The Oyster Society bar concept is based on the 1920s Prohibition era, it was a time when cocktails were forbidden and finding them was a risky adventure. When the federal government issued a ban on the sale of alcohol, people rebelled in protest and the country’s first speakeasies were born. Quietly ignoring the law, Americans continued to sell spirits in dance halls, cafes, hotel basements and even in underground tunnels. Bars masquerading as “soda shops” sold booze in backrooms known as “speakeasies,” where a whispered password could get you a few sips of bourbon or a bottle of wine shipped in from Napa Valley. Though these speakeasies were largely an open secret, the police and the government, for the most part, looked the other way.
“What is the difference between a bartender and a God? God doesn’t think he’s a bartender.”
Most speakeasies served whatever alcohol they could get their hands on. Most drinks were horrible – and some, containing poisonous methyl alcohol, were even lethal. Many of the mixed drinks created during Prohibition era fell into one of two categories; those designed to mask the flavor of bad hooch and those created outside of the country. Either way, Prohibition era accelerated the evolution of the cocktail and explored it around the world.
Before the Prohibition, cocktails were an American phenomenon. After that, expert bartenders discovered new places to display their craft. Some immigrated to Caribbean islands such as Cuba, others fled to Europe and Great Britain. Cities like London, Paris and Milan become the capitals of mixology. However, out of these migrations, new cocktails were born. Influenced by their surroundings, bartenders in the Caribbean crafted tropical cocktails with new flavors never seen before in mixology. New spirits and bitters were created in different countries that increased the complexity of the cocktails.
Though the Prohibition era ended up a failed experiment and many of the cocktails consumed in the speakeasies are forgotten, drinking was changed forever. Mixology was recognized as a culinary art from around the world.
(“Speakeasy” Jason Kosmos, Dushan Zaric; “Hey Bartender” Douglas Tirola, documentary; “The Craft of the cocktail’ Dale Degroff)
Why is The Oyster Society different from other speakeasy bars? We’ve tried to concentrate on the Prohibition era particular in Florida. Unlike other Southern states, Florida had serious Prohibition problems due to both its close proximity to the Bahamas and Cuba, and its general environment as a vacation group for Northerners and foreigners. Nassau and Grand Bahamas flourished, as rum smuggling centers and Florida’s one thousand mile coastline was hardly conducive to stop the smuggling of hooch. Despite the fact that locals were just a boat trip away from a wet vacation, Florida’s tourist industry didn’t want tourists taking their money to another country. In 1921, there were nine enormous liquor warehouses on Grand Bahamas Island, just sixty miles from Palm Beach. This was the start of Rum Run to Florida. Not many people know that Hemingway was one of the rum smugglers. According to Gregorio Fuentes, not only did Hemingway purchase illegal alcohol during the Prohibition era and consort with rumrunners, Hemingway himself was a bootlegger. According to Fuentes, that was how Hemingway made enough money to go to Europe and Africa. (“To Have and Have another” Philip Greene)
We never stop learning. After creating successful craft cocktail menus in our sister restaurants, we always looking for ways to improve! We believe in giving our guests more then only the restaurant experience. We believe in the story behind every drink. The World’s best bars in New York, San Francisco, Miami and London inspire TOS. Our drink list is based on Prohibition era events, historical facts, Hemingway’s books and much more.
It is divided into two sections: The Classics, old mostly forgotten cocktails, and The Cocktail Den, unique creations from our lead mixologist. There are many reasons why we reinvented the classics. By the end of 20th century mixology industry became so commercialized by premade mixers and low quality products, many of the classic drink recipes were changed or forgotten.
We believe that the most important factor in perfect cocktail is the human factor. Mixology is more then the following exact measurement and following direction. Bartenders influence their cocktail not only in their execution of the recipe but also in their intention, interaction and communication. To make good cocktails, you have to want to. Pour your soul and passion into your cocktails and quickly see the difference.