There was no doorman outside. The tint was too dark to see any lights inside. It was a Tuesday night, and I thought it was closed. I turned the doorknob (which had combination-lock entry numbers) attempting to enter but it was locked. I paused a moment then heard a buzzing noise—it was the door unlocking.
Everything was black upon first entrance. After a moment, the warm bluish glow of a fish tank came into view, then the dim red lighting by the bar revealed itself. I settled into a barstool to the sound of Billie Holiday floating from the ceiling and ordered a Manhattan and watched a craftsman bartender portion, shake, and strain my drink; I took the first sip, and that’s when I knew that 2nd Street Speakeasy made the best classic cocktails in Gainesville.
The key to an enjoyable time at the Speakeasy is timing. I have been there and waited 25 minutes for a drink—by no fault at all of the bartenders; actually, 20 of those minutes were spent working my way through the tight web of drinkers huddled around the bar. Truthfully, there are many nights when a crowded bar with a great live DJ is perfect, and Thursday through Saturday at the Speakeasy fulfills this vision. However, mid and early week visits to the bar deliver a much more relaxing atmosphere.
As I mentioned, classic cocktails are a wonderful experience at 2nd Street Speakeay. The Manhattans are absolutely perfect. Every Martini (I mean actual Martinis i.e., gin, vermouth, olive, and nothing more) I have ordered there has been flawless whether dirty, perfect, or very dry. The Tom Collins’s are great as well. The quality of these drinks is really a reflection of the bartenders’ skill, so probably any drink there would be quite enjoyable—especially something that utilizes the vodka soaked strawberries gently macerating in a large glass jar on the bar.
2nd Street Speakeasy is located at 21 W 2nd Street just south of University Ave.