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When the Volstead Act, which put Prohibition in place, was repealed in 1933.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 Kerry and Kim Hammond were visiting Atlanta and found Prohibition, a cigar bar and speakeasy in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood.
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.
Prohibition was inside a building with multiple entertainment venues. The website is one page that describes the bar, and includes the address, but has no other active pages or links. It mentions that you will need to secure the day’s password. When you pull up to the building, you see no sign of the bar, even though your GPS has informed you that “you have arrived at your location.” The parking is valet only, and we were able to bribe our ginger haired valet to give us the telephone number to the bar. He informed us that we had to find the British phone booth inside the courtyard and dial the number.
We entered the building and immediately found the booth. It was next to a frosted glass door that read ACME Antiques Est. 1920, and a sign hung on it that said “Closed Out of Business,” I went inside the phone box and dialed the number on an old timey phone where you hold up the earpiece in one hand and talk into the mouthpiece attached to the phone base. Once I dialed the number, I heard ringing somewhere outside the phone box. Just as I was trying to deduce where the sound was coming from, the back wall to the phone box, the one holding the phone, opened and behind it stood a bearded bartender in a black vest and white button up shirt, looking straight out of the 1920s. After my initial scream, and my heart stopped pounding, I stepped down into the bar and Kim followed.
The inside of the bar is absolutely beautiful, decorated in period pieces of furniture and knickknacks, leather couches, a fireplace with mantel, and lots of dark wood. Above the bar, there was a television screen playing a black and white Charlie Chaplin silent movie. We sat on the couch and had a conversation with our bartender about the types of drinks we both liked, and he picked out one for each of us. One was on the menu and one was his own version of a cocktail favored by James Bond.
We didn’t order any food, but there was a menu of items to choose from. Kim’s cocktail, which was on the menu, was a Knickerbocker. It was a rum based drink with raspberry and lemon. I asked the Bartender for a gin drink. My favorite cocktail is a slightly dirty gin martini, so he chose a Vesper Lynd, but used his own modified recipe. It contained 2 parts gin, 1 part vodka, and 1 part Lillet Blanc. It was stirred, not shaken. Both were excellent.
This was hands down my favorite speakeasy. I loved the phone box entry and the secret telephone number. The décor and atmosphere just added to the experience, as did the bartender’s cocktail and speakeasy knowledge. We discussed several other speakeasies around the country and he has visited many of the same locations. If you’re ever in Atlanta, this is something you won’t want to miss. Keep in mind, it doesn’t open until at 5 pm.