The Best Speakeasies in San Francisco

Photo of Deanna Morgado
10 October 2017

If you’re looking for a unique and intimate experience when it comes to San Francisco’s nightlife, then it’s time to check out a speakeasy. If you’re ready to up your cool factor, you’re ready for a San Francisco speakeasy. Modern speakeasies are today’s take on the Prohibition era parties of the 1920s. Except unlike back then, these bars are legal! So look no further than these cool and swanky joints in San Francisco.

Local Edition I | © Simon/Flickr

Local Edition

Does that shop with some typewriters out front and an unassuming door on Market Street seem like nothing special? Think again. Behind that door, a staircase descends to a large lounge space, complete with velvet curtains and mood lighting. This speakeasy pays tribute to the mid-20th century newspaper industry, its decor featuring printing presses, vintage publications and typewriters. The bartenders are friendly, with dapper dress authentic to the era (and tend to be a bit heavy handed on their bourbon pours). Stop by Local Edition on a live jazz night to really feel like you’ve traveled back in time.

Alchemist Bar and Lounge

Bar, American, Pub Grub, $$$
Once you’ve entered this SoMa speakeasy, you’ll have entered into the amazing world of steampunk. Black and white silent films are projected on exposed brick walls, a repurposed scrap metal robot greets you as you walk through the door, and the cocktail menu creatively combines anything from herbs and tinctures to house-made infusions and crafted syrups. The venue offers two-stories to choose from. There is the bar and lounge on the first level, as well as an overlook upstairs. If that’s not enough to convince you to seek out the discreetly located Alchemist Bar and Lounge, there’s a shuffleboard table to play while you wait for your specialty cocktails to be crafted.

Bourbon & Branch

Cocktail Bar, Bar, American, $$$
Bourbon & Branch
Bourbon & Branch | © Jennifer Morrow/Flickr
An authentic speakeasy experience awaits patrons of Bourbon & Branch, even down to slipping a password to an inconspicuous man at the door. This swanky place offers an extensive selection of whiskeys, along with craft cocktails that will send you back to the 1920s. Not to mention the fact that each craft drink is skillfully concocted by just one of two house mixologists. There’s even a strict no cell phone policy, adding to the genuine experience. Dim candle lighting and intimate booth and table seating add to the ambience. Although you’re only allowed to stay at Bourbon & Branch at a cap of two hours, fret not. If you know where to look, behind a bookcase lies a secret entrance to a standing bar in the back called the Library.

Wilson & Wilson

Bar, Dessert, Pub Grub
Wilson & Wilson
Wilson & Wilson | © Jennifer Morrow/Flickr
If you love all things mystery, than Wilson & Wilson is the place for you. Brilliantly posed as a private detective agency, this place takes the speakeasy to a whole new level. The bar is actually connected to fellow speakeasies Bourbon & Branch and the Library. It’s a speakeasy… within another speakeasy. How much cooler can that get? Wilson & Wilson seats about 20 and requires reservations in advance. Just like the bar it’s located within, each confirmed reservation is supplied with a password to give upon entrance. The mysterious experience doesn’t end there – when you order a tasting, it is presented in a sealed envelope as a three course meal; meaning each patron will get the option of choosing a liquid ‘appetizer,’ ‘main’ and a ‘dessert,’ all hand crafted by the skilled bartenders. Wilson & Wilson is perfect for small groups of close friends looking to spend an intimate and luxurious night out.

The Hideout at Dalva

Bar, Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
Once you’ve already checked out Dalva in the Mission, be sure to head to the back and see the Hideout. This is Dalva’s smaller secret bar, complete with handcrafted cocktails within an intimate and seductive space. And we’re not kidding when we say intimate. The small booths are perfect for good friends and couples looking for a night out with close conversation and ambience. The bartenders here are skilled and knowledgeable, and are used to throwing together classy and customized drinks.

The Devil's Acre

Bar, American, $$$
The Devil’s Acre is truly a one of a kind experience. This space features a more private basement bar called the Remedie Room as well as the upstairs main tavern, both offering apothecary-themed cocktails. You’ll really feel like you’ve entered the chic world of speakeasies when hanging out here. The exclusive Remedie Room is only open twice a week, on Friday and Saturday 8pm-2am. But whichever room you find yourself in, rest assured that your bartenders, or “doctors” as they like to be called, will serve you up the perfect “medicine”. Reservations for both upstairs and the Remedie Room are recommended.

Benjamin Cooper

Discreetly located in Union Square’s Hotel G, Benjamin Cooper is an easily missed gem. But once you find it, you’ll want to keep coming back to this little secret. At this intimate speakeasy, you’ll find both artisan and custom cocktails, a lovely food menu and cozy yet lively vibes. The bartenders pride themselves on keeping the livelihood of the real Benjamin Cooper alive. And who is the actual Benjamin Cooper? Well, that’s a well-kept secret you have to find out when you get there.

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