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Bix: Evocative Prohibition-Era Cocktails 

Wednesday, Dec 26 2012

Veering off Montgomery onto Gold Street, a little, nondescript alley, feels like slipping into a hidden passageway. Walking along, you understand the thrill of being in on a secret, which we imagine was half the fun of Prohibition-era speakeasies. The tidy little street doesn't stand out for any particular reason, except for the neon sign that marks the entrance to Bix. It may not be a secret, but the dramatic shift from modern alleyway to 1930s jazz joint sure feels like one.

Bix drips with elegance, the two-story dining room, plush and dark; with lively music energizing the room with so much vigor you half expect the chairs to start doing a jig. The dramatically backlit bar draws you in to pull up a stool at the long and polished mahogany slab, which is crowned with a big metal punch bowl filled with crushed ice that serves to chill the glassware.

There are a few drinks of their own invention on the list, but menu focuses on classics like the Sidecar ($13, Germain-Robin brandy, Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao, lemon, sugar rim) and the Sazerac ($11, Templeton Rye, Herbsaint, Peychaud's bitters, Angostura bitters), drinks that feel the most appropriate in the space.

The feel of the place is Prohibition-era, and it makes sense to enjoy the Sazerac made with a spirit with a bootlegging history, Templeton rye. The "brand name" came from the city, Templeton (Carroll County, Iowa), known for the whiskey produced by local farmers and widely distributed and enjoyed at Chicago's finest speakeasies. The current iteration claims to use the same recipe used during Prohibition, making it the experience even more era-correct.

While some bars offer escape from the everyday with a comfortable place to sit and a good drink, Bix's escape includes both space and time. The entrance to the last century only requires a quick turn onto Gold Street.

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