Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Denver Speakeasy: Green Russell

During the Prohibition years from 1920 to 1933, alcoholic beverages were illegal in the United States, but it wasn't too hard to find a drink. One of the easiest ways was to find a speakeasy—a hidden bar that served bootleg liquor and that often required a password to get in. Legend has it that the name speakeasy came from patrons being told to “speak easy,” or softly, so the police wouldn’t hear the party.

When the Volstead Act, which put Prohibition in place, was repealed in 1933. But if you want to revisit that time in a new way, you have your chance because modern speakeasies have popped up all over the country. These bars take the mystery and romance of history and create a fun atmosphere. 

At Mystery Playground we love to visit speakeasies when we travel. 

Hallmarks of the modern speakeasy include:

1) Individually mixed drinks with fresh ingredients, often invented at that bar. We’re talking fresh, muddled fruit and innovative concoctions. A far cry from the quality of spirits found in most speakeasies back in the day. This also means you pay more than you would for an average cocktail, and depending on the city you’re in, it can be a lot more.

2) An unmarked door or a misleading sign. You have to know where the speakeasy is. Most doors are unmarked, but I’ve visited one behind the fa├žade of a Fortune Telling shop and another where you had to go into a restaurant and pick up an antique phone to gain admittance.

3) Reservations are commonly a must, and many times, you’ll need a password. It pays to do your research. I’ve never had trouble getting into a popular place—as long as I made a reservation and knew in advance if I needed a password.  

4) An intimate atmosphere with lots of attention from your bartender to help you get exactly what you want. These places are small (thus the need for reservations). Many of the speakeasies even play the music of the time.

5) Decor of the time. The ambiance matches the 1920s and/or there are antique items and photos from the time. 

Kerry, Kim and I were all in Denver recently and we went to check out Green Russell. It fits numbers one, four and five on our modern speakeasy list. They have a mock phone booth for patrons to make cell phone calls so the ambiance remains intact and a case full of vintage liquor bottles. 

1850s Colorado Gold Miner and Bar Namesake, William Green Russell

Green Russell is right downstairs from its sister restaurant, Russell's Smoke House. The two share a kitchen and that means the food here is much better than your  average bar, even your average speakeasy. 

They have great pork sliders with slaw that are to die for. 

You can order off the menu, or as we did, tell the bartender what you like and they will give you a custom made beverage. 

Bartender Joey Smith gave us the recipe for the cocktail called, "Marti & the Doc," and said we could share it with you...

1.5 oz Ransom Old Town Gin
.5 oz Aperol
.75 oz Cocchi Torino Vermouth
.5 Maraschino
2 dashes Boker's bitters

2 dashes orange bitters

We walked in without reservations without a problem, but it was on a Wednesday night. For weekend night visits, you may want to call ahead. No password was required. 

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