“People love places they can’t get into,” a friend told me before we went to Hush, the mysterious, Prohibition era-themed speakeasy in the new Morehead Foundry multiplex on Spring Garden Street near downtown Greensboro. That seemed to be the case on the night of Dec. 3, which drew a large crowd by 10 p.m. as the place devolved into a typical noisy bar.
There is no signage inside or outside the building, and the Twitter page, @hushgso, doesn’t indicate where Hush is located. Many bargoers hear about it through word of mouth; others stumble in when they see groups enter.
“There are a lot of speakeasies in DC,” one patron explained when I asked how she knew to follow the late-night crowd straight to the back of the Baker & the Bean, past the restrooms, to the unmarked wooden door. Someone had already punched in the keypad code, found on Hush’s Twitter page, but without it, potential patrons are out of luck if the door is closed; no one will respond to a knock.
Earlier, the atmosphere was pleasantly chill. Small groups lined the high-backed velvet benches beneath tarnished mirrors. Others gathered at the bar beneath bare, dim bulbs hanging from the black ceiling, giving the room a soft, intimate glow. We had to use light from our phones to read the membership options.
Annual memberships range from $5 — up from $1 when the dive opened on Nov. 22 — to $750. Golden placards on barstools indicated some patrons had, in fact, sprung for the $500 option, entitling them to reserve their own seat at the bar. Members can bring three guests, who pay $1 at each visit, and everyone has to sign in before ordering a drink.
Having that sorted, we tried to decipher the dark gold lettering on the black drink menu. Hush offers only four wines, so it’s saying something that the bubbly selection is the same length. Draught beers include the disgusting but popular Sweet Baby Jesus and the more worthy Asheboro-made Four Saints’ stout. Hush has a couple decent bottle choices, like Weyerbacher’s imperial stout, but they don’t specialize in craft or local beer.
Cocktails, about $10 each, are the clear emphasis, ranging from traditional and obscure classics to unique concoctions like Checkered Past — an Absolut Peppar mixture made sour with grapefruit juice — and Dusk in Juarez, a delicious tequila drink with elderflower liqueur, lime juice and a “hot citrus tincture.”
The Manhattan was decent, but nothing special. Next time, I’ll try the Martinez, a lesser-known gin classic that the bartender couldn’t describe without glancing at the recipe. And we all want whatever required him to put smoke in an upturned glass, which may be off-menu.
My favorite was the Blood & Rye, but I’m partial to whiskey; it had interesting additions like cherry vinegar, OJ, sweet vermouth and ginger beer.
But the draw isn’t necessarily the awesome cocktails, attentive service, multiracial crowd or the (albeit dwindling) exclusivity. It’s having a cozy place to drink, listen to jazz and pretend, in so doing, that we’re fighting a government that wants to regulate our morality.
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