Nathaniel Peters on The Virtues of the Speakeasy:
As much fun as they may be, though, these speakeasies are not entirely frivolous.They offer two real goods—goods I might go so far as to call virtues. First, they mix excellent drinks. The bartenders really are masters at their craft. A mint julep comes in a frosted tin cup with tiny balls of ice, just as it should. Sipping one of their many concoctions gives the satisfaction of enjoying something tasty because it’s well made. Craftsmanship is valuable in life, whether it comes from well-carved oak or the best Pink Lady you’ve ever had. Second, and as a result, the place engenders real convivium. Most bars offer blaring music and crummy pick-up lines. Speakeasies are an island for adult behavior in a world of perpetual adolescence. Many of them have small signs with the house rules. Little Branch, for instance, informs its guests that if they would like to get to know another patron, they should ask the bartender for an introduction. PDT’s etiquette list puts it more directly: “Do not interrupt other guests: if you came here to hit on strangers, you’re in the wrong bar.” And my favorite: “No PDA at PDT.” Far from being turn-offs, such rules do what social regulations can do best: create an environment in which all parties are comfortable and respected. Judging by how hard it is to get a reservation, there is a market for that sort of environment after all.