A nondescript black door in an average Roman alley with cobblestones, a small brass plaque, a doorbell, an owl knocker and the number 30. Yes, you are at the right place. Buzz the door and say the password when it gets opened by their doorman dressed in 1920s style. Jerry Thomas Speakeasy is not your average cocktail bar that lures every customer to go in. Instead, you have to request to be in by reservations only (book at their website) and be a member (€5 annual membership fee) and abide by their restricted time rule of staying one hour and fifteen minutes only.
The Jerry Thomas Speakeasy was a concept that was brought to light by four bartenders in the heart of Rome back in 2010. The name is dedicated to the legendary Jerry Thomas, aka The Professor, a New Yorker who popularized American cocktails in the 19th century and is considered the father of mixology. He was a person who pursued excellence in the history of modern mixing and he has put it in writing in his published book “How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant Companion” in 1862, that after 160 years is still referred to as the bible of bartending. The initial idea of the bar was to bring back the forgotten classic mixing styles of drinks wherein colleagues of the sector can share their expertise and knowledge in a secret place. Soon after, word went around and everyone wants to have the Jerry Thomas experience. Founders Antonio Parlapiano, Leonardo Leuci, Roberto Artusio and Alessandro Procoli gave success to Italy’s first secret bar and in the years that followed, they have taken their bar to the coveted recognition of being among the “50 World’s Best Bars” for five years in a row.
The dimly-lit smoking club is small and smoky (yes, smoking is allowed inside), where decors are centered on taking back the 1920s Prohibition era when anything to do with alcoholic beverages were strictly prohibited in the US. Plush deep red velvet, leather, heavy wood, dark wallpaper and oriental carpets with the staff in period gear and 1920s era jazz playing in the background. In the conducive setting, cocktails are the holy grail wherein the menu suggests classics and original twists.
The latest proposals of The Jerry Thomas Project are drinks that bring the past closer, fix the present and redefine the future – all in the space and time of a sip. The founders of the Jerry Thomas Project along with the creative design of Cultivar Studio and the realization of General Manager Simone Onorati, the new drink list reconceives the history of mixology. Thanks to an accurate study analysis and empirical research on an audience of over 300,000 people who took their seats at the tables of Jerry Thomas, the series of immortal cocktails is born, created from soaked fragments in alcoholic solutions.
“The development methodology of our projects always comes from an incipit well precise: the twist on classic, a concept belonging to the terminology of bartending globally and spread in Italy about 12 years ago, thanks to Jerry Thomas. The twist on classic allows you to apply illogical rules and reasoning to the most classic recipes, giving birth to new, possibly better versions. How? Finding inspiration from everything that surrounds us: mixology, art, history, music, gastronomy, cosmetics, perfumery, and much more. The fields we observe are infinite and by which we get involved and sometimes overwhelmed…”, says General Manager Onorati.
Divided into two classifications, the “House of Classics” categorizes drinks of forgotten historical recipes and the reproduction of ingredients that are obsolete, rare and difficult to find in the market. It is the synthesis of eleven years of studies dedicated to classic mixing: the quality and harmony of historical ingredients to make the best version of every classic recipe. And of course the “Twist on Classics” which expound the originality of Jerry Thomas Speakeasy creations based on classic recipes and techniques. These are variants of original drinks in which one ingredient is replaced by another, or a different technique is used than the classic one. The scope of Jerry Thomas Speakeasy is the quality of drinks that they create. They are seriously good and the drinks all have their own particularity.
The Banana Paradise (€16) is a refreshing sour drink with just the right fruitiness of bananas dedicated to the Sicilian confectionery with the support of a leading culinary thinker Pastry Chef Corrado Assenza. It uses 12-year old Flor de Caña rum redistilled with roasted banana peel, lime, mace, salted hazelnuts, caramel and a dash of Marsala.
Then there is the Peat+Milk (€18) which is a twist of Grasshopper which uses the technique of fat-washing kefir and yogurt, adding a tone of savoriness. It tames the pronounced smoky peat profile of the 10-year old Laphroaig that forms the foundation of the drink and topped with glasswort to finish it with a bit of sea saltiness. The delicate sweetness comes from the wild mountain cherries, rhubarb and vanilla.
Mole Negroni (€18) is based on Mexican Pechuga and celebrated for its complexity of spices of the Mole Negro and contribution of animal notes from the Mezcal. In Mexico, Pechuga is prepared when a finished Mezcal is redistilled with fruit, local cereals and raw chicken or turkey breast which is suspended over the alembic, cooking in the vapors from boiling and adding proteins to the final flavor of the distillate. Made with Bruxo Mezcal X, Red Professor Vermouth, Campari, Mole Negro, coconut oil and rhubarb root.
Ghost Old-Fashioned (€20) is made with Knob Creek bourbon, Angostura bitters, tannins and sugar. Acknowledged for its complexity and body with the stimulating concentrated herbal tones given by the bitters. Thanks to the futuristic approach, the interpretation of this classic cocktail takes shape with its iconic muddling of sugar and mixing: the Old Fashioned.
Through the recipe of South Lake Fizz (€16), the bartenders at Jerry Thomas Speakeasy are able to recount the preciousness of Monte Bardo, an Italian alp that has about 2,131 different botanical species. Thanks to the traditional Italian herbal techniques they are able to convert it into a true sensory experience. Expect refreshing and balsamic with its concoction of Gin Tuono, citron, mead, mountain pine, propolis and London Essence Indian tonic water.
Resentini (€12) comes from the old, if not lost, Venetian ritual of resentin wherein the grappa is diluted with what remains in the cup after drinking coffee in order to clean the cup and enhance the aromas of the distillate. This bittersweet drink is a mixture of Nonino grappa moscato, Amaro Doragrossa, Moka Varnelli, bitter almond and espresso.
Jerry Thomas Speakeasy
Address: Vicolo Cellini, 30, 00186 Rome, Italy
Time: Mon to Sat 21:00 to 4:30 / Sun 21:00 to 3:30