The Horton Hotel presents: a brief history of the speakeasy

The onset of 2020 has me thinking about the infamous speakeasies of the roaring ‘20s. There’s just something about the glitz and glam of that era that leave me with such a nostalgic feeling. I mean just to be there, right?! When we were building the Horton Hotel, we were very intentional about trying to bring some of the building’s history to life. The art deco touches that you’ll notice throughout our space are testament to the era in which our building saw its heyday. From art deco style fixtures, custom wrought iron, and a cozy bar complete with soft, low lights, you might just feel like you’ve slipped back in time once you enter our space. That being said, it’s long overdue that we dedicate a post to the history of the iconic speakeasy.

A time of change.

You can’t write about the history of the speakeasy without writing about women. The roaring ‘20s were a time of change, especially for women. It was a time of liberation, a time of long overdue liberation. Goodbye corsets and long hair, hello bare arms and legs, flapper dresses, and short bobs. The saloons of the past were long gone, and now that drinking was illegal, a new kind of bar came to town: the speakeasy. Historically speaking, women weren’t allowed to go out drinking, at least not until the speakeasy rose to fame. For the first time in history, women dared to order cocktails and smoke cigarettes alongside men. They were living large.

Devil’s candy, anyone?

Traditionally speaking, speakeasies were hard to find, and they often required a special knock or password for entry. It was an era of jazz and dancing, and the party would often go on all through the night in these fine establishments. Saloon language was out, and liquor was no longer called moonshine. On the street, you’d hear terms like the devil’s candy or the hooch. Speakeasies themselves even had bizarre codenames like blind pig and blind tiger. During prohibition the flask rose to fame, and many a woman secretly strapped one to her thigh before going out on the town. Hundreds of thousands of speakeasies were said to operate illicitly across the states, with higher concentrations in the bigger cities.


The rise of the modern speakeasy.

After the end of prohibition, speakeasies largely disappeared. But as of late, they’ve seen a rise to fame once more. These days the term “speakeasy” is used to describe a retro bar. Some of these retro bars are certainly more traditional than others. I’ve been to several speakeasies that were practically impossible to find. I’ve walked up and down the street for forever until finding some of these places. Some places are much easier to find than others, and simply brand themselves in the style of the classic speakeasy. Think ‘20s themed drinks and a cozy, warm atmosphere complete with worn leather furniture and dimmed lights. These are the speakeasies of our era! At the Horton Hotel & Rooftop Lounge, we’re certainly not “hidden.” We’re located right in the heart of downtown Boone, of course. But I do hope that when you walk through our doors you pick up on a little bit of that mysterious speakeasy energy.

In other news…our new cocktail menu drops this week!

That’s right. We have a few new additions that we think you’ll really enjoy. We’re calling these new additions the Drinks of our Fathers, aka our spin on classics like the Tom Collins, Gimlet, Fitzgerald, and more. We’re also listing out all of our spirits so that you can feel more comfortable building your own drink. Hey, some people just know what they like. We get that. Don’t worry, we’re still keeping our signature cocktails. We just thought you might appreciate a few more choices.

We hope to see you in our lounge soon, and I hope you enjoyed this brief history of the speakeasy! Thank goodness for the end of Prohibition, right? Oh, and don’t forget: every single Thursday we do half off a mystery cocktail! It’s a great opportunity to come in, be surprised, and maybe even try something new.

Author: Megan Biddix


Share this post