Prohibition may have long since ended, but there are nowadays more than a fair few places that offer the excitement of illegal drinking without the health risks of bathtub gin.
For those looking for a truly 1920s-inspired experience, here are some of the best modern-day speakeasies in San Francisco. Our featured image is © Minerva Studio/iStock/Thinkstock.
Alchemist Bar & Lounge
This hip bar injects a much-needed shot of style into its SoMa environs.
With its inspired décor (which combines speakeasy styling with steampunk accoutrements) and guest bartender rotation, Alchemist draws in cocktail hounds from far afield.
Try one of the top-notch craft drinks, like the Somethin’ With Vodkahh.
Bourbon & Branch
The 1920s décor at this ever-popular cocktail bar recreates the atmosphere of the actual speakeasy that used to operate illegally in this location during Prohibition.
Nowadays, however, Bourbon & Branch has an enormous selection of cocktails and spirits that are perfectly safe to drink.
Wilson & Wilson
Wilson & Wilson, a private detective agency-styled bar, is a speakeasy within a speakeasy.
Nestled within Bourbon & Branch, the bar requires a password and a personal guide for entry.
Only then can you sample from Wilson & Wilson’s menu – opt for the three-course drinks option if you’re feeling especially decadent.
The Hideout at Dalva
Hidden within Dalva, a neighbourhood dive bar, The Hideout is a sultry drinking den where patrons can enjoy intimate conversation as well as a vast range of expertly made classic and custom cocktails.
Consider the Local Edition a mid-century take on the speakeasy. Its delightfully retro kitsch, 50s-era design harkens back to the golden age of journalism.
Adorned with vintage paper presses and clippings from a bygone San Francisco, the bar serves up old school sips like Gibson Martinis and classic highballs.
Note that the venue also has a stage and hosts regular live music performances.
The Burritt Room
Within The Mystic Hotel, The Burritt Room, which takes its name from the alley where The Maltese Falcon’s Miles Archer was gunned down, offers a film noir drinking experience with a modern twist.
Try one of the classed-up cocktails, like the Berlinetta: it combines bourbon, Cynar, Carpano Antica, and blood orange bitters.
15 Romolo is equal parts speakeasy and neighbourhood watering hole, and has been a city favourite ever since it opened 15 years back.
Managing to be both dark but welcoming all at once, the bar serves top-notch cocktails to crowds of weekend revellers.
The dark, moodily lit Blackbird works the modern speakeasy angle with aplomb.
Think: high-calibre drinks, welcoming, chatty bartenders, and a number of quirky decorating touches (note the vintage photo booth in the back).
While a seasonal menu is on offer, you can ask your skilled bartender for something one-of-a-kind too.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to… whose San Francisco guide covers all the best hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, sights, shops and spas