The 18th amendment is over and done, but Backroom NYC
still sticks to its roots. It doesn’t get any more authentic than this, because
this bar has been a speakeasy since Prohibition. Places like these, that have
stuck around through the ages, know what their patrons are after. And boy, does
this place deliver.
Step down through the back entrance to what
was once Ratner’s Deli and you’ll be taking a walk into one of only two
original speakeasies still runningin use in New York City. Just thinking about
the things this place musta seen from then to now gets me all excited. Talk
about a historical experience. Even if you’re not a total history buff like me,
there’s something for everyone here.
It’s lush, it’s dark, it’s high end. It’s in
an old basement, so you go downstairs and start to drink and socialize, and
maybe even “conduct business” like the mobsters of old, and it feels like no
time’s passed at all. You can drink a beer out of a paper bag or hard liquor
out of a coffee mug. While having a drink in a coffee mug might usually just
illicit nostalgia for the college years, it feels necessary here in case the
place gets busted. Why officer! This is chamomile tea!
This New York City gem is a well-known secret
– you can even find the password for the week on their website, but don’t
assume that means that this place doesn’t keep a few tricks up its sleeve.Run
your eyes around the room, and you’ll see scenes from the movies, places of
business from the old days, and maybe even the secret room!
We’ve already discussed the basic Shrimp Cocktail,
but if you’re looking for a fancier, more complex-tasting seafood cocktail,
what you’re probably looking for is the Mexican Mixed Seafood Cocktail. It
sounds really pricey, but if you have a reliable source for seafood, this
cocktail can really make an impression on guests or as a special occasion for
someone who loves seafood and cocktails. In fact, often these cocktails are
served as part of a larger seafood-themed meal. If you’re looking to host a
house party or special event with this type of theme, you can compare quality seafood delivery services online.
There are endless variations on a theme when it comes to the
Mexican seafood cocktail. Looking for a basic shrimp cocktail with that extra
kick that the Mexican spice palette is known for? Try this recipe from Allrecipes. With
that being said, if you’re willing and able to source more than one type of
seafood, this is the personal cocktail recipe we love best. Makes 4 cocktails
(or two doubles).
- 1.5 cups of “clamato juice”—1 cup tomato juice + ½ cup clam juice
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ½ cup lime juice
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- ½ cup of your favorite tequila
- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
- ¼ cup finely chopped white onion
- 1/2 lb medium shrimp
- 1/2 lb lobster meat
- 1/2 lb lump crab meat
- 1/2 lb calamari
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Cook or add precooked seafood to a large bowl. In another
large bowl, add the clamato juice, lime juice, hot sauce, tequila, onions,
cilantro, and garlic. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Pour these
ingredients over the seafood, cover and let chill, preferably overnight.
We love speakeasies because they broke the all
the rules. Alcohol may have been the lifeblood of the speakeasy, but The Red Phone
Booth celebrates a vice of a different kind. While you’ll find
plenty of quality cocktails here, once you step through the secret door and
enter this fine establishment, the name of the game is cigars. In their state
of the art cigar counter, you’ll find not one, but two house cigars.
I just love the way speakeasies get dolled up
for modern times. This place, Red Phone Booth, is drawn on the old luxuries
while giving its all on the technology front. Looking around, you’ll feel more
like you’re in a secret lounge for the worlds elite, especially if you get on
board with their membership plan and use their biometric scanner to enter.
Wooden interiors, plush leather chairs, and a roaring fire gives it a cozy
feeling while being visibly, undeniably high end.
Smoking not your thing? Not a problem. The air
in the smoking areas is totally replaced every four minutes, and they have
chairs with triple lumbar support. Biometric scanners allow entry to all
locations. Cigars might be the special twinkle in their eye, but they’re still
friendly to alcohol. Take a whiskey tasting course or attend one of their
talks, and you’ll feel less like you’re in a bar and more like you’re attending
a meeting at a culture house –a place intent on keeping its secrets but willing
to share its shared knowledge with a select few. No wonder exclusivity is such
But seriously, they like to keep their secrets
around here. They don’t take reservations and they don’t give out the code to
get in to just anybody. Part of the fun is getting to know someone with access.
Planning a trip? Maybe you can get an in with a tasting event.
Lots of times you’ll see a bar that’s trying
to recreate a “prohibition experience”. You know what I’m talking about.
There’s the requesite red velvet interiors, leather chairs, artwork on the
walls featuring mysterious ladies. That’s all fine and good, and you’ll never
hear any complaints out of me when it’s done well. But still, there’s always
that desire to see something new. When someone adds a fresh spin on the
favorite theme, then there’s no better watering hole in town.
