Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tampa Speakeasy: Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club

Today's guest post is by Kim Hammond

This is my third speakeasy post and since Mystery Playground’s love of speakeasies has me searching them out whenever I travel now, I’ve gotten the speakeasy bug.

I went to Tampa for the weekend to visit a friend I have known since I was twelve. She picked me up at the airport on a warm Thursday evening and we were sitting at dinner when suddenly I thought “darn, I never thought about looking for a speakeasy in Tampa.”

Modern technology as it is, I pulled out my iPad mini and did what red-blooded American would do, a google search. The first search page was all about Ciro’s Speakeasy & Supper Club so that had to be a good sign. As I read, I learned that reservations were highly recommended and required on the weekend if you wanted a chance to get in. You also needed a password to enter.

Conveniently, you could make reservations right from the website. I checked Friday and Saturday evening. There wasn’t anything on Saturday at all and Friday only had midnight and 1 a.m. available, too late for us. We decided to call Ciro’s directly and to see if they could help us. The nice woman who answered said they had 9:30 p.m. that evening at a table in the bar area.  That was just two hours away so we decided to go for it and did some Tampa sightseeing to kill time.

Before hanging up she told us the password we needed for entrance was Sazerac. Once again we were on google. According to Wikipedia, Sazerac is a local New Orleans variation of an old-fashioned cognac or whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac that was its original prime ingredient. The drink is some combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint, and Peychaud's Bitters; it is distinguished by its preparation method. It is sometimes referred to as the oldest known American cocktail, with origins in pre–Civil War New Orleans, though there are much earlier published instances of the word cocktail.

Ciro’s is located on beautiful Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa, Florida. It is NOT easy to find. Nestled in between mega mansions, it’s on the first floor of what appears to be an apartment building. You have to go around to the back and look for the Valet parking. I recommend using the valet.

The valet directed us to a lighted stone path through pretty trees and flowers and past a fountain. The entrance is a beautiful wooden door and we knocked three times as instructed. A panel slid open and a face popped into view. 

“What’s the password?” we were asked.

“Sazerac,” we eagerly replied.

The panel promptly slid closed and the door opened. We were granted access. You enter into the bar area that is very dark and discreet. What little lighting there is mainly comes from a large fish tank built into a wall. The staff was dressed in period clothing and acted the part. We were escorted to our table and left with menus.

Ciro’s has a small dinner selection along with their hand-crafted drinks. At first I thought I was going to have to use the flashlight app on my phone in order to read the menu, but the menu was actually backlit by a mechanism built into the menu and we could easily read the items. Since we had just eaten dinner a few hours ago we decided to sample a dessert called Vahlorna Chocolate Fondue with fresh fruit, berries and hot churros.

Now onto more important things, the drinks.

Tracey was driving so she opted for a non-alcoholic drink. Her fancy lemonade was absolutely delicious and refreshing. I could have drunk 2-3 of them on a hot summer day. The ingredients were as follows:

2 ounces lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
Soda water
Hand-muddled strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
Additional fruit as garnish.

I was NOT driving, so I went with East 8 Hold Up. Its yummy ingredients were:

Bison Grass Vodka
Passion Fruit

The food and drinks were delicious and the service superb. We did a little sneaking around before we left to check out the booths that each have privacy curtains and a back room you can reserve for private parties. Everything looked very intimate and inviting. If you’re in the area I recommend checking it out, but make reservations ahead of time.

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


  1. This sounds like a great one! And the recipe for the lemonade sounds so yummy.

  2. I love the password idea, that's just awesome. I actually tried a Sazerac at a speakeasy in Denver called Prohibition. Holy cow was it strong.