The modern rebirth of the speakeasy can be traced back to the 1990s, but it took the craft cocktail renaissance the last 15 years to really cement it into our everyday bar vernacular.
Since then, more and more speakeasies have been established across the country, and in many cases, one of the signature features of those establishments has been the entrances. But in order to fully understand where the concept of speakeasies comes from, as well as how that history relates to today’s speakeasy entrances, we have to go back in time to understand why they existed in the first place.
The history of the speakeasy actually begins before the Prohibition era. Original mentions of the phrase are from Pennsylvania, where illicit drinking establishments were set up without the license to serve. The phrase “speakeasy” was born because these were establishments where people didn’t talk with higher volumes and patrons were expected to behave while in the establishment. Loud drinkers were an easy tip off.
Later, during the Prohibition era running from roughly 1920 to 1933, more and more speakeasies were established to meet the demand of drinkers. In many cases, these operations were run by organized crime, and despite the raids by police, they flourished during this time period.
Because of their illegal nature, one of the unique features of speakeasies were their entrances. Today, many modern speakeasies maintain this connection with the past. So let’s take a quick look at some of the better ones.
Three Best Speakeasy Entrances in the Country
This is obviously subjective, but here are a few of our favorites:
Right on St. Mark’s Place in New York’s East Village is a place called Please Don’t Tell. Commonly referred to as P.D.T., this infamous establishment was one of the pioneers of the modern speakeasy movement. To find it, walk into a place called Crif Dogs. Look to your left for the phone booth. Dial 1, and enter through the secret door in the back of the phone booth. In reality, everyone knows about it, though, so reservations are highly recommended.
Chicago is full of amazing watering holes, but to find this one, you’ll need to walk down an alleyway beside the Old Chicago Inn. If you see a gate with “RM-13” on it, just tell the doorman that night’s password. The catch is you have to be staying at the Inn to get in. The other options are to pay an annual membership fee or be lucky enough to be the guest of a member. No jeans. Jackets are required in this authentic 1920s-era speakeasy.
Wilson & Wilson Private Detective Agency
This speakeasy is one for the ages. Actually, it’s two. To get into Wilson & Wilson, you first have to navigate your way through Bourbon & Branch. You see, Wilson & Wilson is actually a speakeasy within a speakeasy. If you know the password for Bourbon & Branch, you have to navigate your way through the darkness until you get to another place where you need to be verified. Give the attendant the next password, and you’re in.
One Thing All Speakeasies Have in Common
Regardless of how you get in, or even if you can get in, one thing speakeasies should all have in common is a dedication to high quality cocktails. Even though many speakeasies are small and limit crowd size, they are still high-volume operations that require the need for both speed and efficiency without compromising the craftiness of the product.
The Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station is an innovative underbar unit that allows bartenders to create their amazing cocktails, be more intimate with customers, and to do it in a zero-step environment that allows for high quality and maximum volume. But don’t take our word for it. Check out what these bartenders are saying about the Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station.