Now, most people don’t picture loud and proud Miami as taking part of the secretive glamour of the roaring twenties, but Prohibition Miami figured out how to make the two work together in a way that hits the spot. You’ve still got the typical low lighting and moody color scheme, but along with the typical reds and blacks, they’ve also thrown in lush oranges and deep greens that round out the color scheme. The combination makes it feel less like a tourist spot, and more like a local favorite.
I can’t say it enough: food is a big deal
here. The place is two stories, and there’s a reason they put the restaurant on
the first floor. You won’t find a lackluster dish. Everything looks beautiful
and mouth-watering, while also very refined. The actual cocktail lounge of this
speakeasy, aptly named the 18th, is on the second floor. The live music drifts
up and down between the open floors, but there’s a totally different atmosphere
up top. Upstairs is more social, with long, luxurious open seating that gives
you the freedom to mingle or group off.
There’s always something new to try here,
whether it’s the rotating dinner specials, the live entertainment, or the
ever-present possibility that the whole place might break out into a roaring
good dance party.
It seems to me that the place is more focused
on the achieving the speakeasy theme rather than making you feel like you’re
actually sipping on an illicit cocktail, but it achieved what it was after.
Come dressed to the nines and sip on a prohibition cocktail, and watch as
locals and tourists mingle.
Prawn Cocktails, also known as Shrimp Cocktail, swept the party scene at the turn of the century. This seafood dish was the most popular hors d’oeuvre in Great Britain in the 1960s and into the late 1980s, but the United States picked up on the trend decades earlier. Some sources link the serving of the dish in cocktail glasses to the ban on alcoholic drinks during the 1920s prohibition era United States. The dish is simple but was reserved for only the most sophisticated: it consists of shelled, cooked prawns in a cocktail sauce service in a glass. Though many Americans now buy pre-made, store-bought cocktail sauce, this homemade recipe is a simple, fast, and delicious way to elevate any dinner party you want to throw.
- 10 cups cold water
- 2 medium carrots, quartered
- 2 stalks of celery, quartered
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 1 head garlic, halved
- 1 lemon, halved
- ½ bunch parsley
- 5 springs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound medium or large shrimp, rinsed and in the shell
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
- 4 teaspoons horseradish, trained
- ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Hot sauce of choice, to taste
- Place the water, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, lemon, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves into a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer, then place the cover on top (slightly ajar) and cook for twenty minutes.
- Drop the shrimp into the simmering liquid and turn off the heat. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until they curl and turn punk—between two and three minutes depending on the size of the shrimp.
- Drain the shrimp and cool to room temperature. Then, peel the shrimp and remove the vein along the back curve. Refrigerate if not serving right away.
- Combine ketchup, lemon, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce in a small mixing bowl. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- To serve, bring shrimp to room temperature for twenty minutes. Put cocktail sauce in a medium bowl and surround with shrimp. For individual glasses, pour cocktail sauce into a cocktail glass and place shrimp around the rim. Garnish with lemon and serve.
No prohibition-era cocktail menu would be complete without a Bee’s Knees, a classic made with Gin, fresh lemon juice, and honey. The name, as you may have guessed, comes from the prohibition-era slang, meaning “the best.” As with many cocktails from this time in history, the Bee’s Knees was invented as a way to hide the scent and flavor of poor quality homemade alcohols—in this case, bathtub gun. The addition of honey was previously seen as bizarre; cocktails of this era instead used plain sugar. Now, drinkers don’t have to do much by way of covering up the alcohol taste, but the combination of lemon and honey was built to last. For a fun twist, try topping yours with a float of dry champagne.
- 2 oz gin
- ¾ oz lemon juice
- ¾ oz honey
- Combine gin, lemon juice, and honey in a shaker.
- Add ice to container and shake vigorously.
- Strain into large, chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel. For some extra glamour, top with a dry champagne float and enjoy.
This simple cocktail can be made easier with a few honey-related twists. If your honey is too thick, it may be diluted (1:1) with warm water to thin the consistency. If you want to up the sweetness, dilute your honey (1:1) with simple syrup instead of water. For an added twist, add a sprig of basil as garnish instead of the traditional lemon peel.
A classic party food for the ages, Deviled Eggs date as far back as ancient Rome. However, the dish gained worldwide popularity in the early 20th century, making its way onto party platters around America. Also known as stuffed eggs, Russian eggs, and dressed eggs, this dish involves hard-boiled eggs that have been shelled, cut in half, and filled with a paste. The paste is most often made from the egg yolks from the hard-boiled eggs mixed with other ingredients, such as mayonnaise and mustard. Generally served cold and as a side dish or appetizer, this popular food is simple, delicious, and a classic served at the House of Shields.
