A Guide to the Etiquette and Character Surrounding Speakeasies Pt. 1

The Death of the Speakeasy

What is a Speakeasy without its secrecy? A bar with a quirky entrance.

The term Speakeasy is an evocative concept, or at least, it used to be.  It was Kafka-esque, an unknown behind an unmarked door.

I mean, we’re all aware of their prohibition origins. We all know that they are meant to be a secret, or at least on the hush hush. Yet, when I started caring, I started knowing—and it should never be that easy. I hear about NYC Speakeasies as often as I hear about rallies at NYU…And maybe I need to get my priorities in check (it’s possible isn’t it?), but no I will not take all the blame.

Millennials are entitled, to the point of sniveling sometimes, and no doubt we have good intentions.  This is why everyone has access to Speakeasies, because we think we all deserve it!  As a purist, I’m calling for referendum, a complete shift in the way Speakeasies are talked about, or…may they rest in peace.

  1. As Conversation Topics

The first problem is intrinsic—Speakeasies shouldn’t by any means be a casual topic of conversation. They were once exclusive, arcane, where you go to get a scotch and soda and some form of ‘different’ entertainment. Nowadays, they’re full of schlubs with nice watches.

My friend was in town for a long weekend, and told me that the prior night he’d gone to a Speakeasy in the Lower East Side (his first night in!). He seemed proud, as if he had already penetrated the inner workings of New York. Frankly, this conversation shouldn’t have taken place.

    2. In Social Media

The second problem is social media. Foursquare, and Yelp to be more precise—but Instagram is guilty as well.  There are a deluge–far too many–photos, reviews, and write-ups about these places. Not only is it counterintuitive to have so much publicity surrounding a secret place, it’s a damn abomination.

We have faux speakeasies, speakeasies that are actually named Please Don’t Tell, speakeasies that call themselves speakeasies solely because it’s dark and they have antique decor ‘that recalls the great era of the New Deal.’ You can even search Speakeasy, so that if you’re having difficulty finding it, Maps can instantly clear that up for you. 

    3. Our Entitlement

So, I’m convinced that the third problem is our generation. Our generation is killing everything that was once sacred. Everyone’s seen the pyramid of the Louvre, just as we’ve all seen Machu Picchu dozens and dozens of times. Our generation is killing the swimming pigs in Bahamas. Our generation is fiddling with, re-appropriating, and unearthing everything that once was.

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I’m asking that we save the Speakeasy, by not mentioning it anymore. Please, let it be.

Stay tuned for my proposal…

Con Amor,

Mr. Cohiba

4 Class Alternatives to your Basic Friend the Gin and Tonic

In recent history, the Gin and Tonic has somehow made its way back into the realm of ‘acceptable’ at cocktail bars and parties. I’m here to clarify—the Gin and Tonic is the best worst drink at the bar. Why do I say this? Because it’s reliable, cheap, but is still, at the end of the day, a basic well drink.  It’s the only drink that you can condense into two letters, yell at a bartender over a chaotic club, and they’ll be like, ‘gotcha.’ It has its purposes.

I know some people who try to spice things up by adding cucumber or strawberries to the mix, but honestly, they need to settle down. My boss has a single gin that he designates as ‘his’ gin for ‘his’ gin-tonics, and there’s nothing worse. (kidding)

Learning some tricks for your ordering game is imperative for clambering up that social ladder, because 1. The bartender may not know it, and then you have something to yammer about while they google how to make one. 2. People stare at you in awe. 3. The only genuine reason: there’s nothing satisfying about having that bedrock drink for every night you go out, especially when it’s a G & T.

So, here are four alternate gin cocktails, barring any occasion that comes up.

gin-rickey

Gin Rickey

Out of the four, the Gin Rickey is the mysterious one. The one that rings a bell somewhere far off, but no, your friends have never tried it. It’s best reserved for that hipster pub that prides itself on its cocktails. They may serve truffle mac and cheese and have an actual fireplace. With a tart taste from muddled lime, and a refreshing finish, the Gin Rickey is just a nuance away from your old pal the G & T.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces of Gin 1 lime

Club soda Simple syrup to taste

With a highball glass of ice, begin by adding Gin. Juice the lime, add and drop in the peels. Top off with Club Soda. Add simple syrup and stir to taste.

gimlet

Gimlet

The Gimlet is the regal one, reserved for upscale cocktail houses where you probably won’t see me. It’s exotic, great for catching up with friends that are visiting town, and emphasizing how much you’ve changed since moving to the big city. Served in a true cocktail glass, this emerald of a drink leaves no mystery to why it was Betty Draper’s go-to. The taste is strong, and tart, best had in small sips.

