Did Gossip Girl Kill The Speakeasy?

By Derek Brown
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Photo by Beadmobile/Flickr CC


I got a flurry of text messages a few weeks ago when Chuck Bass, a fictional character on CW's Gossip Girl, decided on the show to open a speakeasy called The Gimlet, serving Prohibition-era cocktails. You see, one year ago I helped open a bar that serves Prohibition-era cocktails called The Gibson. Certainly, an OMG is appropriate here.

Now I'm sure the names are simply coincidental, and the Gimlet is actually a pretty good name after all, but the speakeasy trend that has swept the continent may have just jumped the shark. Whenever an authentic trend is co-opted by teenie-boppers and dumbed-down programming, the worry is that charlatans will abound. When the Disney channel has Hannah Montana drinking mocktails at a gin-joint then all of a sudden the allure of sneaking into an unmarked door has lost all of its fizz.

I appreciate "speakeasies" for the substantive quality they have brought to drinking.

But getting a good drink from a qualified bartender without suffering throngs of beer-soaked college students or post-post-adolescents downing Red Bull and vodka, is here to stay. The thing to understand is that you can't walk into a restaurant and just plop down where you want. You generally have hosts. You have to wait for your food. The places that have been dubbed speakeasies are following the same model, but with a little style.

Sure I'm tired of fedoras and vests, and perhaps we'd be better off sometimes without all the pomp and circumstance, but then again collared shirts with the restaurant logo and steins of light beer have worn thin on me even more. I appreciate "speakeasies" for the substantive quality they have brought to drinking. Without a few pioneers in this genre you'd still be sipping Cosmos and seeking out-of-the-way hotel lobbies for a civilized drink.

So I have a simple proposal. Let's not call bars that restrict seating or reference pre-Prohibition cocktails and decor speakeasies anymore. I say this; let's call speakeasies "cocktail bars." That's what they are. And getting a good cocktail is timeless.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/11/did-gossip-girl-kill-the-speakeasy/29736/