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Boston’s speakeasy scene celebrates the Gatsby era

The bar at Saloon in Davis Square, an establishment that has the feel of a 1920s speakeasy.Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe /file/2011

It’s been 80 years since the time in Massachusetts history when it was illegal to buy or sell alcohol. Those days are long gone, but the concept of the once necessary “speakeasies,” or hidden bars and lounges, have transformed into lively (and legal) night-life hot spots. The 1920s enchantment of the Prohibition era is alive and kicking, and there is no better time to honor that era than with “The Great Gatsby” playing in our movie theaters.

In case you’re curious: Massachusetts cast its vote to repeal Prohibition and ratify the 21st Amendment on June 26, 1933.

So where should you celebate the 80th birthday?


21st Amendment

This bar is in no way hidden — the very name of this joint and the proximity to the State House make it an easy find. The bar’s low lighting and tavernlike feel does inspire nostalgia for an earlier time.

Sets the scene for: After-work drinks with your buddies. Grab that much-needed pint and cheer 79 years of drinking away worries at the neighborhood bar.

150 Bowdoin Square, Boston,


Talk about hidden: Walk through an alleyway then a long hallway to get to this gem. The bar has an extensive cocktail list, but the real magic rests with this cool feature: The bartenders concoct a drink of the day, week, and a special seasonal milk punch.

During Prohibition, alcohol was illegal and cops poured it out into the streets.The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

Sets the scene for: Cocktail lovers. This place is the real deal — the drinks will not disappoint, nor will the bartenders and the friendly, laid-back atmosphere they have created.

9 Sanborn Court, Somerville,

Brick and Mortar

The name gives it away: If you’re on Massachusetts Avenue searching for this bar, you won’t have much luck finding this brick and mortar (get it?). Head to the bar for cocktails and good beers. It’s above Central Kitchen and the former home of the Enormous Room.

Sets the scene for: A work party or a large group of friends. The long tables provide ample space for ordering food, beer, wine, or a martini.

569 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge


Located in the up-and-coming Fort Point neighborhood and one of acclaimed chef Barbara Lynch’s ventures, Drink has “trendy” written all over it. Simply tell your bartender what you’re in the mood for, and voila — the talented staff will create a drink to satisfy your taste buds.


Sets the scene for: Out-of-town guests. The area surrounding Drink includes landmarks such as the Institute of Contemporary Art and the World Trade Center and restaurants such as Sportello and Trade. The cool atmosphere will satisfy any visitor. The bar is directly under Sportello — the best way to find this clandestine destination.

348 Congress St., Boston, drinkfort


Far from a secret, this establishment occupies prime real estate in the Commonwealth Hotel in Kenmore Square. But the fancy martinis and cozy atmosphere recall that 1920s nostalgia.

Sets the scene for: The intimate setting, low lights, and comfortable seating make this an ideal spot to impress. Have a hot date or an inkling to wear your best look? Hawthorne is the ideal venue.

500 A Commonwealth Ave., Boston,


Driving down Congress Street and can’t find this bar? That’s probably because Lucky’s Lounge has no sign. That doesn’t deter the long lines down the block on Saturday nights, the crowds for live music on Thursday nights, and the hungry brunchers on Sunday mornings.

Live music some nights is part of the draw at the popular Lucky’s Lounge.Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe/file/2008/Globe Freelance

Sets the scene for: This venue has live music on some nights, a DJ, gigantic plates of nachos, and even a Frank Sinatra-inspired brunch. Have an eclectic group of friends? Share some nibbles, and nod along to some tunes with your pals.

355 Congress St., Boston,


That long line you see down the block in Davis Square? Yup, that’s for Saloon, one of the newest bars in the area. The lone sign for this spot is a single lamp providing the marking for this 1920s throwback.

Sets the scene for: That quintessential “speakeasy” experience (but, well, legal). The bartenders (suspenders), the location (beneath Foundry on Elm), and the classic cocktails are all reminiscent of that 1920s feel.

255 Elm St., Somerville,

Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale

For cocktail aficionados and craft beer lovers, Stoddard’s offers some of the best choices in the city. The decor and ambience scream Prohibition, but the large sign and convenient destination (in the heart of Downtown Boston) make it less secretive, but very welcoming.

Sets the scene for: The first date. With an excellent array of mixed drinks and craft beer, the best of both worlds collide here, so all palates can be satisfied. The ambience and drink list will make for easy conversation.

48 Temple Place, Boston,

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