A Brief History of the Speakeasy

[fa icon="calendar"] 4/19/24 2:53 PM / by BauscherHepp

A Brief History of the Speakeasy

There's something mythical about a secret door and using an exclusive password to open it. Once inside, a world of classic cocktails and smoky lounge music awaits. This is the essence of the modern speakeasy, but it's not where it all began.

The term "speakeasy" finds its roots in the era of Prohibition in the United States, which began with the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919. This amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. To enforce this amendment, Congress passed the Volstead Act, also known as the National Prohibition Act, which defined intoxicating beverages as any drink containing 0.5 percent or more alcohol.

Prohibition did not succeed in curbing alcohol consumption, though. Instead, it drove it underground. Speakeasies emerged as clandestine establishments where patrons could still indulge in alcoholic drinks. The exact origin of the term "speakeasy" is uncertain, but it is believed to come from the practice of patrons needing to speak softly or "easy" through a small opening in a door to gain entry, often providing a password or the name of someone who had sent them.

As law enforcement cracked down on traditional bars and saloons, speakeasies proliferated rapidly. By 1925, tens of thousands had opened in New York City alone. These establishments varied widely in quality and ambiance, ranging from drab basements to luxurious establishments like the famous 21 Club, which boasted multiple bars, a dance floor, and secret passages leading to a wine cellar.

A Brief Look at the Current Mixology Trends copy

The Modern Speakeasy

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of speakeasies, albeit in a different form. While traditional speakeasies operated illegally during Prohibition, modern speakeasies are legal establishments that evoke the secrecy and ambiance of their predecessors. They are often concealed within other venues, accessible only through hidden entrances or requiring passwords for entry. These modern speakeasies offer a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere compared to mainstream bars, with retro furniture and expertly crafted cocktails prepared by skilled mixologists.

These types of operations rely on attention to detail as they look to curate the perfect experience. One area of focus for the modern speakeasy is always the choice of glassware. Whether it's a gin and tonic inspired by Spain or a carefully crafted Negroni variation, how today's cocktails are presented can be just as important as the mixture of spirits in the cocktail itself.

BauscherHepp and our partners at Luigi Bormioli have ideal glassware collections for speakeasies. To browse our mixology glassware collections and other tabletop concepts, check out our Linktree.


Topics: beverage service, Bar, Trends

Written by BauscherHepp

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