Speakeasy – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Beer Culture Glossary

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What is a speakeasy?

A speakeasy is a term used to describe an illicit establishment that sells alcoholic beverages. These establishments were particularly prevalent in the United States during the Prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 to 1933. Speakeasies were often hidden in plain sight, with secret entrances and passwords required for entry. The term “speakeasy” is believed to have originated from the practice of patrons being told to “speak easy” or quietly when discussing the location of these illegal bars.

How did speakeasies originate?

Speakeasies originated during the Prohibition era in the United States, which was a time when the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages were banned. The Prohibition movement was fueled by concerns about the negative effects of alcohol on society, such as crime, poverty, and domestic violence. However, the ban on alcohol only served to create a thriving underground market for bootleggers and speakeasies.

What was the significance of speakeasies during Prohibition?

Speakeasies played a significant role during Prohibition as they provided a place for people to socialize and consume alcohol in secret. These establishments became popular gathering spots for people from all walks of life, including politicians, celebrities, and ordinary citizens. Speakeasies also became hubs for organized crime, with gangsters like Al Capone running illegal alcohol operations and profiting from the sale of bootleg liquor.

What are some common features of speakeasies?

Speakeasies were known for their secretive and exclusive nature, with hidden entrances, dim lighting, and jazz music playing in the background. Many speakeasies required patrons to know a password or have a special invitation to gain entry. Once inside, customers could enjoy a variety of cocktails made with bootlegged liquor, as well as entertainment such as live music, dancing, and gambling. Some speakeasies also offered food to mask the smell of alcohol and attract a wider clientele.

How have speakeasies influenced modern cocktail culture?

The legacy of speakeasies lives on in modern cocktail culture, with many bars and restaurants paying homage to the Prohibition era with their decor, menus, and ambiance. Speakeasies are often associated with classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Martini, which were popular during the 1920s. Bartenders at speakeasies were known for their creativity and resourcefulness in making drinks with limited ingredients, a tradition that continues in craft cocktail bars today.

What are some famous speakeasies around the world?

There are several famous speakeasies around the world that have become iconic symbols of the Prohibition era. One of the most well-known speakeasies is The Blind Pig in New York City, which is located in the East Village and pays tribute to the secret bars of the 1920s. Another popular speakeasy is The Green Door in London, which is hidden behind an unmarked door and serves up classic cocktails in a cozy setting. Other notable speakeasies include PDT (Please Don’t Tell) in New York City, The Gibson in London, and The Varnish in Los Angeles. These establishments continue to attract customers looking for a taste of the past and a unique drinking experience.