Ingredients:

2 ounces gin 1/2 ounce lime juice

1 lime wedge

tom-collins

Tom Collins

The eldest of the four, the Tom Collins is considered one of the original cocktails. This means that unless you have an experienced vet behind the bar, it’ll turn out nearly unpalatable.  So save this for a bar that you trust. It’s also suited for your friend who uses the verb ‘imbibe.’ You can pontificate your pretensions to each other. The drink can vary from sweet, to sour, to strong depending on how your bartender makes it.

Ingredients:

2 ounces gin 3 ounces club soda

1 ounce lemon juice 1 teaspoon sugar

1 maraschino cherry 1 orange wedge

In an iced shaker, add gin, lemon juice, and sugar. Shake, and strain into a collins glass 3/4 full of ice cubes. Top of with club soda and stir. Drop the cherry and garnish with the orange.

french-75

French 75

Gin and champagne. This drink was created for after-works when you’ve accomplished something big, and find it superfluous to go home before reconvening to celebrate. Try that coveted Midtown bar, and splurge. Your french friend will deny it’s of their descent, that is until they’ve tried it. This drink is the smoothest of the four, and is by far the most festive.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces of Gin 2 teaspoons of sugar

1 1/2 ounces of lemon juice 4 ounces of chilled champagne

Orange slice for garnish

Shake Gin, sugar and lemon juice and pour into a Collins glass.

Top off the glass with champagne, stir and garnish.

Con Amor,

Alexander Cohiba

The Ideal Drink—Tropical Cocktails at the Tiki Bikini in Nassau

Just as there is an ideal drink for each particular environment, it is the environment, in and for itself, which produces the ideal drink,” Mr. Cohiba

A portly, red man sits in a yellow inter tube, buoyed in the middle of impeccable blue waters. It’s a sight of stark contrasts, jarring to the eye from shore.

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Junkanoo, or as the locals call it ‘the long wharf’ is known for it’s sweeping sun-filled strip, like a South beach of the Bahamas. Palms sway overhead as shade, and the crash of the surf is only feet away. Cruise ships port nearby and drop swathes of restless vacationers each day. Shops  open, and the Bahamas is in business as the locals try to pawn wooden carvings, vibrant patterned dresses and massages on tourists. 

Plopped in the center of it all is a seaside shack known as the Tiki bikini hut. Their special of the day reads ‘4 shots and 4 beers for 10 Bahamian dollars,’ in lazy handwriting. The currency exchange is 1 to 1—it’s an amazing deal regardless.

But we’re on vacation, and it’s the down season, so why get hammered drunk when you can relax with a tropical libation.

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After a long trek to the island’s only McDonalds, where I purchased and mixed a McCafe and a Bounty bar Mcflurry, I returned to the beach to see my two comrades snoozing with faces full of sand.  My girlfriend has a habit of saying, ‘I fell asleep,’ every time she wakes up, still half in a dream state–I can’t help but smile at this. We shook our friend Brandon, and told him it was time for some drinks.

We walked up to a small bar area in the center, and almost immediately, the manager zoomed around the corner to greet us. He was a gregarious guy, and seemed to know everyone that sat on his barstools. Pointing at the two bartenders, he said ‘they’ll help you out,’ with a pat and a wink.

When the tourists hurry back to their cruiser,  the shipmates swing by for a quick drink. The locals then call it a day, start pack up their shops and huddle around the hut waiting for service. 

All together we tried these particularly sweet drinks.

img_0631I ordered a Sky Juice, a gin-coconut blend, my girlfriend ordered an orange drink called a Bahama Mama, and Brandon had the classic Pina Colada.

The Sky Juice was the strongest of the three, an interesting drink consisting of gin, coconut water, condensed milk, sugar and cinnamon. The two others are rum based drink–you know the Caribbean people and their rum. The Bahama Mama consists of light and dark rums, pineapple and orange juices shaken together and poured over ice. A Caribbean Pina Colada is pineapple juice, coconut water (as opposed to cream),  and light rum blended into frappe and garnished.

After a couple of these I looked around, and noticed everyone was feeling the island spirits.  The drinks weren’t amazing, but the vibe was just right and enough to carry you through  a velvet sunset. At this place and time, these drinks receive the highest honor of the ideal drink.

Con Amor,

Alexander Cohiba