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise
- ¼ cup mayonnaise (full fat)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon white vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Paprika to garnish
- Once peeled and halved, scoop the egg yolks out of the hard-boiled eggs and deposit into a large mixing bowl. Set aside the egg whites.
- Add the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, and salt to the yolks. If desired, add pepper to taste.
- Mash the ingredients together with a fork or potato masher until smooth.
- For a quick shortcut, use a tablespoon to deposit the mixture back into the egg white halves. For a better presentation, load the egg yolk mash into a piping bag. Squeeze the yolk mixture into the egg whites.
- Garnish with paprika and optional cilantro.
- For traditional serving, chill for one to two hours before enjoying with friends and family.
Traditionally served cold, Vichyssoise is a thick soup made of boiled and puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream, and chicken stock. Nobody is certain of this classic soup’s origin—though Julia Child called it an “American invention,” historians debate its roots in French cuisine. A similar potato and leek soup recipe was created in 1869 by the French chef Jules Gouffé, but another French chef—Louis Diat, based at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City—is credited with its reinvention. Though it is traditionally served cold, I can also be eaten hot.
The recipe is simple, easy, and timeless.
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium potatoes
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
4 fresh chives
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Clean and slice the leeks, discarding the green ends. Cut the potatoes into small cubes and finely chop the leeks.
- Add leeks to the butter and let sweat for five minutes. Stop sweating if they begin to take on color. Add the potato cubes and cook for another two minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add chicken broth to pot, stir, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, cooking on low heat for around 35 minutes—until the leeks and potatoes are very soft. Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes.
- In small batches (1-2 cups at a time), puree the soup using a high speed in your blender. When finished, return the soup to the cooking pot.
- Whisk in cream and nutmeg, then season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Return to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook an additional five minutes. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add more broth.
- Transfer soup to a mixing bowl and chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. When the soup is at room temperature, cover in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerate to cool.
- Season to taste, top with chives, and serve in chilled bowls.
Named for the inimitable John D. Rockefeller, this recipe was created in a New Orleans kitchen in 1899. Jules Alciatore developed the dish to address a shortage of escargot; the locally-available oysters provided a suitable substitute. The dish is characterized by a special green sauce and the inclusion of bread crumbs, which are then baked or broiled. The green sauce recipe has never been revealed in an official capacity, but it likely includes a purée of green vegetables, parsley, celery, chives, and capters.
Simple but indulgent, this is a great way to eat oysters.
18 fresh oysters (on the half shell)
3 tbs of butter
6 tbs of finely-chopped fresh spinach leaves
1.5 tbs finely-chopped onion
1.5 tbs finely-chopped parsley
2.5 tbs breadcrumbs
Tabasco sauce to taste
½ tsp of Pernod (or another anise-flavored spirit)
½ tsp salt
Lemon wedges (for garnish)
- Use an oyster knife to open the shells and remove the oysters. Discard the top shells, but scrub and dry the bottoms. Drain the oysters over a bowl to reserve excess liquids.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the spinach, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, Tabasco Sauce, Pernod, and salt. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Press this mixture through a sieve and let cool. You may make this mixture ahead of time and keep refrigerated until use.
- Preheat your broiler. In the meantime, line an ovenproof plate with a layer of rock salt (1” thick). Set oysters in the rock salt, placing a bit of the reserved liquid on each oyster. Then, spoon an equal amount of the prepared spinach mixture over each oyster, spreading to the rim of the shell. Add breadcrumbs.
- Broil for approximately 5 minutes (or until the edges of the oysters have curled and the topping begins to bubble).
- Garnish serving plates with parsley springs and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.
The Sazerac is a New Orleans variation of a cognac or whiskey cocktail. Traditionally, this cocktail is a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and sugar. Though the original recipe called for cognac, an insect epidemic destroyed several French vineyards, resulting in a switch to rye whiskey. This is the oldest-known American cocktail, originating in the pre-Civil War American south. It should be served straight up in a rocks glass.
1 sugar cube
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz cognac or rye whiskey
½ oz absinthe
- Use the absinthe to rinse a chilled rocks glass. Discard any excess and set aside.
- In a mixing glass, muddle the sugar cube and both bitters. Add the rye, fill with ice, and stir.
- Strain drink into the prepared glass.
- Garnish with a twisted lemon peel.