Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New York City Speakeasy: The Raines Law Room

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and as such Mystery Playground (and fun loving friends) is visiting modern speak easy bars all over the United States in recognition. The latest in our series took us to The Raines Law Room in New York City.  

The Raines Law Room is named after an 1896 law which said that bars could not serve alcohol on Sundays unless they were affiliated with a hotel. Since most laborers only had one day off - Sunday, this meant they couldn't in effect go drinking unless it was in a hotel. The law intended to keep them from drinking. What it meant in reality was that bars sprung up as part of hotels that were thinly disguised brothels, compounding the possible vice on Sunday. The Raines Law Room may have taken it's name from the law, but it looks nothing like a brothel or  dive bar. It is filled with velvet couches, a beautiful tin roof, and there's even a little garden in the back for clients who prefer to be outdoors on a warm spring night. 

I had the Sicilian Cobbler made up Camprari Lambrusco Frizzante, Campari, muddled blood orange & lemon. Served over crushed ice. It was fabulously refreshing.

My friend Susan had the San Luis Cup. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Ancho Chili syrup, muddled lime & cucumber, dash of sea salt & black pepper. Shaken and stirred with cracked ice. She loved it. 

They have one food item and I have to warn you, it's not super impressive. It's a "cheese" plate that's really two bowls - one filled with hunks of cheddar cheese with toothpicks in them and a few pieces of salami and the other bowl with olives. We would have stayed longer if there had been a bit more to nosh on but we went right after work. 

The Raines Law Room is located on 17th Street between 5th and 6th streets. There is no sign outside, but the address is clearly marked. You enter in the door above which brings you to another little door with a bell. No password is required. We made reservations for 7:30 pm, but we didn't need them on a Tuesday night. The people we met at the adjoining table said reservations on the weekend were a must. 

What are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were secret bars that sprang up when the U.S. outlawed alcohol in 1919.

Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have 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 speakeasy bars that retain some of these traditions. They usually feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, in discreet locations that lack signage. Some model the decor after the periods and some require passwords. You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here