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Visited a speak-easy bar last night.

CrazyJew

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Edit: for those of you who don't know what a speakeasy bar is: a speakeasy is a private invitation party back in the 1920's where people would go to drink during the prohibition. Only the coolest cats even knew where to find it.

Definitely the coolest bar I've ever been to. First of all, I didn't even know this place existed. I was dining at a restaurant a few miles away for Valentine's having some cocktails, and I told my server I liked his suggestions, and that they were very similar to a speakeasy bar up north I had been to previously. He looked surprised that I'd been there, then suggested this place called Ciro's, and that he'd meet us there after work.

I drove to where he told me, could not find anything. Got desperate, pulled over and asked some young people on the sidewalk. They pointed to a giant wooden door across the street with absolutely no signs around it, on the bottom floor of what looked like a run-down, vacant condominium tower.
After parking, we got out and we were accosted by two tall men in black suits and fedoras, asking if we knew the password or had a reservation. my girl and I completely baffled at this point, I'm just like "uh some dude told us to meet him up here because his girlfriend bartends. *not mentioning names*" They're like okay, we'll let you through.

The owner opens up the big ass oak door for us, and inside it is completely dark. The only light is candles all along the walls under a low ceiling, with a blue-glowing jelly fish tank in the center of the cocktail area. All of the servers, bartenders, and clientele are dressed in 1920's-ish tuxedo outfits, and even though there are quite a few patrons here, it is very hush. Everyone, including the guests, seemed to take the speak-easy theme very seriously, creating quite the 1920's atmosphere. To the left are a line of booths shielded by light curtains. Each booth looked like a circle of a bunch of really comfy pillows around a table, but it was dark so I could be wrong. Either way, they looked very intimate.

Off to the right was the bar, with beautiful oak seats each like a throne, and SOOO comfortable. Mirrors surrounded the bar making the room seem much bigger than I thought, especially with the effect of the candles. Ended up walking into a mirror thinking it was another room LOL (I was already kinda buzzed).

The grub menu looked delicious, even though the kitchen had closed at this point. Really interesting stuff... truffled pop corn, duck fries (fries cooked in duck fat), filet, some other crazy things.
The drink menu was the star of this place though. Every single drink seemed to have been designed by the most expert mixologist. I had a "Bee's Knees," which was gin, honey, and other botanical herbs mixed together, creating something I've never experienced palete-wise before. My girl had a blackberry bramble, which looked like an icecone in a glass of chambord, blackberry, other herbs and such. Fucking delicious. Wish we traded.

As I watched the bartenders make the drinks (I happened to run into another bartender I knew from the area too), every drink took at least a couple minutes to make. So many ingredients went into them... cucumber, shaved jalapeno, sage, parsely, fruit, concoctions of liquors etc. list goes on. The liquor list was about 5 or 6 pages long, with substantially different kinds of whiskey available, as befitting a speakeasy bar. Also had about 8 or 9 different kinds of absinthe which they used in their drinks.

I asked the bartender how the hell people find out about this place. Purely word of mouth, absolutely no advertising whatsoever. They even necessitate a password which you receive upon making a reservation, unless you know someone who works there.

All in all, coolest bar I've ever been to. Definitely deserved a write-up for SF.
 

whiteslashasian

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Originally Posted by giraffe lookout
There is a speakeasy type place in DC called The Gibson. It's cool but it's not exactly a secret.

A few of these in NYC too. I feel like it was a fad 2-3 years ago.
 

Joffrey

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I think they can be called Cocktail Lounges at this point.
 

ter1413

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Originally Posted by whiteslashasian
A few of these in NYC too. I feel like it was a fad 2-3 years ago.

+1. More like 5+ yrs ago. Chumleys comes to mind.
 

changy

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Originally Posted by ter1413
+1. More like 5+ yrs ago. Chumleys comes to mind.

+1. However, I still frequent them for several reasons

1) Usually good drinks
2) Not overly crowded
3) Because of 2, you don't have to yell to get yourself heard

When lounges turn into bars and clubs on the weekends , "speakeasy"s are good places to chat. But then they are also a pain in the ass to get into (3 hour wait at Death and Co at 9pm on a saturday)

Not to mention gimmicky secret telephone booth entrance is also good for impressing Canadian friends.
 

privateer

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Originally Posted by giraffe lookout
There is a speakeasy type place in DC called The Gibson. It's cool but it's not exactly a secret.
Gibson's is a bar, doesn't have the same vibe as these places. A reservation to get in or waiting for admittance + decor doesn't make it a speakeasy. Burbon and Branch in SF is another Speakeasy. Went there once, it was entertaining, but I'm not sure I'd hang out there often.
 

