Bravo chefs Rob McCue and Adam C. Banks only do one event per year, so when we say that they go all out, we mean it. Take last year’s Dine Titanic event for example. In order to recreate the last supper of the Titanic (with modern twists), McCue and Banks had to locate some hard to find food, leading to an epic three month search for sturgeon. For Prohibition NYC, they pored over vintage menus from places like Delmonico’s and Harry’s Bar. They hired actors to play flappers and temperance women. The ’20s era band, Dewdrop Society played tunes in the Back Room, and attendees spontaneously began to swing.
Two days before the event, the chefs gave guests only a street intersection in the Lower East Side and when attendees arrived, flappers ushered them down the alleyway of the Back Room, whereupon they were summarily confronted by the angry women’s temperance movement picketing with signs that read, “Lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours,” “Alcohol = poison,” and “You are the public enemy.”
Despite the high price points for their events, McCue and Banks don’t do events for profit. All of it goes into the experience. The search for authenticity led to an epic “bathtub” incident, beginning with a quest for an authentic period bathtub for an actor to stir gin. Purchased at ungodly cost (which we won’t name here), the bathtub made its way from the Bronx to the Back Room (with some hiccups along the Major Deegan Expressway), only to spring a leak when installed at the event. Luckily, there was a backup.
The cocktails, served in teacups, ranged from classics like the Sidecar, Bee’s Knees (as we recently sampled at Milk & Honey), Southside and our favorite, the Blood & Sand. In the mythic back room of the Back Room, normally closed to regular patrons of the Back Room and reserved for ProhibitionNYC VIPs, Templeton Rye whiskey was served straight up or on the rocks, as well as absinthe. Also available, Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap and in cans.
In terms of the food, our favorite was the “Free Lunch Stand,” a throwback to the free lunch provided by bars during the era, filled with salty goodness to promote more beer orders. At Prohibition NYC, Hormon pickles were mixed with an assortment of cured meats, salty hams, dried sausages and saltines. H’ors d’ouvres were passed by the flappers, including a spherical tomato juice cocktail with flaked crab and pickled celery, fried olives with gentleman’s relish, smoked ox tongue with a pickled beet salad, Bulls Blood and shaved onion, a shooter of Cream of Celery soup with toasties, goat cheese and walnut bread, Lobster Newburg, and a medallion of Spring Lamb.
While the VIPs reveled in the back room of the Back Room and the guests, dressed to the nines in period get-up danced and sipped the afternoon away, at Untapped, we discovered the real secret room of the Back Room and it held some great surprises. Read more here.
Untapped Cities was proud to partner with chefs Rob McCue and Adam Banks for this event. Special thank you to Will Ellis of AbandonedNYC for his amazing video and to Christine J. McCue for her tireless effort in helping make Prohibition NYC a reality. See more of Untapped Cities’ upcoming events.