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Cheers to Good Times Past and Present! The Modern Speakeasy 

Cheers to Good Times Past and Present! The Modern Speakeasy

The Prohibition era gave birth to the speakeasy, popular in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. These days, it’s a little easier to get a drink, but the modern speakeasy club is making a big comeback, offering intrigue and excitement with a dash of exclusiveness. While locating and entering one may be a little easier than 100 years ago, the modern speakeasy connects to its past while giving a contemporary twist on fun.

The Birth of the Speakeasy

Speakeasies first emerged when the 18th Amendment was passed in 1919. Prohibition, as it was known, made the consumption and distribution of alcohol illegal. Existing drinking establishments were shut down when the amendment was passed, but a clever and often mysterious club called the speakeasy emerged. These illegal drinking establishments became part of an underground enterprise, and their history inspires to this day.

Surrounded by elements from the criminal underworld and under the threat of police raids, secrecy was imperative. Speakeasies were tucked away in the basements, attics, or back rooms, and most had a way to quickly dispose of their liquor if the police showed up. There were secret knocks and passwords, but sometimes, all you needed to do was look for a green door. Back doors and secret entrances were used to prevent detection, often paired with a password or a hidden passageway guarded

by a bouncer to prevent someone from stumbling upon the bar, like the cops.

The secrecy of these clubs made them more alluring. It was who you knew and the secret steps that got you into the speakeasy club. Others had membership fees and dress codes to create a little more exclusivity. But it wasn’t just the secrecy that attracted patrons. The age of speakeasies ushered in the age of jazz. Music and dancing were popular at these establishments, and for the first time, drinking in public was made accessible to women, who had previously been banned from saloons except as entertainers.

Prohibition ended in 1933 with the passing of the 21st Amendment, and speakeasies quickly faded from the scene. However, the nostalgia and draw of the secret drinking establishment are making a comeback in the modern speakeasy.

The Return of the Speakeasy

While the elements of danger and criminal underworld surrounding the speakeasy have long passed, the intrigue lives on. In the digital age where hardly anything is secret and our lives are played out on the internet, the stealthiness of the speakeasy holds some allure.

The reemergence of the speakeasy club and culture has its roots in history, the modern version would be incomplete without some form of specialized menu, craft cocktail, and some form of dress code. If you’re adventurous enough to find one, the modern speakeasy is anything but a typical night out experience.

In keeping with the traditions of their predecessors, many modern speakeasy clubs have hidden locations, secret entrances, or password-only entry. You might even have to know someone who knows about it to even find one. As in the past, modern speakeasies often have membership programs, reservation systems, or “first come first served” rules to maintain a private and intimate atmosphere.

Speakeasy clubs of the 21st century are clever in design and style. You can expect to find Prohibition-era decor with staff attired to match. Period music and entertainment create the final touches.

Don’t be surprised if the Prohibition era theme also applies to patrons. Many modern speakeasy clubs have some form of dress code. While you might not be required to show up in a flapper dress or pinstripe suit, a certain amount of elegance may be expected. It’s the perfect excuse to find a new outfit or costume for a mysterious night out.

A Handcrafted Experience

The very roots of the modern speakeasy club are crafted cocktails. During Prohibition, alcohol manufacturing was illegal and bootleggers made terrible alcohol. To disguise the taste of these poorly made spirits, people began to add extras, like citrus, juice, and other mixers, to gin, rum, and whiskey. Thankfully, this is where history gets left behind, because you’re guaranteed a much better drinking experience today.

While gin, rum, and whiskey were the basis for most Prohibition-era drinks, modern mixologists have a lot more to work with. The modern speakeasy club typically offers a vast collection of high-quality spirits to choose from. You’ll find a wide range of takes on the old standards like the Gimlet or Sidecar.

Prohibition drinks aren’t the only drinks that have appeared in modern speakeasy culture. The craft cocktail trend has also brought a delectable variety of options to drink menus. You’ll be sure to find some interesting and eclectic takes on classic cocktail recipes but expect new inventions too. Don’t be afraid to try something new and ask your mixologist for their recommendations.

 Another historically rooted offering is food. Prohibition-era speakeasies offered small food plates of finger food to keep their customers drinking. The modern speakeasy club offers a little more in culinary experiences. Expect to see some tasty small-bite appetizers and menu offerings that are themed to match their style and decor. The re-emergence of things like deviled eggs and charcuterie boards are just some examples of what you might find. Prepare to be intrigued and explore out of your comfort zone.

Find Your Speakeasy

If you’re looking for an evening of fun beyond the typical night out, the modern speakeasy club is for you. If you’re clever enough to find them you’re on your way to a new experience with an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. Just make sure before you raise a glass you have someone driving you back who knows the way out.

In Northern California, Trophy Club offers an exclusive members-only speakeasy club experience with a Prohibition-era ambiance. A high-end liquor selection, house-dehydrated garnishes, aromatics, and expert mixology ensure patrons won’t soon forget their Trophy Club speakeasy experience. 

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