Step back in time to the Roaring ’20s.

The Prohibition-era atmosphere of a century ago included gatherings at speakeasies, events at lavish North Fork mansions and Long Islanders dressed in flapper garb. 

Here’s a look at Long Island life in 2020 in, well, 1920s style. 

Flapper-themed affairs

Flappers in flirty dresses and men in raccoon coats were all the rage during the Roaring ’20s — a time for pushing the fashion envelope. Its looks still fascinate today — evidenced in part by 1920’s-themed costume parties being held on Long Island and elsewhere to celebrate the ’20’s hundredth anniversary. 

“People love the ’20s style because it was a fun, sexy time,” says Michael Russo, the Babylon-based owner of Michael Russo Events. The trend peaked in popularity on Long Island in the form of New Year’s Eve bashes, and has continued to pop up in celebrations both grand and small — children’s and adult’s birthday parties, high school proms, including plans by Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, and even a restaurant opening. 

Lisa Harris, owner of the Prohibition Kitchen restaurant in Port Jefferson, hosted a grand opening party there in February and rented themed costumes for the party for herself, her husband and her staff.

“The party’s theme was tied to both — the opening of the restaurant and the anniversary of the Roaring ’20s,” Harris, 52, explains. “We decided to celebrate the ’20s and invited customers to come in costume and take part.” She says the attendees bought their period outfits or fashioned them from pieces already in their closets, but she wanted to be truer to period fashions.

Clockwise from left: Bartenders Marissa Berdue and Lucas Hess; Stella Harris, of Huntington, and Joan Martorano, of Hauppauge; and Kevin Wood and Robert Strehle dress the part for the Roaring ’20s party at the Prohibition Kitchen restaurant in Port Jefferson on Feb. 21. (Photo credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Shelly Brennan, office manager for Costume America Inc. in Farmingdale, says rented 1920s looks are the way to go for such themed events because one-of-a-kind outfits can be put together that no one else at a party will have, and rented period costumes are typically of better quality than those sold by retailers. “They’re garment quality clothes used mostly for the theaters and schools.”

Roaring ’20s styles that can be found in Long Island rental shops include cloche and fedora hats, shoes, fringed and drop-waist dresses, pinstripe suits, spats, ties, boas, long pearl necklaces, feather headbands, beaded purses, flapper gloves, fur coats and cigarette holders. Rental prices for an entire outfit can range from about $75 to $150.

“I have a whole room devoted to the 1920s,” says Nancy Altman Guzzetta, owner of Antique Costume & Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson. “I have literally hundreds of pieces for adults and children.” Harris got her rentals from Guzzetta for her grand opening party. Guzzetta adds, “People can get complete costumes or just accessories.”

By Lisa Irizarry

Sips at speakeasies

Local bars and eateries have recreated the Prohibition-era atmosphere of a century ago with 1920s-themed settings and speakeasies. Some require a password, others are word-of-mouth hidden gems. All serve Roaring ’20s-inspired cocktails that were once the cat’s meow at local gin joints. The lingo has not yet returned, but the drinks and ambience have. While these locations may be closed for now, but their spirit is still palpable.

CORK & KERRY Cork & Kerry in Floral Park and Rockville Centre, as a speakeasy should be, is difficult to find. There are no signs. There are no advertisements. There are no phones.

“People call for directions, which we’re not going to give. People call for reservations, which we’re not going to take,” says Doug Brickel, beverage director of Cork & Kerry’s two locations. “So, there’s no reason to have a phone.”

There is, however, a phone booth at a “nearby” coffee shop called Roast. A false wall in the booth is the hidden gateway from the coffee shop to C&K’s Floral Park location, which opened in 2015. Quality abounds in each carefully crafted cocktail, which includes the Donny Brasco, a bourbon-based libation with vanilla, almonds, acid-adjusted orange and walnut. Choose from over 500 whiskeys, the empty crates of which hang floor to ceiling on the speakeasy’s wall. More info: @CKfloralpark @CKrvc on Instagram.

Clockwise from left: A group at Repeal XVIII in Huntington; bartender Matthew Zeiss at Charlotte’s Speakeasy in Farmingdale; and bartender Ashley McKay at The Rose Room at the Garden City Hotel. (Photo credit: Yvonne Albinowski, Daniel Brennan and Bruce Gilbert)

THE 1770 HOUSE RESTAURANT AND INN This Inn’s tavern in East Hampton has already been through the ’20s three times: the 1720s, the 1820s and the 1920s. It is believed by locals to have been an original speakeasy. “I don’t know where the legend comes from,” says general manager Carol Covell. “It’s hearsay but we do believe it to be true.” Beyond the front entrance are two sets of stairs: one leading up to the Inn’s room, the other, a steep and narrow wooden staircase leading down to a 32-seat tavern.

