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What is a Speakeasy Bar Concept? Beginner’s Guide (2024)

What is a Speakeasy Bar

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Are you tired of the same old bar scene, looking for a place with a little more mystery and intrigue? Then enter the world of speakeasies—the hidden gems of the drinking world. But what is a speakeasy bar, exactly?

We’ll dive into the history of secretive establishments and discover what makes them so alluring to patrons even today.

What Is A Speakeasy Bar Concept?

Bar Counter

A speakeasy bar, by its historical concept, is a secretive drinking establishment that emerged during Prohibition in the United States.

These bars sold alcohol illegally and required a password, knock, handshake, or even an invitation for entry.

Today, the concept of a speakeasy in a modern bar is the embracement of being shrouded in mystery, providing a unique and exclusive atmosphere with a vintage or retro aesthetic.

Etymology & Concept History

According to some archives, the term “speakeasy” is believed to have derived from “speak-softly shops.”

It refers to the secrecy of illegal alcohol consumption in illicit establishments in England and Ireland during the 19th century [1].

This term came into usage in the United States during the Prohibition era, referring to illegal establishments that served alcohol where patrons had to speak quietly or easily to avoid detection by authorities.

Why Were Speakeasies Illegal In The 1920s?

Lounge Bar

Speakeasies were illegal in the 1920s due to the Prohibition era, a nationwide ban on the sale, production, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States [2].

“For every prohibition you create, you also create an underground.”

— Jello Biafra, American Singer, Spoken Word Artist & Political Activist

The Federal Government imposed the enactment of the ban in response to a widespread temperance movement that sought to promote sobriety and reduce social problems associated with alcohol consumption.

What’s The Difference Between A Bar & A Speakeasy?

Bar

The main difference between a bar and a speakeasy is that speakeasies are secret, hidden, or disguised establishments that serve alcohol.

Speakeasies may have hidden entrances, require a password, secret handshakes, or have other unique features that make them exclusive for a few people.

In contrast, bars are typically more open and visible and do not necessarily have the same level of secrecy or exclusivity.

Do They Still Exist?

Yes, speakeasies still exist today, especially in New York; they are sometimes described as retro-style bars.

While the need for secrecy and the legality of alcohol during the Prohibition era no longer exists, modern speakeasies aim to recreate the ambiance and style of the Prohibition era.

Some speakeasies may still have discreet entrances and require a reservation or a password to enter, while others may be more open and accessible to the general public.

Food & Drinks Served In A Speakeasy Bar

Bartender Making Cocktail Drink

The food and drinks served in a speakeasy bar can vary but often feature classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, The Gin Rickey, and Brandy Alexanders.

As for the food, speakeasy bars serve bite-sized canapés and finger foods, such as lobster canapés, caviar rolls, oyster toast, cheeseballs, stuffed mushrooms, and more.

Why Do People Love Speakeasies?

People love speakeasies for the exclusive and hidden nature of speakeasies, and the historical connection to the Prohibition era adds an element of mystery to the drinking experience. 

Many speakeasies also offer a unique ambiance and a vintage or retro-like atmosphere compared to regular bars.

Additionally, the high-quality cocktails and attention to detail in speakeasies make for a memorable drinking experience.

FAQs

Is a speakeasy a good first date?

It depends on personal preferences. While speakeasies can offer a unique and intimate atmosphere for a first date, the hidden or exclusive nature may not be to everyone’s taste.

Do speakeasies have bouncers?

Some speakeasies may have bouncers or door staff to control the entrance and maintain the exclusive or hidden atmosphere.

The extent of security measures can vary, but many speakeasies aim to provide exclusivity and privacy for their patrons.

What is another name for a speakeasy?

Another name for a speakeasy is a “blind pig,” “blind tiger,” “hooch joint,” “clip joint,” or “gin joint.” 

Do you dress up for a speakeasy?

Dressing up for a speakeasy is unnecessary, and casual attire is generally acceptable. But many people do so to match the vintage or retro-inspired atmosphere in this day and age.

However, it can vary from one speakeasy to another as some may have dress codes or suggest a specific style.

Final Say

Speakeasy bars are a reminder of the Prohibition era in the United States and offer a unique drinking experience that cannot be found anywhere else.

Their hidden entrances, low lighting, and vintage decor take patrons to another time and place.

So, if you’re looking for a break from the typical bar scene, a speakeasy may be just what you need to add mystery and excitement to your night out.

Just remember, be in the know of the secret password, knock, or handshake (if there’s any).

References:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/speakeasy
  2. https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/flappers-speakeasies-ken-burns-prohibition/ken-burns-prohibition/
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