Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Speakeasies and secret bars

'In secret' appears to be the hottest way to drink right now. In fact if Boardwalk Empire is anything to go by, this has long been the case here in the States.

It's one of those things that just doesn't translate to the UK, where there's no need to hide your bottle in a brown paper bag. The closest we got to prohibition was in 1736, when the Gin Act imposed a prohibitively high duty on gin. Thanks to mass riots the tax was scrapped within 5 years. Ha! Take that, fun killers.

My first intro to the coolness of clandestine drinking in the US was courtesy of the fabulous and all-knowing Erinn V. She took us to La Descarga, in deepest darkest Hollywood. At first sight the man on the street with the clipboard was guarding access to a flight of lino-covered stairs which reminded me of my old dentist in Kentish Town.
Not the La Descarga entrance, but quite similar

At the stairs you arrive in another time and place altogether: the bedroom of a devoutly Catholic lady of many decades ago. Step into her wardrobe, as if heading for Narnia, and you emerge on the other side into a gorgeous little hall of a rum bar. It's an absolute gem and since I have left LA I don't mind sharing the secret (sorry Erinn...).
Inside La Descarga

New York may be a different matter. I plan on exploring a few more of these drinking dens, but am not sure I'll be revealing the details of all of them. Just in case my massive readership rushes in and ruins the hush-hush vibe.

For example, I know of a fun bar called PDT, which stands for Please Don't Tell. It's accessed through a phone booth in a hot dog place, but due to its name I will not reveal which hot dog place.

This last weekend we hit Cienfuegos, which we had heard was a bit of a hidden gem.. It was fun, charmingly shabbily Cuban, and with all the good rums available. But way too easy to find and to enter. So I don't mind spilling the beans on that one.

My hunt for the best in secret boozing continues. An old drinking buddy of mine, who used to smuggle bottles of vodka into the rather hip and expensive Highgate, to oil the wheels of our shameless flirting with the hot - or so we thought in those days - bar men, moves to NY next week. We are starting her introduction to NYC at The Campbell Apartment, a bar in an old flat in Grand Central. It's not that secret - but after that I promise you it'll be onwards and underground-wards for us.
The Campbell Apartment

There's everything to play for now. My Wondertwin arrives for a vacation pretty soon, and she'll settle for nothing less than hard liquor in illicit surroundings. Thanks to the research I am assiduously carrying out - and to her husband* - we should be able to hit a few quality speakeasies pretty hard.

Look out secret bars, we're coming to find you!

*Officially one of the world's finest husbands, not only because he does such a good job staying home with t'bairn while we sip wine, but also for his services to amazing pastrymaking.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant - thanks Isadora. Looking forward to visiting all those places very soon XXX