The other thing we did on Friday night (besides the holiday party) was visit the Bookstore Speakeasy. This charming purveyor of food and drinks on Bethlehem’s South Side is a fairly faithful recreation of a 1920’s speakeasy.
No external sign shows the Bookstore’s location. You step down a couple of darkened steps to a door stenciled with “THE BOOKSTORE.” Inside is a small room with shelves of books on three walls and a black curtain separating the room from the back. The clerk behind the desk will show you beyond the curtain to your table. (Make sure to have a reservation on weekend nights!)
The tables are lit with small oil lamps. Books are everywhere, and if you’re lucky, there’s a piano player at the instrument in the corner. When we were there, he was accompanied by a clarinetist/saxophonist, which makes perfect sense — jazz being a key feature of the Roaring Twenties, after all.
In keeping with the theme of a speakeasy, the menus on the table are only for food — open the book set on your table to find the drinks — a pull-out list of beers (I wasn’t certain whether the one described as “jaw-dropping” was because of its taste or its price; $42!) and a several page cocktail menu pasted onto the pages of the book.
The cocktails are incredible, and an effort is made to be faithful to the replicated era. The Bookstore notes in its overall description, for example, that vodka was not widely available until the 1950s. There are drinks with egg white, drinks on the rocks (actually, rock — a single hand-chipped cube of ice), drinks with absinthe, bartender’s choice, and make your own.
I had the “Death After Dusk” and was rather disappointed that I couldn’t pick out the violet or champagne notes over the heavy licorice of the absinthe, although I did occasionally catch a hint of the cherry garnish. (The effervescence of the champagne did come through, of course.) After that, I switched to the Knickerbocker — again, the lime juice and rum overwhelmed the Grand Marnier, but the raspberry component was perfect.
If you want to try this place out — and I really recommend it — look at the strongest flavor listed for the cocktail because the odds are good the flavors won’t be balanced enough for you to pick out the accents, which is a shame. Other than that, high marks all around.