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Monday, April 18, 2011

Tour NYC: The Speakeasy

Since this is a blog started by a bunch of historical authors, I figured something I needed to blog about in my NYC for RWA blogs were our amazingspeakeasies. If you're unfamiliar, a speakeasy is a place that sells alcohol illegally. Well, did sellalcohol illegally...during the prohibition era. And the new trend is to replicate the prohibition with vintage cocktails andVictorian-themed watering holes that are hard to find and/or get into.
So, come with me, on a journey through NYC, to some fun spots that will transport you to a bygone era when the Charleston ruled the dance floor and alcohol was scandalous!

The Dove Parlour...

Okay, I'm starting you off slowly with this one. The Dove Parlour is easily accessible, not hard to find or get into, and the drink prices are pretty reasonable. On a little street in the NYU area of town, amidst university buildings and college hang outs, is a hidden gem, just below street level, called The Dove Parlour. The room is dimly lit by wall sconces made to look like candles. The walls are done in a deep crimson wallpaper. There's a fireplace with a painting of a dove hanging above it. And cozy vintage sofas surround the room, inviting you to sit down and stay a while. Vintage cocktails with such clever names as The French Lavender and The Honey Dove, are $11 each and worth every penny! Oh, and the music, as The Village Voice once said, is "excellently curated."


The Back Room...

Okay, so this place is not for the faint of heart. It's in the Lower East Side, and it's hard to figure out where it is. Why? Because all you'll see is a bouncer standing at a gate to an alley in the middle of an unassuming block. When he lets you in, you make your way down the dark alley, up a metal staircase and through an unmarked door. But when you open the door, you walk into a large, dark Victorian living room. The bar is on your left, and then there's a raised lounge area to your right. You'll see people move in and out of a bookcase all night, but apparently you have to know the owners to get to the "back room." I was here for a bachelorette party quite some time ago, and I don't remember a whole lot about the service or how the drinks tasted, but the fun part was that our drinks were served in teacups, Prohibition style. Or if you order a beer, you'll get it in a paper bag. Drinks are pricey. I can't tell you how much exactly, but don't be surprised if your cocktail is in the area of $15. So, while it may be a little intimidating, The Back Room really plays up the prohibition aspect of this bar, and is a fun experience, especially for those of us who love history.


PDT - Please Don't Tell...

Okay, admittedly, I've never been here. But ever since I heard about it a couple weeks ago, I'm desperate to go! This speakeasy is not easy at all when it comes to getting in. You enter through a hot dog shop and go to a phone booth at the back. Then the phone booth opens up to let you in. It's just like getting into the Ministry of Magic! Since I haven't been here, I can't tell you too much, but the Yelp reviews will tell you way more than I can, so check out the link to learn more!


Milk and Honey...

Many think this place is a myth in NYC. It's a famous member's club in London, but in New York, it's a mystery, and for me, a challenge! This place is exclusive, and apparently amazing. They change their number daily, so you have to know someone who knows someone who knows someone who might have access to that information. Because it's so secretive, I know very little about this place, other than that they have really expensive drinks ($15+). The website is very mysterious and fun to look at, but to get the real skinny, check out the reviews at City Search.


Pegu Club...

This place is much easier to find and get into, and verges more on the Japanese vibe than the Victorian vibe, but the vintage drink list is extensive and the kimono-wearing waitresses are a fun touch. I'll admit, I had eaten and drunk myself into oblivion by the time we made it to this spot, so I had trouble enjoying any kind of alcohol. But the vibe was relaxed (though we tend to go out early since we have to be back to let the babysitter go home), the atmosphere comfortable. A civilized place to talk and have a good time with friends. If you visit their website, be sure to read the section titled Ethos - it's wonderful to learn about the measures they go to to mix a perfect cocktail.


Thus ends my tour of NYC's most famous speakeasies. I'm sure there are more, but these are my favorites and/or the ones I'm desperate to visit. If you're coming to RWA this summer, you might consider doing a speakeasy hop one evening. Just bring your deepest wallet for drinks and cab fare :)

-Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar


  1. Jerrica,

    This is awesome! I hope I'll be able to go to at least one of these speakeasies. How fun!!

  2. How interesting! I love that the old speakeasies are still around. Too bad I won't be joining all of you in NYC for Nationals...

  3. Jerrica,

    This sounds like a blast! I wish I had an extra week just to visit all the cool places you've been sharing with us. I love the hidden door behind the bookcase.

  4. Lydia, I've been thinking it might be fun for all of us to go to one or two of these places together! We'll see how it all shakes out :)

    Catherine, I SO wish you were going to be here! You'll definitely be missed!

    Samantha, see my comment to Lydia. LOL! :)

  5. Jerrica,

    Thanks for sharing all these fun bars to visit. Hopefully, I'll get some spare time while there for RWA and I can talk a certain New Yorker I know into taking me there!

  6. Wonderful post, Jerrica! I hope you guys have so much fun and wish I could be there with you. Someday I'm coming for a visit!

  7. Awesome post. Popping out today to get a map of NY or a little guidebook so I can note these down! Ta

  8. Julie, you *might* be able to twist my arm. LOL!

    Melissa, you will definitely be missed!! :(

    Heather, good idea!! :)