Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Speakeasy in Harlem: 67 Orange Street

Imagine it's 1934, you are in a dark crowded room drinking gin made in a bathtub, and not necessarily a clean bathtub. You have to keep your voice down just in case the cops are around (they may care or not care since one might be standing right next to you drinking the same rotgut. 

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of the Volstead Act which marked the end of Prohibition.. And while December is a long way off, everyone at Mystery Playground is going to celebrate all year long by visiting and writing about modern day speakeasies all over the country.

This is the first speakeasy post of in 2013, and it is about 67 Orange Street in Harlem, New York. 

I visited the tiny but welcoming 67 Orange Street with my friend, Susan, who recently moved to Harlem. We went to a fabulous restaurant called, Maison Harlem, prior to our speakeasy adventure. The Coq au Vin is wonderful there. I highly recommend it. But I digress...

We entered the bar through a maroon velvet curtain and were handed a drink menu re-fashioned out of a recycled hardback book.  I make things out of old, ruined books -- purses, photos albums, cards, etc. -- so I particularly loved this detail. You could just close the book, and like magic any reference to alcohol just disappeared (there was a fully stocked bar however).

Inside the menu/book we found pages and pages of inventive drinks to choose from (and some quotes from a old philosopher). There were so many drink choices that we implored the bar tender to tell us which ones were the best. He recommended The Emancipation and the Kentucky Blossom...


I had The Emancipation which was made up of: Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka, Citronage, Simple Syrup, Muddled Cilantro & Cucumber, with fresh lime juice. It was clean, light and fabulous. Seriously, relaxation in a glass. If you go to 67 Orange Street, order this. Tell them Mystery Playground sent you.

Susan had The Kentucky Blossom which was made up of Bourbon, Appleton VX, Cinnamon Syrup, Orange Blossom honey syrup and lemon juice. Susan thought this drink was excellent and she is almost never wrong about anything. 


We did not sample any of the food, largely because we had already had an excellent meal at Maison Harlem, but the scent wafting through the bar was magnificent. Menu items included Oyster Mushroom Mac & Cheese, Chicken & Red Velvet Waffles and Pan Seared Salmon with Miso Roasted vegetables. When we go back, we are definitely eating there.

67 Orange Street is not actually located on Orange Street but instead at 2082 Frederick Douglas Boulevard at the corner of Frederick Douglas and W 113th Street. This is OK because a good speakeasy should be a wee bit hard to find (there is also some history behind the name, which I love.) The door is marked with a 67, and nothing else. We didn't have any trouble finding it.

What Are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were essentially secret bars that sprang up when the United States outlawed alcohol in 1919. 

Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have even moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. 

Today, there are many modern speakeasies that retain some of these traditions. Usually they feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, and though the secrecy is no longer needed, many are in discreet locations that lack signage. Some even require passwords.

You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 


  1. This place looks fabulous. Especially like the idea of using old books.

  2. The menus in the old books were really cool. Thank you for your comment.