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A collection that celebrates romance calls for a hot list of chic drinking establishments imbued with the aura of yesteryear. Maartje Diepstraten who writes the popular Barts Boekje shopping and entertainment tips blog fills us in on some of the world’s most iconic speakeasies.
These days the term ‘speakeasy’ is often used to refer to a trendy cocktail bar that serves luxury on-trend cocktails. The term originates from 1920s America during the Prohibition. The country’s economy was at an all-time low. Poverty made people want to drown their sorrows, so alcohol was forbidden. So were gambling and whoring. Illegal drinking and gambling clubs were therefore created in secret: behind grandma’s curtains, in the cellar, through a short cut at the back of a sewing shop or hidden behind the butcher’s cold room door. The atmosphere was stuffy and sinister and the lighting was poor. The home-distilled alcohol was flowing, the dice were rolling and an underworld feeling hung in the air. In short, all this was all great inspiration for the 2018’s cocktail scene.
PDT, New York, US
One of the most famous speakeasies is PDT in New York, which stands for “Please Don’t Tell”. The irony is that although it is a secret bar, everybody knows about it. The bar is run by the same man who has been responsible for running Gramercy Tavern for the past ten years. The entrance to the bar is an unremarkable telephone box in the East Village covered in graffiti on the inside. Only the extremely lucky or determined manage to get in. Luxury cocktails, greasy hotdogs and beautiful people await those who succeed.
Mr. Smith, Maastricht, Netherlands
Maastricht’s first speakeasy, Mr. Smith, is located in a mysterious vaulted cellar near the up-and-coming district of Wyck. Ring the bell to receive a charming welcome and be taken to your table or space at the bar.
Jigger’s, Ghent, Belgium
The baby fox in the window of this speakeasy is well-known in the city, probably because he represents the sly cocktails mixed by bartenders behind the seemingly locked doors.
Maxie Eisen, Frankfurt, Germany
In the Bahnhofsviertel district of Frankfurt edgy boutiques, bars and restaurants are squeezed into tiny rooms that formerly served as prostitutes’ work rooms. One such restaurant is Maxie Eisen, named after a gangster with German roots who played a significant role in the Hebrew food mafia in Chicago in the 1920s. They have a kosher menu and there is only space for 55 people at a given time.
The Butcher, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is really too small to keep a secret. But The Butcher has almost pulled it off. Behind the cold room door of the burger joint on Albert Cuypstraat there is – surprise! – a small Moulin Rouge style bar.
Ladies & Gents, London, UK
The entrance to this speakeasy is one to remember: you enter through the loo. Yes, a public toilet. The business is the brainchild of William Borrell, one of the most famous shakers in the world.
Midnight Cowboy, Texas, US
If you haven’t made a reservation on this bar’s website, you will have to wait for the red light outside the entrance to come on: this is the sign that walk-ins are welcome. If it doesn’t you’re out of luck, because the bar, which looks very much like an up-market massage salon always delivers a happy ending.
Buck and Breck, Berlin, Germany
The rough area of Berlin has a number of speakeasy bars, the most treasured of which is Buck and Breck. There is enough space for 30 people, which poses a slight problem since there are always around 100 people wanting to get in. The bar is trendy, with a minimalist, Kraftwerk style.
Moonshiner, Paris, France
In Paris’ charming 11th arrondissement, there is a pizzeria. What you can’t see is that the cold room is home to a small bar: a speakeasy with all the Great Gatsby clichés. Cheesy? Yep. Does it work? Yep.