Over the holidays, I was passing through Atlanta and had the opportunity to visit Prohibition, a craft cocktail speakeasy in the Buckhead district. Although I get to Atlanta every year or so, I had no current knowledge of the cocktail scene there and had never heard of Prohibition until about four hours before I went. The tale of how I found it and got in is worth telling by way of introduction.
If you don’t know what a Modern Speakeasy is, it is a bar that has some sort of hidden and possibly restricted entrance point. They aim to evoke the secret bars of the Prohibition Era, where guys like Spencer Tracy had to give the doorman the password through the little brass grill in the heavily fortified door. The original speakeasies were set up to avoid detection by police and as a last resort, delay their entrance. Today’s speakeasies are set up to evoke a feeling of subterfuge and safely scandalous behavior, while sometimes keeping out the riff-raff.
So how’d you get in, Doug?
Twitter, despite being the worst time-suck in the universe, does have its uses. At two in the afternoon, I tweeted that I needed a good place to slake my thirst in Atlanta. Several tweeps responded in minutes with suggestions. Having not had a chance to try a speakeasy before (I missed out on Modern Speakeasy granddaddy, PDT during my last New York visit), I chose Prohibition. A few more tweets and DMs, and I had what I needed to get in.
I’ll get to how to get in below. When you enter Prohibition, you find an intimate, well-appointed room, with a dark wood bar and a variety of seating about the room. While the barback is fairly vintage in design, most of the decor and furniture is more in line with a modern high-end steakhouse than a 1920′s private club. Since it was a Wednesday, there was a seat down at the end of the bar where I could slide in, but there was a good level of business throughout my stay.
I’ll take a moment here to mention that Prohibition is a cigar bar. If you are virulently against tobacco smoke, you won’t like it, so don’t go. More to the point, don’t go and then bitch about it, as a bunch of idiots apparently have done on Yelp!. I don’t smoke myself, though I love the smell of a good cigar. But regardless, the smokiness here is not oppressive, merely pleasantly ambient.
When I slid into a seat, bartender Tom McGuire approached and offered me the menu. Prohibition lists its cocktails as “prescriptions”, sorting them by base spirit. The offerings are a nice mix of mostly classics, some twists, and a few I had not heard of. The bar is not one of those craft joints which is stocked with every bottle you can imagine, but they had pretty much whatever you needed. It’s a place to explore recipes, not brands.
Likewise, Prohibition does not fetishise ice. They work with a giant chunk of clear ice (and a pick) for drinks on the rocks, while using standard, good machine ice for chilling. Frankly, as a customer, I’m just fine with saving a bit on my cocktail in return for giving up the privilege of having it shaken with a beautiful chunk of ice I can’t see in the tin, that will only be thrown out before I’m served. That said, the huge, irregular chunk of clear ice in my Rum Old-Fashioned was beautiful.
Tom was a super bartender, who, in addition to his prodigious mixing skills, had the most important characteristic in a good bartender for me: He likes to talk drinks. If I had any trouble at all with him, it was because I like a good argument. And it was hard from me to get him to disagree with me about much of anything. Either he’s too agreeable, or his thoughts on cocktails across the board are the same as mine… and that just can’t be good for him!
The one area he disagreed with me was this: I didn’t believe he could make me a really good Ramos Gin Fizz nearly as fast as he said he could. Not only was he right, but he taught me the trick of doing it, and it blew my mind. Tom’s method is to assemble the main ingredients in the shaker without ice. I always dry shake mine as well, but he took the spring from a disassembled hawthorne strainer and added it to the shaker. This acts as a giant whisk and you can get an incredible foam in no time at all. He taught me an additional trick with the soda siphon, but you can go see him to find out about it.
So, how do you get in to Prohibition?
You make a phone call.
Prohibition is located in a mixed retail and restaurant development. In the back of the lower courtyard is the door to what appears to be a defunct antique shop. Beside the door is a large red
Tardis phone booth. You simply enter the booth, dial the number on the old fashioned rotary dial phone, and a secret door in the back wall of the phone booth opens up. (I think this is an additional barrier to entry. If you are too young to know what the hell this whole “rotary dial” thingy is, you are too young for this bar.)
So what’s the number?
It’s a secret.
Come on, you can tell me!
No, they’d really prefer that people who know not go putting it on the internet and stuff. That would kind of defeat the purpose.
This post (and you) are worthless….
Seriously, if you are in Atlanta and are the kind of person who would enjoy Prohibition, you can likely find the number from someone you know. If you can’t, or live out of Atlanta and would like to visit Prohibition when in town, email me. Chances are, if you read this blog and actually take the effort to write me for the number, you are the kind of folks that they’d welcome in, so I’ll probably give you the number.
UPDATE: People keep putting their requests for Prohibition’s number here in the comments. I may not see these all the time. Here’s the best way to get my attention: Follow me on Twitter, and tweet an indirect request for the number. I’ll follow back and DM you the latest number that I’ve got. Or you can email me directly, but don’t ask for the number in the comments. Instead come back and give me your thoughts on Prohibition in the comments!
I highly recommend that you try out Prohibition should you get the chance. You’ll enjoy yourself. Just don’t show up thinking you can get in without the number. Twice during the time I was there, someone tried to bang on the door in hopes of this. Everyone within just looked at each other, laughed, and returned to their drinks.