The Best Prohibition Cocktail Bars

Prohibition occurred in the 1920s, when it became illegal to manufacturer, transport, sell or consume alcohol. The law was created to try and solve some of the antisocial problems that many countries were experiencing. In the end, it led to the creation of an alcoholic black market. Bars had to be very subtle in their appearance, but due to the lack of enforcement, a number of “speakeasy” establishments were able to successfully trade.
Despite the ban ending around the 1930s, the influence of the era still remains fashionable. The trend has become even more prominent recently, as a number of small, secretive bars have opened around the world. Drinkers are encouraged to remember a time when alcohol was forbidden, and hard to come by, and therefore more exciting and exclusive. Despite these bars becoming more popular, there are only a few that pull off the trend well.

Worship Street Whistling Shop, London

This characteristic bar is set in a cellar in Shoreditch. It is unusually decorated with vintage bathtubs, ancient bookcases, and lots of candlelight. Despite its eccentric appearance, and antisocial opening hours, it is a busy little bar, and it is easy to see why. The bar staff appreciate the history and manufacturing process behind every drink they sell. Many of the spirits and liqueurs sold here are produced in-house, with a special focus on gin. A variety of cocktails are available to showcase the WSWS gin, and the large library of vintage gins that are available. The tucked-away bar is definitely one to visit if you are a gin connoisseur.

Bathtub Gin, New York

New York, the home of the speak-easy bar. There are so many prohibition bars in the Big Apple that it takes a truly spectacular one to stand out. Bathtub Gin is such a bar. It takes its name from the term that was coined during the era. It refers to the manufacturer of spirits illegally in a bathtub or other household object. The spirit of choice was usually gin, and the resulting drink was so unpalatable that bartenders were encouraged to mix it up with other, non-alcoholic drinks to create a liquid that would be nice to drink. Hence the rise of the cocktail.

The cocktails in this bar are strictly pre-prohibition, but the spirit used is much tastier and professionally produced. It has many interesting quirks, including a hidden entrance that can only be accessed by finding the loose wall panel in Stone Street Coffee Company. Waitresses are dressed in full flapper costume, and jazz musicians and burlesque shows provide regular entertainment. A gold plated bathtub provides an interesting focal point, while large armchairs and fringed lampshades complete the vintage décor. Reservations are recommended.

Grandma’s, Sydney

Prohibition in Sydney had more to do with the criminalisation of cocaine. However, heavy restrictions on the sale of alcohol were put in place which contributed to the uprise in crime in the same era. Sydney still pays homage to the 20s with a variety of speak-easy bars, but Grandma’s is one of the most authentic. It resembles a tatty living room, with faded furniture and a cosy atmosphere. However, it boasts an extensive drinks menu which will keep customers visiting time and time again. It is hidden away underneath a guitar shop on Clarence Street.

More to explore

Bartender's top tip

Like cooking, making cocktails is a culinary art that benefits from tasting and adjusting. Before serving, taste your cocktail with a straw or spoon and adjust if necessary. Maybe it needs a touch more sweetness, a bit more acidity to brighten it up, or a dilution adjustment. Personalize each drink to your liking, and don't be afraid to stray from the recipe to create something that suits your taste perfectly.

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