An alternative to the sophisticated fine dining menu of chef Michael Rozzi in the main dining room, the tavern offers a casual setting and, in addition to the upstairs menu items, options such as burgers and St. Louis-style pork ribs. Alcohol includes top-shelf brands of liquors and beers and an award-winning wine list of 250 options. More info: 1770house.com

CHARLOTTE’S SPEAKEASY Charlotte’s in Farmingdale is the rare establishment that operated as a speakeasy in the 1920s and the 2020s. “If people are looking for the real experience and looking to stand where people were hiding out from the cops 100 years ago, they can do that here,” says Nick DeVito, who owns the bar with his brother, John. “Our place has the distinction of being an actual speakeasy that we found and restored back to an operating bar again.”

When the DeVito’s bought the mixed-use building in 2013 and opened Charlotte’s Frozen Yogurt, they were perplexed by the basement, which had 12-foot ceilings partially covered in tin, an arched entryway, and a peculiar exit leading to the to the building next door. Village officials and historians informed them the basement was in fact once a speakeasy hidden beneath a department store that sold women’s clothing.  Accessed at the time and in the years that followed only by cellar doors that lay flat in the backyard, the space sat mostly as an unused time-capsule for nearly a century.

“That was good for everybody because that way it was preserved until two crazy guys came and said let’s turn it into a speakeasy again,” DeVito said.  

The menu offers a mix of period and modern drinks, all with 1920s-inspired names, like the Bee’s Knees (gin, raw wildflower honey, lemon, lavender). The food menu includes offerings such as a charcuterie board, Italian egg rolls and pizzas. Of course, to first enter, the password is needed. Find it on the speakeasy’s website, or by asking the yogurt store staff, who will assist in solving the password riddle. Just do not ask the doorman who is standing guard.

“He’s like a Buckingham palace guard, he doesn’t flinch,” DeVito says. “He’ll say, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. We sell ice cream here.’” More info: charlottesspeakeasy.com

ALIBI SPEAKEASY & LOUNGE In order to get a foot in the door, one must first find it. Inside the Farmingdale storefront’s small vestibule is a wood-planked wall with dozens of doorknobs. “Looking from outside in, you can’t see in,” says Peter Dragone, one of the owners. “People want to see what’s behind that wall.”

When they find the correct doorknob, they’ll enter a Prohibition-inspired lounge. The menu includes intricate specialty and Prohibition-era cocktails, made from in-house purées and freshly squeezed fruits and juices. Food options come in individual or shareable portions, with offerings like bacon guacamole quesadillas, a charcuterie board that comes with olives and peanuts, a Bavarian pretzel served with in-house beer cheese.

To enjoy it, just find the correct doorknob. More info: alibifarmingdale.com

REPEAL XVIII Inside, it may feel like the Roaring ’20s, but it’s technically set in the 1930s. Dec. 5, 1933, to be exact. 

That was the day Prohibition came to an end, meaning bars could open legally and alcohol could flow freely. The bar in Huntington, named after and celebrating the repeal of the 18th Amendment that started Prohibition, has speakeasy décor, just without the false storefront and hidden entrance. “It’s like you are stepping into the day after Prohibition,” says owner Michael Matarazzo.

The drink menu includes 12 specialty cocktails. Popular picks include the Boozehound, a mix of tequila, fresh lime juice, orgeat, grated nutmeg and a spritz of rosewater; and the French XVIII, which includes gin, homemade raspberry purée, fresh lemon juice and homemade thyme simple syrup, and is topped with prosecco and thyme spring garnish. More info: repealxviii.com

TREME Treme’s décor is “based on the New Orleans French Main Street vibe,” says owner, bartender and occasional performer Josh Thompson. “Classy but not pretentious.” Well-known for its Old Fashion (rye, bitters, simple syrup), the Islip bar also serves pre-Prohibition cocktails like Sazerac (rye, gomme syrup and bitters in an absinthe-lined glass), and New Orleans classics like the Vieux Carre (cognac, rye, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and bitters). The grazing food menu features gourmet meat and cheese boards, stuffed dates and other light bites. More info: tremeislip.com

THE ROSE ROOM It is described as an intimate speakeasy that contradicts the polished luxury of the famed Garden City Hotel it’s hidden within. 

To find it, simply exit the lobby and head to the hotel’s loading dock. A hologram on the floor projects the image of a wolf with a rose in its mouth. Enter a secretive 50-seat bar offering mainly whiskey-driven craft cocktails, rare spirits and esoteric beers and wines. Cocktails include classics like the Sidecar, Bee’s Knees and Smoked Barrel-Aged Manhattan, in addition to a variety of signature libations. 

“Our food and beverage team came up with the idea,” said Carole Diaz, the director of marketing and sales at The Garden City Hotel. “Something different, fun and mysterious that our guests would get a kick out of.” More info: gardencityhotel.com     

By Mike Gavin

Tours turn back time 

During the ’20s, the North Shore was dotted with mansions built on the scale of European castles and châteaus by many of America’s first captains of industry — earning it the name the Gold Coast and inspiring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book “The Great Gatsby.” And some of the finest examples of this over-the-top wealth can still be experienced by the public today — one hundred years later — through those opulent estates.

