Unlocking the Mystery: What is a Speakeasy Bar?
What is a speakeasy bar? A speakeasy bar is a cozy, exclusive lounge usually found within a larger venue or otherwise hidden in plain sight. They cater to select groups who are in the know about their existence.
More than likely, you have been to a restaurant or bar that had a hidden door. Perhaps you watched as trendy couples disappeared into a dimly lit hallway. How about the line of people behind velvet ropes outside of what looked like an operational barbershop?
Most likely, these customers know about a hidden room or speakeasy bar.
We will help you uncover the secrets of the speakeasy bar so that you can find a speakeasy and enjoy an exclusive unforgettable experience.
But first, let’s travel back in history to get a foundation.
What Is A Speakeasy Bar: The History
Despite the Prohibition Laws, Americans continued to drink, party, and make money from the bootleg alcohol industry. Similar to present-day entrepreneurs, creative individuals found ways to solve the challenge facing a society that wanted to consume alcoholic beverages.
Developing secret places to sell alcohol and inviting those who wanted to drink to these establishments gave rise to the speakeasy.
Most times, owners hid their clubs in the backrooms of an existing store, or even in the basement of a house. Speakeasies were often filled with music, cigarette smoke, and the upper echelon of society. Since they were illegal, the only advertisement for these locations was word of mouth, and typically, you needed a password to gain entrance.
Where did the name Speakeasy originate?
A speakeasy was also called blind tiger, blind pig, or jazz club. While some speakeasy bars would have entertainment like lounge singers, big bands, and dancing, others were a little more sketchy. Owners would offer a free drink and close-up look at an exotic animal like a “blind tiger” for a small price.
So not to call attention and risk being raided, patrons would whisper when discussing these backroom bars. In other words, you would “speak easy” so others would not hear.
Famous Speakeasy Passwords
Being illegal, word of mouth was the way to find out the speakeasy locations. Once you knew where to go, most of the time, you needed a password, a secret handshake, or a special key to gain entrance.
One famous speakeasy password used was “Have you got a rabbit? In order to gain entrance, the visitor had to produce a rabbit’s foot.
In keeping the tradition, Mata Hari’ in Savannah provides a special key to their regulars. Without the key, a visitor will have to ask around town to get the secret password. Lucky for us a relative had the key and we were in.
A doorman may ask you “Where can I get a sandwich” and the patron will reply “ I heard the deli down the street is good”. Responding with the wrong answer might leave you outside the party.
Passwords are part of the fun when visiting speakeasy bars. On our visit to Bookcase and Barber in Durango, we had to knock and tell the hostess “We were there to see a man about a horse”.
Likewise in order to gain entrance to Austin’s Red Headed Step Child, we had to find the 4-digit code, (that changes frequently).
Sometimes a speakeasy password was the answer to the question: What’s the good word? The answer is “the bird is the word”. Phrases like “Joe sent me” or “open sesame” were also popular.
In the modern-day speakeasy, passwords are still used frequently as well as advanced reservations. Don’t even think about visiting the Laundry Room in Las Vegas without calling first.
WHAT IS A MODERN-DAY SPEAKEASY?
Today, speakeasies are legal, but they still have that secretive vibe, with hidden entrances and unique cocktails. So, what is a modern-day speakeasy bar? It’s a little bit of history, a little bit of mystery, and a lot of fun!
Fast forward to the early 2000s when the modern-day speakeasy emerged. These new underground, hidden lounges became “in scene”. Mixologists donned suspenders and bow ties and began crafting some of the old-time favorites such as The Bees Knees, Gin Rickey, and Highballs.
If you appreciate a perfectly crafted cocktail, then you know that it’s not just a drink – it’s an experience. The modern-day speakeasy bartender is a skilled mixologist who has studied their craft and can create a concoction that delights the senses and transports you to another world. Yes, it may cost a bit more, but the attention to detail and the quality of the ingredients make it worth every penny.
Your taste buds – and your senses – will thank you for it.”
The Speakeasy Vibe
For the inquisitive crowd, speakeasies are a perfect option for a unique experience.
Secret rooms, eclectic decor, and quiet talk make the speakeasy bar appealing to the mature and savvy crowd. Rather than the club scene and sports bars, this crowd enjoys quaint venues, craft cocktails, and a little mystery.
Being dimly lit with cozy seating, creates a certain ambiance. Speakeasy bars are both sexy and swanky which makes them a perfect venue for an intimate date night out.
Speakeasies are not a great place to shuffle into with bigger groups unless, of course, you make prior arrangements. Because these secret bars are smaller, they make a very inviting setting for date nights, anniversaries, and a little one-on-one time. The atmosphere invites us to dress up a little, (leave the athletic wear and t-shirts home), sit close, and talk quietly.
Many prohibit pictures and videos within the establishment to protect the mystery and magic.
Where Can I Find A Speakeasy Bar?
Speakeasy bars are found all over the world, in most major cities. Even a small city like Wilmington, DE has its long-time favorite Hummingbird To Mars.
Word of mouth is always your best bet in finding a speakeasy bar. When visiting from out of town, your hotel concierge or local bartender can clue you in with the details. Speakeasy bars are secret and sometimes hidden in plain sight. For the most part, they do not have neon signs advertising them.
Bar crawls and speakeasy tours are fun to do with a group! Why wait in line for the doorman to let you inside? Try a guided tour, skip the lines, and learn about the shady dealings in the days gone by. Book a Speakeasy Tour today! These are a few that could be a lot of fun!
Part of the mystery and allure is the hidden entrances. The Host at Mathers Social Gathering in Orlando will escort you up the secret elevator, however once in the library, you will have to find the secret door. And then…we’ll it’s a mystery.
Some speakeasy bars even change location every so often and never publish their address. We had a heck of a time finding the famous Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company in Philadelphia. With some investigation, we found the door, behind the dumpster as promised!
Sometimes a speakeasy is even hidden inside an establishment. We loved the intimate quiet Nookie Room located beyond the kitchen in Key West’s Better Than Sex Restaurant. With only enough seating for 8 – 10 couples, date night never tasted so good!
Conclusion: What Is A Speakeasy?
If you are looking for something different than your average sports or karaoke bar, visit a speakeasy. Whether it is date night or drinks with a friend, shared conversation and craft cocktails in a swanky sexy establishment will give you an unforgettable experience.
Maureen Wright and Robb Strobridge
Entrepreneurs, Wanderlusters, Constant travelers, and Full-time RV Nomads since 2016. We are fueled by life, love, and the pursuit of all things good. Thanks for joining our journey and we hope to see you down the road!