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Taking it (speak)easy at Prohibition 

The enclosed plaza that usually hosts co-eds on their way to Andrew's Upstairs is unusually quiet. Looking around, I spot a red phone booth with instructions inside: Pick up the bell-looking receiver, dial the secret number, and wait for the buzz. A square blue light flickers next to a door that looks like it leads to a turn-of-the-century dry goods store.

Thankfully, Prohibition is far from dry.

Billed as Atlanta's first speakeasy (a trend that has run its course in other cities), the secret entrance, geeky cocktails and PR blather about super-exclusivity made for both excitement and derision when Prohibition opened in December. But experience and hype are often two very different things.

Stepping through the secret door, the transition from the unforgiving, stark florescent lights in the plaza to the golden sheen on the other side of the door is mood-altering. It's like the panels above are made of see-through marble, with shades of gold and brown forming a barrier against (probably) more florescent lights.

Leather couches that you can sink into, a working fireplace, wood and ironwork that separates the bar from the seating area, and nonthreatening fine art complete the cozy feel. The room is not big, but it's comfortable.

The dark wooden bar is surrounded by about a dozen chairs, nearly half of them occupied by hip techies – one of whom took advantage of the humidor to enjoy a cigar – casually dressy couples, and at least one or two regulars. A few of those younger co-eds came in later, taking advantage of the laid-back environs and gentlemanly service: "Help with your coat, dear?" A small tip to the bartender and off they went.

Speaking of service, the bartenders on duty that night clearly take the art of tending to customers – as well creating finely crafted cocktails – seriously, but with a lighthearted touch.

The Singapore Sling was a juicy number with a texture that gets heavier along with the sweetness toward the last few sips. The Rum Swizzle was a bitter contrast, but seeing the ice crushed in a bag especially for the drink – and later realizing that the treatment kept the ice solid so as not to dilute the beverage – makes you cognizant that small touches and serious treatment truly do make the difference when it comes to cocktails.

The menu boasts nearly 50 specialty cocktails, and while you're welcome to order a straight-ahead drink, requests for lemon drop shots will likely be turned down – among other house rules listed in the menu.

Impressive without being pretentious, classic but with a sense of humor, Prohibition shouldn't stay a secret for long.

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