"I situate nightlife in the city's shift to postindustrialism and the increased importance of services, culture, tourism, and creativity in its economic and social life. In New York, of course, nightlife has always been central to the life and image of the city and its neighborhoods as well as the identities of its inhabitants. I've argued that we can understand important urban changes--gentrification, identity, immigration--by looking at the city's nightlife spaces. Nightlife during the industrial era was always peripheral to the economic vitality of cities (like culture and consumption). But today this has changed, and things like nightlife are important for urban growth, or at least that's how cities treat it. Meanwhile with this nightlife culture has also changed, most epseically in the rise of nightlife for the middle class. There are still places for elites and the working class of course, but I think the urban middle class has become the target audience."
--Richard Ocejo, Ph.D
The speakeasy as a public and, as Prof. Ocejo argues, a nightlife space is integral to the development of urban culture. Particularly of note, the speakeasy is at a unique intersection of mediation that would seem to resist mainstream mediation. Drinking alcohol during Prohibition as well as at other times in our history has been considered transgressive. However, that transgression led to developments in the arts and social life that reverberate to this date as entrepreneurs try to recreate those space while either appropriating contemporary technology and culture or outright resisting it.
- The original Cotton Club saw such African-American musicians as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and Ella Fitzgerald play there in its heyday during the 1930s. It in particular, along with its cousins downtown like the Onyx on 52nd, catered to the popularization of jazz music, as it was attached both to sociopolitical resistance and having a good time. (Historical Speakeasies)
by k.opam, at Dec. 20, 2010, 5:21 p.m.
- The Raines Law Room's look and feel dates back to before Prohibition. Passed in 1896, the Raines Law was meant to keep sobriety on Sundays by prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays except by hotels. To circumvent the law, saloon owners bought hotel licenses after furnishing small bedrooms. In this way, they were able to sell their alcohol undaunted.
Today, this hotel makes use of the story to create a unique bar look, where the bar itself is styled after the island in a rather ritzy kitchen. (Contemporary Speakeasies)
by k.opam, at Dec. 20, 2010, 5:10 p.m.
- "BY now, most of the reviews of the decade-that-just-was have been filed, and a consensus has emerged: If not "the worst decade ever," as Time magazine put it, the '00s were awful.
Unless, that is, you spent the decade drinking. That sounds like a joke but isn't, because among all the things that didn't improve in the last 10 years -- macro stuff like the global economy, geopolitical stability, the environment, etc. -- one thing, admittedly micro, did improve: the drinks we drank, for pleasure or, considering the above, analgesia.
If you observed the '00s from a barstool, and limited your reading to cocktail menus (as I did, as author of this column for almost four years), you'd be forgiven for deeming the decade a bona fide golden age. For my final column, then, a toast: to 10 years of fizzes, slings, juleps, sours, cobblers and rickeys, to a time when the avant-garde seemed to shift almost nightly, to the best decade in generations.
We greeted the decade with sugary, vodka-based "-tinis" -- which, despite their suffixed claim to noble descent, were in some ways extensions of the neon drinks of the '80s: alcoholic candy.
Yet a quiet revolution was already under way. Building upon the work of Dale DeGroff, the former Rainbow Room bartender, young bartenders, casting aside process mixers, were gleaning inspiration from their counterparts in restaurant kitchens and perusing antique cocktail books like scholars combing the Dead Sea scrolls. The first half of the decade saw a wave of creativity and experimentation come crashing through barrooms in cities like New York and San Francisco and Portland, Ore., followed, in the decade's second half, by a counterblast of earnest classicism." (Media Pathways)
by k.opam, at Dec. 20, 2010, 4:57 p.m.