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When the Volstead Act, which put Prohibition in place, was repealed in 1933.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 and recently Mysti Berry and I went to The Drifter in Chicago. It's a wonderful modern speakeasy.
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 façade 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) You might need 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. 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.
The Drifter meets four of the five hallmarks above, only missing the need for a password. When we first sat down we were handed these wonderful Tarot Cards that served as the drink menu:
We had the Bols in a Vice and Pisco Sour, but as you can see from the cars above they have plenty to choose from and can make most anything you ask for.
We had three of their appetizers for dinner - the bacon wrapped dates, the crispy chickpeas and the deviled eggs. The chickpeas and the bacon wrapped dates were crazy good.
The live entertainment started at 7pm the night we went and featured live singing. The place is small and it was a great venue for live entertainment. Here is an example of some of the their other offerings:
The Drifter is located underneath the Green Door Tavern (pictured above). You go through the pool room and down the back staircase until you find a wall with a curio shelf. Just reach for the door knob and let yourself in.
The bar is open Wednesday -Saturday 5am - 2am. Entertainment starts around 7pm. We didn't need a reservation and there wasn't a password.