Last Wednesday was the last Speakeasy at the Museum of the City of New York. If you missed it, too bad. You’ll just have to wait for next year.
I must admit, now I thoroughly understand why the social season starts in September. Wearing a tuxedo in August is just too hot — and not in the good way. Think Richard Sherman in “The Seven Year Itch.” That kind of hot.
The museum is fantastic and worth checking out on its own merits. The night of 20s dance and drink was co-authored by Club Wit’s End, a monthly party on the Bowery that insists guests must come dressed in evening wear. On their website they say “Wit’s End is a celebration of Jazz Age lifestyle, music, and aesthetics,” which is exactly what I was looking for. Because I am a history nerd, I love all things that aspire to authenticity, but specifically to New York City in the 20′s and 30s, which I think is the most glamorous period of the city’s history.
Drinks. To understand a culture you have to drink their cocktails (at least according to my unprofessional anthropological methodology). I was lured to the event by the promise of period cocktails. Of the four specialty cocktails they served, two were interesting: the Bronx and the Planter’s Punch. The other two — Cosmopolitans and Manhattans — were a let down, the latter because I drink them all the time anyway, and the former, because Carrie Bradshaw drinks them. In the Bradshaw case the 20s were so thoroughly co-opted by the 90s that all the pre-code glamor and style of art deco became fin de siecle inanity.
I tried both the Bronx and the Planter’s Punch. The former is gin, sweet and dry vermouth, orange juice, and an orange wedge for salad. The latter is dark rum, grenadine, and the juices of pineapple, orange, and lime. Both were delicious. But I was left wanting more! I guess I have been spoiled by Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg, one of many specialty bars in the city that have an entire menu of fancy drinks, and not a Cosmo in sight.
It is ungenerous of me to note that they served the drinks in plastic cups? What can I say. I’m ungenerous.
The “period” dress was also a little disappointing. I know that everyone there works very hard on their costumes, but let me give you a word of advice: if you are over the age of 13 DO NOT wear knicker pants, the kind that don’t extend past your calf. They are also known as short pants, as in “He’s just a kid! Still in short pants!” If you want to be authentic, wear evening wear. Black tie (a silk bow tie that you tie yourself) is standard. If you wear a hat (and really everyone should), take if off when you go inside. Those are the rules they played by from 1917 to 1959. If you want to be authentic, that’s what you have to do.
The Moonlighters was the name of the band. They were good. Played good, danceable tunes. I like them. I am looking forward to tomorrow night, when my date and I will attend Cynthia Sayer and Sparks Fly at Wit’s End. I do love the banjo music! And for all my criticisms of Speakeasy, I tell you, reader, that nothing could be finer than the very attempt to bring back a little high style for the middle brow lot in New York City. The super rich global elite get to go to black tie affairs and drink fancy drinks out of real glass stemware. Then they can slouch around town in baggy jeans, knit polo shirts, and outrageously expensive boaters. That’s their privilege. The rest of us in the plebian classes have to get our kicks where we can, and I think that means finding excuses to learn how to tie a bow tie, then tying one on, and going out into the glamorous night. So for all my nitpicking, I applaud Club Wit’s End for their supreme efforts to bring high style back to the people.