by the same people at the helm of Bourbon & Branch. It’s hidden below Devil’s Acre, which is already a great spot to grab dinner and enjoy live music. After dinner, walk along the front wall near the street until you hit a tight staircase. Take it down to a cozy New York Speakeasy style bar with delicious cocktails. I found this area to be pretty warm so I drank one cocktail before making my way back upstairs to listen to a live band.
- Find a quite place to relax in the heart of the the Mission by climbing the mountainous stairs at the back of Hawker Fare.Follow the neon white triangle with a halo overhead to find tiki drink bliss and lively conversation.
- The HogsHead Reserve, one of San Francisco’s newer speakeasy’s, sits beneath The Barrel Rooms wine store. One imagines great thinkers speaking in hushed voices of progressive intellectual ideals during weekly salons in HogsHead Reserve, clutching their books while they sip scotch and smoke cigars. To find this one, walk to the back of the wine room to a small staircase. Act like you know what you are doing and descend the staircase into a three-room bar. You’ll find the cash-only, four-seat bar, a living room with a fireplace (probably my favorite room) and a full bar within a bank vault (talk about a true speakeasy!).
- SRO, short for Standing Room Only, is hidden within Oddjob – a local favorite that itself is rather difficult to find. This gaudy green room with gold furniture is a real treat for the eyes. The bartenders will create your custom cocktail in accordance with your boozing preferences. To get in, enter Oddjob from Wasburn Alley, turn left and casually push past curtains until you find the thick wood door that lets you into SRO. This place is definitely worth a trip!
Honorable Mention: Though not techincally secret, 15 Romolo is fairly difficult to find. Though named for its address, you must climb up a narrow alley off of Broadway Street. Once you find the door, host staff in suspenders, bow ties, vests and other 20s style dress will seat you and pass you a unique newspaper-style menu. This place truly has some of the most delicious, one of a kind, cocktails and snacks in the city. The geniuses behind ABV and Trick Dog have roots back to this place. 15 Romolo was one of the first bars I visited upon moving to the Bay Area and I highly recommend it as a place to taste some of the best food and drink that San Francisco has to offer.