What is trendy, serves delicious drinks, and is hidden?

A speakeasy!

Speakeasies are hidden bars, and they have become very popular in San Diego and San Francisco. To enter them, you must know someone who can make you a reservation, and the entrances are often hidden. Speakeasies are a fun way to spend an evening with your friends!

E and O cocktails

Why the name “speakeasy?”

The word “speakeasy” originated during Prohibition, the time in U.S. history when alcohol was illegal. Although alcohol could not legally be consumed, hidden bars (called “speakeasies”) were common.

Speakeasies were officially unnecessary after Prohibition ended in 1933. Today, the word is used for “hidden” bars that are a throw back to the bars of this era.

Prohibition History
Historical photo of police officers pouring alcohol into the sewer during Prohibition.

Speakeasies in San Diego 

Picture this: you’re with your friends in beautiful Downtown San Diego, having a tasty burger at one of your favorite restaurants. You head to the restroom, which has an entrance just before a dead-end wall of beer kegs. Little do you know, this “wall” of beer kegs is actually a door to a hidden bar! But don’t think you can simply push your way into this place: Noble Experiment is a reservation-only establishment, and you can only get the number to make a reservation if you “know a guy.” Sounds like a great way to practice your English skills in order to find a cool place to grab a unique cocktail!

Two of the most popular speakeasies in San Diego are  Noble Experiment & Neighborhood and Prohibition Bar. Both are relatively new establishments, and both have become local favorites. For more information on these two speakeasies–and to learn a little more about the speakeasy culture in San Diego–check out the Yelp page for San Diego speakeasies. We also recommend this article in Fine Homes and Living, which details both Noble Experiment and Prohibition Bar, and an article on Noble Experiment from Welcome to San Diego.

Prohibition San Diego
Photo from Prohibition San Diego.

Speakeasies in San Francisco 

San Francisco boasts a thriving speakeasy scene, and each bar has a unique vibe (and drink list!). Did YOU know that there is a hidden bar in the Financial District that has bocce ball courts? It’s called The Hidden Vine for a reason! And have you heard of another bar, Ipswitch, which is located in a basement and accessed through a trap door? We highly recommend checking out this article in Thrillist magazine: it does an excellent job of outlining the ten most popular speakeasies in San Francisco.

Photo from Etsy.

Retro 1920s Vocabulary

The decor of a speakeasy might be modern, but part of the fun of going to a speakeasy is feeling like you’re transported back in time. The feel of drinking alcohol in a hidden location is very retro, and to celebrate this feel, we are offering some terms from the 1920s. Some are still used today (often in a joking manner). How many of these do you know?

Retro 1920s Vocabulary

The bee’s knees

Definition: when something is very cool

Example: I think Coronado is the bee’s knees


Foot juice

Definition: cheap wine

Example: There is no such thing as foot juice in Napa. The wines are the bee’s knees! 


Jelly beans

Definition: boyfriends

Example: The girls invited their jelly beans to brunch


Butt me

Definition: give me a cigarette

Example: Hey, can you butt me



Definition: a word used when you are frustrated with what another person has said.

Example: He said WHAT??? Applesauce!



Definition: legs

Example: Nice gams!


“I have to go see a man about a dog.”

Definition: I have to go buy whiskey.


For more of these fun phrases, check out this article in The Atlantic.


Cover photo source.