The Top Secret History of the Speakeasy

During the 1920s a certain law was passed, a certain law that proved incredibly unpopular… the prohibition of alcohol. In fact the law was so unpopular that many people refused to accept it, and instead took a rebellious turn. And so the speakeasy was born.

These top secret bars began popping up across 1920s America, in underground basements, disused buildings and carefully concealed spots. But they weren’t as easily accessible as you might think. Those seeking entry would need to know a secret codeword or a special knock. In some cases they would even need a special membership card.  Such measures were put in place to keep pesky government agents out, and ensure the secret of the speakeasy was protected. And getting alcohol into the bars was no mean feat either, drinks had to be transported in hip flasks, coconuts, hot water bottles and even garden hoses!

Once inside guests would be free to experience the dark, devious and very exciting drinking den; they’d dance the night away to jazz bands as they indulged in prohibited liquor behind closed doors.

The word ‘speakeasy’ can be traced back to a bartenders’ term heavily used in this era. Bartenders would whisper the words “speak easy” into a patron’s ear when serving them alcohol, so they knew to keep the secret.

Many creative slang words became popular during this time spoken so as not to raise suspicion from prying Government ears, these included:

Blind Pig, Gin Mill or Juice Joint – Speakeasy
Blotto, Canned, Fried or Spifflicated – Drunk
Bootleg, Coffin Varnish, Hooch, Giggle Water or Moonshine – Illegal liquor
The Bee’s Knees or Cat’s Meow – Something splendid

If you’d like to take a step back in time to experience the speakeasy for yourself join us this Christmas at Tatton Park, which is to become a Speakeasy Ball for the festive season. Prepare for a night of incredible forbidden drinks, fantastic entertainment and pure fun. You won’t even need a password to get in!