By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
Nick Medina and Corey Potts have brought a touch of the Roaring Twenties to Gilbert’s entertainment district.
They’re touting The White Rabbit at 207 N. Gilbert Road as the town’s first speakeasy, making it so realistic that patrons need a password to get in. They can get it by registering on the business’s website, twr.bar.
“There is nothing like this in Phoenix at all,” Medina said. “There are some speakeasies, but not with all the elements.”
Those elements include the décor, swing music piped into the 2,000-square-foot bar and Prohibition-era cocktails such as Sidecar, Mary Pickford, French 75 and Gin Rickey.
With the help of an interior designer, Medina and Potts spent months researching how to put together a gin joint with a mind to detail.
“We put out six to eight months ago on Facebook and social media for people to send in old pictures from the 1920s and 1930s,” Medina said. “Most were sent in from people living in Arizona.”
He received 300 to 500 black-and-white mostly family photos, many adorning the bar’s art deco wallpapered walls.
“It’s pretty cool when people come in here and say, ‘Hey, that is my great-grandmother,’” Medina said. “It’s a good connection to the community.”
Medina also got a hold of an authentic doctor’s prescription for medicinal liquor dated March 9, 1922, in Missouri that directs the “patient” to consume one drink every six hours. The Ebay find is framed and hanging in the bar’s bathroom.
Finding the speakeasy can prove a challenge because The White Rabbit isn’t listed in the directory inside the Heritage Court Building, where the establishment is located.
Patrons are directed to get off at Cullumber Avenue and find a building with a red light, which is lit when the business is open.
From the sidewalk, a set of stairs leads to the building’s basement to a nondescript door that opens to a dimly lit hallway with shelves filled with jars of “medicine.”
A short jaunt takes patrons to a false door where the password must be provided to gain access. Back in the day, to get into a speakeasy, Medina explained, customers had to know the secret handshake, password or knock to get into the illicit bar. Some speakeasies issued membership cards to their patrons.
During the height of Prohibition in the late 1920s, thousands of speakeasies popped up all over the country in dingy backrooms, basements and fancy clubs with 32,000 alone in New York, according to The Mob Museum in Las Vegas.
Customers at The White Rabbit can find every type of drink to suit their taste – classic handcrafted cocktails, a large selection of whiskeys, local wines, brews and spirits.
Beyond Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and Tom Collins, White Rabbit also creates classic and other trending cocktail concoctions such as Desert Bloom, a mix of sage-infused gin, elderflower and violet liquors, fresh lemon juice and dem syrup served in a rose-water misted cocktail glass; Ginger Snap, a concoction of grapefruit rose vodka, ginger liqueur, dem syrup and chandon champagne; and Chasing Rabbits, organic vodka mixed with pamplemousse rose, red grapefruit, rosemary dem syrup and lime.
“We’re focusing on craft cocktails,” Medina said. “We want to be known for it.”
Cocktails became popular during Prohibition, where fruit juices, lemon, sugar and other mixers were blended with the alcohol to disguise the bad taste of bathtub gin.
The White Rabbit also serves food, with just eight items on the menu, including colossal shrimp cocktail, pretzel bites with fresh Wisconsin beer cheese and a specialty meat and cheese board. Finger foods were another item borne out of the Prohibition, along with flappers, bootleggers and mobsters.
After 13 years of the country going dry, the Noble Experiment was deemed a failure and Prohibition was finally repealed via the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933.
Although the speakeasies of yesteryear are long gone, the modern-day renditions have been a growing trend over the past decade in the country.
So while the décor and the vibe of the Roaring ‘20s may be what brings customers to The White Rabbit, Medina said, “it’s the guest service and food that will keep them here.”