“The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it.”
Woodrow Wilson said that, but then he went and banned alcohol sales across America on October 28th in the bleak year of 1919, a time when everyone could have used a damned drink. After enduring the First World War, America had another issue to contend with; prohibition.
Thankfully, puritanical peons have rarely accomplished much without staunch resistance, so please raise a glass to the rebel revellers who told the bureaucrats exactly which orifice they could shove their alcohol ban up. It was in this inhospitable climate that the speakeasy bar was born.
The Woodrow days are now gone, but the speakeasy lives on – and Hanoi has welcomed its one to its buoyant bar– Kumquat Tree Speakeasy Bar. Step back into the decadence of the 1920’s, don a clean shirt and go about acquiring access to one of Hanoi’s best kept secret bars with the intention of getting tight, squiffy and other 1920’s phrases for pleasantly shitfaced.
True to the predecessors that inspired it, Kumquat Tree Speakeasy Bar have a code-locked door. The only way to gain access is to contact the bar via Facebook, email or call for a reservation.
“There is no fee for table booking, no minimal order prices – we just want people to have a fascinating experience here.”
I was greeted by Hoang Quoc Khanh, a loquacious man, native to Hanoi and one of the many brains behind the bar. Hoang went on to explain that there’s no schedule for the changing of the password, so be sure to get in touch beforehand or it’s back to the darkness from whence you came, rummy.
“Kumquat Tree Speakeasy Bar is an East-meets-West speakeasy bar. This is where the voyage of time starts and endless stories about the golden age are told,” he continued.
Hoang knows his stuff and gleefully talked me through the history that inspired the speakeasy theme.
“They had decoy entrances and such, to avoid getting caught. They were often invitation only bars with passwords to ensure that the right people were walking through their doors.” Despite drinking evidently not being a crime here in Hanoi, the bar’s mystique adds to its allure, as do the raised eyebrows of the uninitiated passersby outside as you enter an unmarked door in central Hanoi on a dark night.
Hoang beams proudly: “In Kumquat Tree Speakeasy Bar, besides ten exquisite signature cocktails – each which tells its own story – all the wines and spirits of the finest origins all over the world. Combine this with the hallucinogenic lighting and jazz, soul or sometimes nu disco music to bring a genuine experience to Hanoi.”
If you feared that the password and the speakeasy vibes were all just a gimmick, allow me to set your quaking heart to rest. The drinks are absurd – as beautiful as they are delightful and, of course, chock full of booze. The menu is almost as secretive and elaborate as the entrance policy, but the signature cocktails are not to be underestimated. Replete with poetic names such as Ashes of Time, Farewell My Concubine and (personal favourite) Between Hesitation and Impatience they don’t disappoint. Beyond these liquid wonders, the bartenders are remarkable – just tell them what ails you and they’ll fix up an alcoholic antidote, what’s more – they’ll name it after you if it’s any good.
“All of our drinks tell a story, especially our signature drinks. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort to refine the recipes.”
All that time and dedication has paid off, Kumquat Tree Speakeasy Bar has gotten off to a remarkable start and following the success of their “Make Tet Great Again” event earlier in February, there’s no sign of them slowing down.
“I can’t tell you too much,” Hoang winks cheerily with a grin on his face. “But we will be delivering some new events concepts to the town soon.”