Travel, Cooking, Doing, Eating and Drinking (that about covers it)

Secret Seoul Speakeasy

Sssshhhhh! Don’t tell a s(e)oul, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret we discovered during a recent trip. In Seoul, hidden behind not one, but two doors, lies a secret speakeasy.  I’m not kidding, this feels like an honest to goodness speakeasy in downtown Seoul!

The bar and club chairs

As with any speakeasy, it is difficult to find. The location is a secret. The name of the bar and location does not appear on any map in the hotel. To find it, one must ask. They lead you to a door in a marble wall – the only indication of something beyond is a door handle. Once inside, you walk up to the counter to meet an attractive young woman behind the desk. She asks for your room number, checks her computer and then lets you in another door.

The first hidden door
The hidden entrance door

Once inside, you’re transported back to the 1920s. An Art Deco ceiling, gold screens, stunning bar and comfy chairs adorn the room. You really feel as if you’re in a 1920s Prohibition Era Speakeasy bar where New York meets Shanghai.

The main bar

The bar pays homage to Charles H. Baker Jr. (1895 – 1987) who was an intrepid traveller and famous cocktailer. The menu itself states that the speakeasy is meant to be a “love letter to history’s greatest bon vivant expat (who was known as the “Patron Saint of Good Living”)”. The menu is a celebration of beautiful bites and special cocktails concocted under the tutalege of famed mixologist Chris Lowder. Cocktails are broken into sections based on Charles’ travels:  Manila, Havana, New Orleans and New York.

An old school record player

The attention to detail in the bar is astounding. Rooms are separated by gold screens. There is a long table with travel memorabilia which transports you to another time – old fashioned typewriters and record players. As fitting, jazz (the good stuff, from the 1920s, not the horrid experimental stuff from the 1970s) plays, setting the mood.

Gold screens divide rooms
Memorabilia on display

If you are a group and want a even more privacy, there is yet another secret room, tucked away behind a discreet door.

Another hidden door
The hidden room within the hidden room

Speakeasies came to be after 1919 when America passed the Volstead Act, nearly killing “The Craft Cocktail”. Bartenders-Adventurers left to continue their craft in other corners of the globe, mixing the ingredients they could find to create new cocktails.

The bar’s cocktail list, as can be imagined, pays tribute to craft cocktails from the 1920s to the 1950s, the period that Charles H was traveling the globe. With all this choice, what to drink? Pete ordered the Flight of Manhattans and I had the Daisy de Santiago.

Pete’s Flight of Manhattans
The Daisy de Santiago

What a spectacular room and a very fun evening. In memory of this, and with thanks to the bartender at the Charles H, I present the Daisy de Santiago.

Daisy de Santiago

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 oz Cuban Rum 1
  • 1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Soda water
  • Simple syrup (optional)
  • Mint

What you do:

  • Fill a goblet glas with ice (if you can use shaved ice)
  • In a large glass or the bottom of a cocktails shaker, add the rum
  • Add the strained juice of 1 green lime, (optional – 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of Simple syrup)
  • Stir well and pour onto the ice,
  • Stir again
  • Garnish with green mint
  • Float on top the yellow Chartreuse.
  • Add  a splash of sofa water
  • Sip, and think of the gentle breezes of Cuba

According to Maxim “The Daisy De Santiago was made famous by the pioneer food and drink writer Charles H. Baker, Jr. in the 1940s. In his 1946 book, Jigger, Beaker & Glass: Drinking Around the World, he proclaimed the Daisy to be the best BACARDI drink on record, along with the daiquiri”

If you find yourself in Seoul, head over to the Four Seasons and find this hidden gem of a bar. Salute!

Where: Four Season Hotel, Seoul, South Korea 97, Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea

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