Local speakeasy celebrates prohibition era 100 years later

The Underground is a speakeasy bar displaying actual relics from the bootlegger era.

The year was 1919. Exactly a century ago, when hangouts and hideaways became speakeasies, otherwise known as places where you could get liquor.

"The temperance movement really did shut down the alcohol in America, so people wanted to go out, they wanted to have fun, and that's where the speakeasies really came into light," said Corbin Cacciapaglia, who manages Underground at the Mob Museum.

The Underground is a speakeasy bar displaying actual relics from the bootlegger era.

"These were the roaring '20s. The Charleston started off that way. The biggest dancing crazes. They also had 24-hour dancing marathons," said Cacciapaglia.

There's also a still and typical drinks served, like the Old Fashioned and the Bees Knees.

Some arrive as they would in the 1920s, for example, hidden in a book -- the inside is cut out in the shape of a flask.

Corbin says it's when mixed drinks became popular, the sweet additives softening the bite of so-called bathtub gins which often tasted, well, bad.

“Moonshines were just essentially grain alcohol that was distilled really, really high proofs just to get people drunk so you wouldn't really know what's going on,” said Cacciapaglia.

The era also coincided with the rise of gangsters. In fact, many speakeasies were run by either mobsters and politicians.

"The mobsters generally speaking were considered civil heroes. They were giving people what they wanted," said Cacciapaglia.

Fast forward 100 years. Speakeasies are popular once again. Not so much for the access to liquor, but for their rich history, and what they represent.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off