The term “speakeasy”— used to describe illegal, secret bars during America’s 13 years of Prohibition—was actually coined by bartenders.
Basically, “speak easy” was a behavioral admonition, reminding guests to stay calm and avoid drawing suspicion by talking quickly or looking nervous. Speakeasies had a worldwide revival once again starting about fifteen years ago; hidden, password-protected bars were all the rage. And while the trend has waned, here are a few clandestine cocktail haunts (plus, some recipes of their signature drinks) to check out at these hotels across the country:
Lumber Baron Bar: Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Inspired by the city’s boom time during the late 19th-century when fortunes were made from logging nearby forests, the bar reflects the opulence of the age with vintage oak, mahogany, and luxurious Persian rugs. Whether you’re a lumber baron or just lumber-sexual, it’s an ideal spot for sipping on fine scotch or one of their classic cocktail offerings while cozied up near the fireplace.
Signature Drink: ‘Michigan’ Mule
- 11/2 oz. Vodka
- 4 oz. Ginger Beer
- 1/6 oz. Lime Juice
Preparation: Combine vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Add lime juice and stir gently. Garnish with a lime. Pour over ice into a copper mug or highball glass.
Belhurst Castle Bar: Belhurst Castle, Geveva, New York
Built in the late 1800’s on the shores of Seneca Lake, the Belhurst Castle was turned into a speakeasy in 1933. Gambling was held upstairs and liquor was shipped on the sly from Canada using the Finger Lakes canal system. Grab a cocktail and channel Prohibition-style frivolity and fun.
Signature Drink: Complimentary wines on tap in the lobby wall.
Bar Argos: Argos Inn, Ithaca, NY
Cocktails range from ‘historical preservations’ to original creations inside the boutique hotel’s bar with architectural bones dating back to the 1800’s. Hot tip: It’s not on the menu, but the barkeep will happily top off your drink, by request, with a blessing from the green fairy from the absinthe fountain.
Signature Drink: The Afterthaw
- 2 oz. Michters Sour Mash Whiskey
- 1/2 oz. Amaro Nonino
- 1/4 oz. Grade B Maple Syrup
- 4 dashes Bar Argos Mushroom Bitters (See Recipe Below)
Preparation: In a mixing glass, combine above ingredients, except bitters. Stir well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with two more dashes of mushroom bitters.
Bar Argos Mushroom Bitters
- 1/2 oz. (1 package) Dried Porcini Mushrooms, Chopped
- 3 Black Cardamom Pods, Cut
- 2 tbs. Yellow Dock
- 1 tbs. Pau d’Arco bark
- 6 Juniper Berries, Cut in Half
- 4 Hawthorne Berries, Smashed
- 1 tsp. Bilberries
Preparation: In a quart jar, combine the above ingredients. Fill the rest of a quart jar with 100+ proof vodka. Steep in a cool dark place for 2 weeks. Strain, then re-strain through a coffee filter.
The Public Belt: Hilton New Orleans Riverside, New Orleans, LA
This new piano bar, named after the Public Belt railroad in NOLA that opened in 1908, features New Orleans classic cocktails, such as the Brandy Crusta, Sazerac and Absinthe Frappe, as well as original creations inspired by the madams of the legendary red-light district. Settle into one of the intimate nooks for live jazz music in a sexy, candle-lit ambience.
Signature Drink: Ella’s Sinful Secret
- 1 oz. Gin
- 1 oz. Elderflower Liqueur
- 1 oz. Dry Vermouth
- 3 drops Celery Bitters
- Lemon and orange twist (for Garnish)
Preparation: Add all ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir well. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon and orange twist.