Boardwalk Empire is coming back on September 8th (to the excitement of many fans). In honor of the 4th Season of the antics of Nucky Thompson and Company, we felt like it was time to highlight the best of the time-warped, Speakeasy-inspired bars in New York. Just because Prohibition is over doesn't mean you can't live like a 1920's outlaw at one of these retro joints.
Club 21, 21 W 57th St
8 Stuyvesant St., 2nd Floor
48 W 17th St.
324 W 46th St.
These five Historic Chicago Bars have withstood some of the Windy City’s greatest challenges, and welcomed some of its greatest traditions. And, many of these establishments survived one of nightlife’s greatest challenges, Prohibition. The Berghoff, Southport Lanes, Schaller’s Pump, The Back Room and Twin Anchors have stood the time for different reasons, but one thing they definitely have in common, is that they offer a good time.
The 113-year old establishment, located in the heart of the loop, was owned and inspired by the beer brewing West German immigrant, Joseph Berghoff. In its heyday, the bar sold beer for nickels and offered free sandwiches to their patrons. And, when the prohibition affected Chicago nightlife, Berghoff kept its doors open, functioning as a full service restaurant, also selling ’near beer’. In 1969, Berghoff abandoned its ‘Men Only’ policy after member of the National Organization for Women stood at the bar and demanded service.
Brando's Speakeasy, the quaint downtown establishment, boasts an intimate lounge with an unyielding supply of dancing, drinking, and karaoke. The doors open at 10:00am daily and don’t close until 2:00am (3am on Saturdays). Between those hours, the friendly staff tentatively welcomes patrons of every background into their warm, cozy, and dim atmosphere. The bar is the perfect setting for reunions, a girls' night out, or, if you're brave, you can finally live those fantasies of singing "Don't Stop Believing" outside the shower.
One of Brando’s most notable attractions is their raised platform and well-tuned karaoke machine at the head of the speakeasy. The machine is plum-loaded with 250,000 songs: lyrics and music loaded for anything from 1960’s ballads to present day hits. When you decide to take a seat, the MC/DJ plays a rotation of dance-inducing music and nod-worthy soundtracks.
In a city where nightlife is in abundance, and you can find absolutely anything with the touch of a button, it may be easier to stick to the same old places we know and love. We all know that good service and atmosphere are a 50/50 chance, so trying something different can be hard. Well, if you're craving something, or some place new, then feel free to break out of those old-habit chains, NYC and welcome these hot new bars and lounges.
Living Room Bar and Terrace, 123 Washington Street, New York, NY 10006
Starwood has read our minds recently, and given FiDi this eclectic nouveau lounge, the Living Room Bar and Terrace. This chic downtown desire opened August 18th 2011, just in time for the end of summer. Like a billowy ocean wave, the LED lighting installation by Lamella, drapes across the ceiling to give a fun, open vibe unlike most of the usual modern bars of Wall Street. The lights reflect the black granite floors to create a vortex-like (think Tron:Legacy) atmosphere. But don’t worry, you won't get stuck in Tron world for too long; the neutral tan leather and purple accents warm the space to give a homier feel. And how could we forget the floor to ceiling windows, the chic wraparound terrace and most incredibly, the view of downtown Manhattan. If you’re bored with the view (or hungry) there are specially designed board games, light bites and an exciting cocktail list created by Charlotte Voisey of Rose Bar. Prices start at $15 with specialty options like the Lychee Blossom- Belvedere orange blossom with lychee juice, lemon, and peychaud bitters or the Bond Street Sparkler- Champagne with elderflower liquor with blackberries, and fresh mint.
We like breaking the law. Well, not really. But we do like the idea of going against proper protocol and avoiding rules (as long as it doesn't get us into too much trouble). This is why East Village's Death & Co. is one of our favorite bars in the city. The dim light makes it a sexy spot for late night cocktails, while it's wooden decor keeps it classy. Death & Co. breathes Prohibition Era air with its quaint intimate feel. The mixologists will blow your mind away (and probably your taste buds too) with their alcohol concoctions. Perfectionists at heart, cocktails are mixed over and over again until bartenders deem them flawless. You can also share a punch bowl --with any alcohol or cocktail, which serves around 4 people. Spiced-up punch straight out from a high school dance anyone? (We told you, we like breaking laws!)
Ninety or so years ago, The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company was the front for the country’s largest alcohol distribution ring during prohibition. Today, liquor is legal and readily available but there remains one front at The Franklin. That front would be the nondescript brick façade and unassuming black iron steps which do their best to hide what everyone should know—Philadelphia’s best cocktails are made right here.
The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company is more than a bar, it is a removal from everything but your cocktail. If the time is taken to enjoy it for the art that it is the result is a slip back into a simpler time. Nearly every ingredient harkens back to drinking’s golden age. Their gin is not Tanqueray or Beefeater but Old Tom, which is a sweeter spirit that was popular in 18th century England and is distilled in only a handful of places worldwide. Every juice, syrup, and bitter is handmade—as evidenced by the tray of ice on the bar that contains only fresh whole cuts of fruit, no bottles or cartons. Even the ice is produced the old fashioned way, by taking an ice pick to a large block, the result is large jagged chucks that float in the center of your drink like ice bergs in a sea of spirits.
It may not be officially ready yet, but that didn't stop Armin Amiri (of Socialista) from hosting Fashion Week after-parties at his new, speakeasy-style lounge circa China 1930, Mister H at the Mondrian SoHo. The venue, with its "distressed damask walls, red leather banquettes and jade-and-gold-checkered floors," transports patrons into what might feel like some sort of fairytale land - one filled with booze and disco lights, of course. Amiri shares the question he posed to himself when envisioning Mr. H: "Humphrey Bogart gets off work as a private eye and needs a nightcap; where would he go?" The H stands for Hung (as in Mr. Hung), a ficitional owner (perhaps an alter-ego of Amiri's?).
When stricken with a touch of a cold--a scratchy throat, a lingering cough, a delicate constitution--don't take to bed with a bowl of chicken soup and a hot water bottle at your feet. Instead, go out and ring the doorbell at The Gibson, the Prohibition style speakeasy hidden behind a black, unmarked door on DC's U Street corridor. Under dimly lit filament bulbs, bartenders carefully craft sophisticated libations with the aplomb of medicine men; shaking up delicious spins on cocktail staples and stiff drinks with ingredients you never even imagined could go into a cocktail.