Sazerac

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If it has a liquor license, it isn't a speakeasy. At least that's the way my momma taught me.
 

ClambakeSkate

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Originally Posted by Sazerac
If it has a liquor license, it isn't a speakeasy. At least that's the way my momma taught me.

this.

I've actually been to a few bars in brooklyn that were basically some puerto rican or dominican dude's house and they definitely didn't have a liquor license, or licenses for a lot of other crazy shit that was going down in those places but I hesitate to call them speakeasies since they were far from the romanticized versions that you picture...

I was went to a russian speakeasy in manhattan where everyone was smoking cigars and playing poker, that was pretty cool. The place looked like an old dude's library or something. No women allowed. I left before it got too late because I was afraid of what went on in that place past a certain time of night.
 

Krish the Fish

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I was about to ask: do these speakeasies have liquor licenses (ie they are just bars with restricted membership/entrance), or are they actually "speakeasies" as they were during Prohibition? I assumed with the knowledgable bartenders and great kitchen menus that they are more likely the former.
 

Chico2007

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There are a few ''after-hours'' bars that I used to go to. Mostly full of bartenders/waiters that get out of work at 3 or 4am and want to drink somewhere. The place really doesn't close. If they don't know you you can't get in unless you say "So and So sent me".

Pretty cool places to have access to, but most of them were kinda dive-bars with people doing lines of coke off of the bathroom sinks, degenerates etc.

One thing I thought that was funny about one joint was, even though they were operating during illegal hours, there was almost always a few cops hanging out in there.
 

pauliec

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Originally Posted by ter1413
+1. More like 5+ yrs ago. Chumleys comes to mind.

Milk & Honey. Has anyone ever been there? I remember there were whispers of it on blogs, in culture&lifestyle magazines, and on restaurant review websites. You needed the secret phone number to call and make a reservation.

I managed to track down the number once but never ended up going. No one really talks about it anymore. I wonder if it's still (or ever was, really) a fad sort of place to go.

I did go to a lounge associated with M&H once in the West Village. Can't remember the name but it was a cool place, as I recall. I think it was on 7th ave.


By the way, this is my first post here. Have been reading for a while and wanted to join up. Looking forward to posting.
 

changy

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Originally Posted by pauliec
Milk & Honey. Has anyone ever been there? I remember there were whispers of it on blogs, in culture&lifestyle magazines, and on restaurant review websites. You needed the secret phone number to call and make a reservation.

I managed to track down the number once but never ended up going. No one really talks about it anymore. I wonder if it's still (or ever was, really) a fad sort of place to go.

I did go to a lounge associated with M&H once in the West Village. Can't remember the name but it was a cool place, as I recall. I think it was on 7th ave.


By the way, this is my first post here. Have been reading for a while and wanted to join up. Looking forward to posting.


I haven't been for a year or so. Their phone number is more public now. You are thinking Little Branch.
 

cptjeff

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Originally Posted by ClambakeSkate
this.

I've actually been to a few bars in brooklyn that were basically some puerto rican or dominican dude's house and they definitely didn't have a liquor license, or licenses for a lot of other crazy shit that was going down in those places but I hesitate to call them speakeasies since they were far from the romanticized versions that you picture...

I was went to a russian speakeasy in manhattan where everyone was smoking cigars and playing poker, that was pretty cool. The place looked like an old dude's library or something. No women allowed. I left before it got too late because I was afraid of what went on in that place past a certain time of night.


Most real speakeasies during prohibition weren't even close to the romanticized version either. The term "bathtub gin" was in rather common use, and new and creative cocktails were invented to disguise the disgusting liquor.

Most would also have had (for the day) blaring music, and (for the day) scantily clad women. The speakeasies were one of the fermenting grounds for early women's rights movements- it was the first time in western history where the women could drink on an equal level with men. Flappers, I'm sure you've heard of them. Morally deprived youth.

There would also have been bar games. Darts, pool, hell, you'd find bowling lanes in some of those hole in the wall joints.

Yeah, there were high class joints with quality liquor and drinks. In big cities. And not nearly as many as the more lively places.
 

pauliec

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Originally Posted by changy
I haven't been for a year or so. Their phone number is more public now. You are thinking Little Branch.

Yes, Little Branch. I took a date there once, she totally didn't appreciate it. That didn't last long.

How is Milk & Honey? Does it live up to the hype?
 

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