The days when the speakeasy was needed are long behind us. They were all the rage during Prohibition. You could walk into a restaurant or hotel and get a drink, as long as you "speak-easy" when you asked for it. Speakeasies were set up for fast exits; not only for the people that were drinking there illegally, but for the liquor that was not supposed to be there. Mind you, it was not very good liquor. It was watered down, adulterated, and generally not something to be enjoyed, but consumed. Quickly.
The other issue was finding them. Like any other underground illegal activity, you are not going to find it through ads in the paper or calling them for their hours. You have to know people who know people. Earn some trust before you can get a seat at the table.
Fortunately in this modern era, alcohol is legal and you can easily find it anywhere. That means the speakeasy is more of a motif than a necessity. Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco takes that motif and runs with it. Located in a never-raided vintage speakeasy named J.J. Russel's Cigar Shop, it stays faithful to the roots of what a speakeasy was; a quiet place to get a quick drink. The Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency, as well as other secret rooms and passages, are still in operation. There are even House Rules in play to ensure the ambiance is maintained. The one thing they are not replicating from that era are the cocktails. Those are fresh, innovative, and delightful. The Agave Cocktail, featured in the book The Old Fashioned by Robert Simonson, is a play on that classic cocktail using tequila as a base.
The Agave Cocktail (by Erick Castro, Bourbon & Branch)
2 oz./ 60 mL anejo tequila
1 barspoon agave nectar
2 ds. Angostura bitters
Glass: Old fashioned
Garnish: Fresh grated cinnamon
Ice: Large cube
Combine the ingredients in the Old Fashioned glass. Add the ice, and stir until well chilled. Garnish with cinnamon and serve.
If you're a fan of tequila, this is a cocktail you should definitely try. Even with reposado, it is a delightful sip. The cinnamon is a lovely addition, because it bucks the traditional combination of tequila and lime as well as adding extra depth on the nose and palate. It is also something that you can make relatively easy at home, which is always a benefit. Cheers!