Bourbon (credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Since its inaugural year in 2007, each September marks National Bourbon Heritage Month. With an increase in popularity in recent years, bourbon has become one of the most fashionable drinks of choice. The Bay Area has a wide variety of establishments that cater to hand-crafted bourbon cocktails, ranging from dark speakeasies to modern day libation houses. Here are five of the best places offering bourbon cocktails in the Bay Area.
Bourbon And Branch
501 Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
As the name implies, the Tenderloin’s Bourbon and Branch speakeasy specializes in all things bourbon. Among other house rules such as no photography or cell phone usage, the bar has a strict ban on pedestrian cocktails like the Cosmo or White Russian. Patrons flock here for the secretive kitsch, but keep returning for the ever-evolving and varied cocktails. Visit the Wilson room to partake of three-part prix-fixe cocktail menu that may include everything from punch to a bourbon based drink with tobacco infused bitters.
18840 Saratoga Los Gatos Road
Los Gatos, CA 95030
A bit off-the-beaten path from downtown Los Gatos, the Jack Rose Libation House has no shortage of weekend patrons. This busy joint takes pride in serving up ingredients of only the highest quality, and offers a number of bourbon cocktails for the discerning palette. Traditionalists should check out the 1858 Tap Manhattan, which contains a unique blend of rye bourbon, derived from a recipe dating back to 1858. Those with a sweet tooth might be more interested in the honey and maple syrup loaded Tupelo Honey, or the Figtitious Manhattan containing house made fig jam and bourbon.
246 Kearny St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
The dimly lit intimate Rickhouse is a rustic little sister bar to Bourbon and Branch. The whisky theme runs throughout the bar, from the bar’s name to the bourbon barrel staves in the ceiling. Rickhouse is dedicated to using only the freshest ingredients as well as locally-sourced produce, and has a strict no high-fructose corn syrup policy. Ever popular with groups are Rickhouse’s shared punch bowls, or peruse the menu of more than 60 hand-crafted cocktails. Bourbon lovers should make sure to sample the bar’s fruity Kentucky Buck.
Oakland, CA 94612
With one of the more intriguing cocktail menus in downtown Oakland, Plum Bar caters to those looking for hand-crafted drinks comprised of almost exclusively house-made ingredients. The bar makes just about everything in-house, from ginger beer to bitters. Bourbon cocktail options range from the exciting strawberry, lavender and mezcal infused Love Letter #4 punch to the Fashions of Trinidad with mole bitters and blood orange oil. On Fridays and Saturdays, make sure to check out the Happy Meal for $25, which includes a half-pound burger, fries, draft beer and 4 Roses Bourbon.
Pier 3 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105
Located along the Embarcadero at Pier 3, Hard Water provides a more modern and brightly-lit counterpart to other San Francisco whisky-centric establishments. The bar boasts an extensive menu of bourbons, whiskeys and rye with well over 100 varieties to choose from. Cocktail selections range from the traditional Derby classic Mint Julep to the tantalizing Bourbon Lift with coffee liqueur and cream. True bourbon aficionados will delight in the broad menu of whisky flights to fit every taste and budget, ranging in price from $22-250.