Lovers of mixed drinks, martinis, and jazz are undoubtedly acquainted with speakeasy bars. But have you ever delved into their history? Ever wondered why speakeasies have such inconspicuous entrances?
It all traces back to the Prohibition era when the United States prohibited the sale of alcohol. Those who opposed this ban sought refuge in speakeasy bars, places where they could enjoy illicit alcohol and the rhythms of jazz.
To understand their captivating history, here are some fascinating facts about speakeasy bars.
The Birthplace of Jazz
During the Prohibition era in the United States, speakeasies became the cradle of jazz music. This period coincided with a significant migration of African-American musicians to cities like Chicago, where speakeasies thrived. These talented individuals were often employed by gangsters who owned these secret bars.
Enticed by the soulful tunes played by these musicians, many speakeasy patrons, predominantly gangsters, evolved into staunch supporters of jazz.
As the genre’s popularity spread like wildfire, mainly through word of mouth, it quickly resonated with the white communities, making jazz a sensation throughout the Midwest and East Coast. Consequently, Chicago and New York emerged as epicenters of black entertainment.
Secrets of Speakeasy Entry
Due to the illicit sale of alcohol during the Prohibition era, speakeasy bars had strict entry protocols. Their entrances were inconspicuous, much like the hidden doorway of Lola in Senopati. Back in those days, patrons needed to be aware of the bar’s secret code to gain access. This could be a specific series of door knocks, a passphrase, or even a unique handshake.
Word of mouth was the lifeline of the speakeasy business. Some bars would only allow entrance if the visitor was vouched for by an insider.
However, as speakeasies grew in popularity and law enforcement heightened their vigilance, many began adopting membership cards for verification.
Martini and Cocktail Evolution
Before the Prohibition era, America was renowned for its cocktails, with many European bartenders perfecting mixology on American soil.
However, once Prohibition took hold, many skilled bartenders either left the country or sought alternative professions. Consequently, the American mixology industry was overrun by novices, producing homemade gin and moonshine in bathtubs.
These new beverages were considerably stronger. Moonshine, in fact, was occasionally used as vehicle fuel due to its potency. Because of their harsh taste and potency, there was a tendency to mix moonshine and gin, leading to the birth of what we now recognize as martinis and mixed drinks, which surged in popularity during the Roaring Twenties.
Secret Compartments and Hidden Doors
Due to their illicit nature at the time, speakeasy bar owners often lived in fear of unexpected raids. As a precaution, speakeasies were designed with multiple nooks, storage spaces, and even concealed entrances.
In efforts to remain inconspicuous, booths were frequently shielded with thick curtains to hide the covert bar, or alcohol was served in teacups. The Green Mill in Chicago even featured an underground passage for emergency exits during raids.
America’s most famous speakeasy, the 21 Club in New York, boasted a concealed wine cellar capable of holding up to 2,000 cases of wine.
The Rise of Al Capone
Recognizing the immense profits from selling alcohol during Prohibition, gangsters began to compete fiercely for territory due to the skyrocketing demand for liquor.
Johnny Torrio, a Chicago-based mobster eager to dominate the alcohol business, called upon Al Capone, his trusted colleague from New York, to help eliminate rivals.
Within two years, Capone raked in a staggering $60 million from alcohol sales alone, frequently greasing the palms of politicians to secure his position.
Intrigued by the allure of speakeasies after learning these facts? Here are some top recommendations for your weekend hangout.
The Prohibition – Senayan
With a name like “The Prohibition,” it’s evident that this bar embraces the speakeasy vibe. Dive into a world of jazz and crafted cocktails this weekend at The Prohibition – it’s bound to be a blast, folks!
Bauhaus 1933 – Kuningan
Drawing inspiration from the German art movement that seamlessly melds fine-art with design, “Bauhaus 1933” boasts a unique bar concept. With its distinct name and atmosphere, it’s a must-visit spot for your weekend escapade.