Last night I set out with my friend Bri on a mission to find a speakeasy, Bathtub Gin & Co., tucked away in an alley in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. I had heard, if you're lucky enough to actually find it, you won't want to leave.
Speakeasy is the term that was used during Prohibition for an establishment that illegally sold alcoholic beverages. One of the legends is that Kate Hester, who ran a saloon just outside of Pittsburgh, would hush rowdy customers by saying “Speak easy, boys! Speak easy!” The term caught on and thus the name, speakeasy. There are a few of these establishments in Seattle today. Legal, of course.
Bri and I agreed ahead of time that we wouldn't ask for directions. If we were back in the prohibition days, we surely wouldn't be asking. We were going on little information; a general location down an alley behind some apartments, we were looking for a heavy wood door and a small brass sign affixed to a brick building. And we were searching for it in the dark on a rainy night.
Approaching the alley, we made our way through a swarm of people that appeared to be up to nothing but trouble. Quickly walking past them, purposely not making eye contact, we dodged into the deserted, dark alley. Seeing nothing but doors with chains and graffiti, we made our way out and onto a side street.
Thinking we must have missed it, we turned around and walked the same dark alley. As we were walking, I sensed someone behind me so I turned around and saw a questionable character walking with his hands in his pockets. Surely this man was going to mug us I feared. Oprah warned me about paying attention to these senses.
I quickly devised a plan of attack in my head involving my umbrella and high heels that would bring him to his knees, pleading for mercy. Oprah would have been proud. Thankfully I didn't have to execute as the man skirted into one of the graffiti laden doors. And who was I kidding? The skinny jeans I was wearing were a tad tight to be trying any karate moves.
We found ourselves at the opposite side street still having not found this mystical wood door. I was beginning to feel as if I was in Florence again. Endlessly roaming the streets for a hidden treasure I'd never find.
As we crossed the street, a woman appearing to be on meth was yelling at me about wanting contacts. CONTACTS!! CONTAAACTS!! She screamed in my ear. I wasn't sure if she needed contacts for her eyes or contacts for her next fix but I sure as hell wasn't about to stick around to find out.
On the opposite side the street we spotted the apartment building it was supposed to be behind so we rounded the corner to yet another alley. I felt we were getting warmer as this alley actually had street lights and other people walking about. Much less on the scary level than the first alley.
At last. We found the infamous wood door and the brass sign. Walking in, you can choose either upstairs or downstairs. The bar was upstairs but all the seats were occupied so we walked down the wood stairs to a little cove like atmosphere. I felt like I was in anyplace but Seattle and a time period far, far away from 2011.
A variety of mismatched small tables and chairs are set up in the main room. The decor consists of old photographs lining the brick walls and a white ceramic bathtub perched on a ledge. Walk down a narrow hallway and you'll find another small room with a couple of table and chairs and a couch. The only things missing in this beloved find are flappers, fedoras and Al Capone. I suddenly had the urge to smoke a cigarette but then I remembered the fact that I don't actually smoke.
Drinks are named for their prohibition era fame and are strong enough to quench a thirsty outlaw in pursuit of a buzz before finding himself part of a police raid. Feeling risky, I rolled the dice and went with the Dealer's Choice where you choose your base well liquor, add sweet, sassy (anything goes) or savory. I chose vodka and sassy and left the rest to the bartender. Bri opted for the Billygoat Snuggler, a mix of rye, creme de cocoa, green Chartreuse and Punt e Mes. Sounded fancy.
I ended up with a concoction of grapefuit and
amaro topped off with an edible flower. Which by the
way was totally disgusting. The flower, not the drink.
Our table, tucked under
the wood staircase.
I found this speakeasy to be a post prohibition gem. Definitely one of Seattle's best kept secrets. I can assure you there is no urban legend here. It's true that if you are lucky enough to find it, you won't want to leave. But trust me. The drinks are so strong you'll have to. At some point. And FYI, it's much easier to find your way out of the alley.