By EMILY WOOD
Speakeasy style restaurants and bars are cropping up from Chinatown, to the Upper East Side, to Brooklyn. A quick Google search reveals a host of 1920s-inspired establishments in the heart of the city—Apothéke, Sons of Essex, The Richardson, Bathtub Gin, among others. What makes them so popular among the young crowd?
Having good food isn’t enough,” says Aamir Saigol, a 20-something London transplant who enjoys exploring the city. “When I go out, I want to go to a place that has great décor, an intimate ambiance, and something really special about their cocktails. Going out is expensive, so it should be a whole experience when you do go.”
So what’s the trick to getting those young whippersnapper, Facebook-savvy, hipster-chic Millennials in the door? Provide an experience that caters to exactly the kind of all-inclusive experience that they want.
The modern speakeasy has taken this to heart. They attract a young crowd through their décor, farm-to-table food, and signature cocktails whipped up by mixologists—because being a bartender is so passé these days—using fresh fruits, bitters, and absinthe spirits as a nod to the prohibition vibe. Many feature covert entrances that send customers on a hunt through back streets because where’s the fun in just hopping out of a taxi?
Ultimate Millennial Must-Have Experience Checklist
- An Innovative Menu
- Farm-to-table food is always a hit.
- Fresh, fun, and imaginative menu items
- Signature Cocktails
- Use absinth, bitters, and other classic ingredients as a nod to the nostalgic 1920’s
- Incorporate fresh fruits and herbs
- Set yourself apart from the rest. The Richardson prides itself on having “the largest in the Greenpoint / Williamsburg neighborhood and we regularly feature hard to find amaros, eau de vies & American whiskies.”
- Apothéke offers mixology classes themed around the 20’s to teach classic drinks using absinthe and fresh ingredients
- Make it mysterious: an elusive entrance
- As Apothéke writes on its website, “The entire experience from wandering down a hidden street to find the entrance, to tasting the first sip of a specialty cocktail made with exotic herbs and fruits – is a privilege,” though women in stilettos might beg to differ.
- Cristina Civale, a young Argentinean writer who recently visited Apothéke while in New York says, “Its secret and exclusive in the darkness of the most hidden street in Chinatown. I loved the complete idea. Try to get past the wood door and you will be in paradise.”
- Unique Design
- “People love feeling that they are in the know and have a bit of unique knowledge. There is also a bit of fantasy and excitement at play when another world is discovered behind an innocuous wall panel or unmarked alley door,” says Kristina O’Neal of the prestigious AvroKo design firm that designed Beauty and Essex.
- Use antique items for an authentic feel
- Have a theme in mind. Son’s of Essex uses a Bowery Boys meets Gangs of New York theme as a nod to NYC history.
- Patrick Prudent of the exceedingly popular Beauty Essex says “we want customers to feel like they’re inside of a jewelry box in every room that they’re in. Each room here has its own theme to it—for example this is the main dinning room that is peacock themed.”
- That Special Feeling
- Millennials, the generation raised to embrace uniqueness, want to feel special. The modern speakeasy accomplishes this through its secret entrance—only those who are part of the “in-club” know about it.
- And champagne in the bathroom never hurts! Prduent says, “That’s why women get free champagne in the bathroom. Women should only feel like gold when they come here, because they are.”
- Social Media Presence
- “We’re really big on reaching out through Instagram and Facebook,” Cecilia Romero, the manager of Sons of Essex says.
- Posting pictures of food and cocktails, and advertising special events on social media is a key way of attracting new Millennial customers