SANDS POINT PRESERVE A wealth of examples of “Great Gatsby”-era opulence can be found at Sands Point Preserve — home to three spectacular mansions — Hempstead House, Falaise and Castle Gould. Hempstead House and Falaise are open for tours. 

Hempstead House — a 40-room, 50,000-square foot Tudor-style mansion, also known as the Gould-Guggenheim estate — was the summer residence of Howard Gould (1912-1917) and later Daniel and Florence Guggenheim (1917-1930). It has since become a backdrop for films and television shows including “Scent of a Woman,” “Malcolm X,” “Great Expectations,” “The Blacklist,” “Gotham,” “Billions,” “Dare Devil,” “The Americans,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Royal Pains” and “Masters of Sex.”

Clockwise from left: Oheka Castle in Huntington; Eagle’s Nest mansion in Centerport, known today as the Vanderbilt Museum; and Hempstead House. (Photo credit: Oheka Castle, Vanderbilt Museum and Sands Point Preserve)

FalaiseFrench for “cliff,” is also one of the few intact houses remaining on the North Shore, with some of its distinctive medieval exterior features including an enclosed cobblestone courtyard, a round tower and steeply pitched tiled roofs. 

EAGLE’S NEST Wildlife and marine-life dioramas by artisans who created those found in the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan can be found in Eagle’s Nest, part of the 43-acre Vanderbilt Museum complex that includes the 24-room Spanish Revival-style home, a seaplane hangar, boathouse, planetarium and curator’s cottage. 

OHEKA CASTLE Oheka Castle, built a century ago by financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn, appeared as Xanadu in the opening of the 1941 Orson Welles epic movie classic, “Citizen Kane.” In real-life, Oheka was the scene of the lavish wedding of singer Kevin Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers, to Danielle Deleasa and the setting for singer Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” video.

Constructed in the middle of a 443-acre plot on the highest point on Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor for what would be $158 million today, the 127-room French-style château is one of the largest private residences ever built in America. Today the castle is recognized as a prestigious wedding venue and is a member of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide, which recognize and celebrate prestigious historic treasures.

WESTBURY HOUSE Westbury House was built in 1906 by financier John S. Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, on property that is part of the elegant 200-acre Old Westbury Gardens estate and features vast lawns and wooded paths.  The mansion was used in the 1970 film, “Love Story,” to depict the family home of Oliver Barrett IV, Ryan O’Neal’s character in the movie. It was also used in other Hollywood productions including Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” and television shows.

The property is currently furnished with priceless antiques and decorative artwork and is used as the site of various events including concerts, teas and tours and auto shows.

  

COE HALL The Tudor Revival residence, with its gardens, greenhouses, rolling hills, nature walks, woodlands, stables and a large hay barn, was constructed to resemble a 400-year-old English manor and provides a look at the lifestyle of the privileged during the 1920s through collections of period furnishings, paintings, stained glass and decorative arts.

By Lisa Irizarry

Jazz it up

Chicago and New Orleans are known for their abundance of jazz. But that doesn’t mean Long Island can’t get in the game. Here are some locations that turn back the clock. And while they may be closed for now, you can plan for a jazz-filled evening to come. 

CINQUE TERRE Jazz nights include performances by bassist Al Cardillo, drummer Frank Bellucci and a rotating keyboard player serve as the backing band for this weekly in-house jam session in Huntington Station. “There’s a buzz here,” says owner Anthony Page. “People bring in saxophones, trumpets and guitars. Someone once wheeled in a xylophone.” More info: cinqueterreli.com

SUNSET GRILL The Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra often plays a two-hour set of all instrumental jazz music ranging from Thad Jones to Woody Herman to Buddy Rich at this Seaford grill. “We will do up-tempo stuff, ballads, Latin, funk, blues,” says Petruzzi, who plays trumpet. “It’s really a labor of love.” More info: lisunsetgrill.com

GATSBY’S LANDING At the nouveau American restaurant overlooking Roslyn Pond, live jazz is paired with craft cocktails like a grapefruit martini or house signature, the Gatsby Mule (vodka, ginger beer, lime juice). The bands rotate featuring Jeannie and Al Cardillo plus special guests. More info: gatsbyslanding.com

GRASSO’S For 25 years, this staple of Cold Spring Harbor has been delivering live jazz every week. Performers typically include the Wayne Sabella Trio, pianist James Weidman, pianist Joe Tranchina and Bill Heller Trio. “Jazz is always the focus here,” says owner Gail Grasso. “I wanted to create not just a place to dine, but rather a whole experience.” More info: grassosrestaurant.com

By David Criblez 

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