Community Speakeasy creates a jazzy throwback vibe, photo by Brian Walker

Tahoe’s Top Speakeasy

Behind an unassuming door in the back of a restaurant, a hidden bar hearkens back to a bygone era when boozing was kept on the hush


Minted during the 1920s and ’30s Prohibition era, secretive speakeasies were so named for “the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors.” Today, the term also refers to the faux clandestine, dimly lit retro bars boasting craft cocktails and entertainment, in an ambiance evoking those days of illicit alcohol sales.

South Shore’s Community Speakeasy is located at the back of Social House all-day eatery, behind a faux walk-in cooler door, courtesy photo

Thinking about taking a trip back in time? South Lake Tahoe’s Community Speakeasy takes top honors for recreating that jazzy throwback vibe.

From most appearances, the Social House in South Lake Tahoe’s Shops at Heavenly Village is an alpine-themed eatery that trades in heaping breakfasts and high-octane coffee drinks, sandwiches, salads and après everything.

But after 5 p.m., meander past the mountain-themed murals to the back of the restaurant to a solid wooden door that looks like a walk-in cooler, and a host will usher you into Community Speakeasy (on slower unhosted nights, ask any Social House or connected California Burger Company staffer to show you in).

Low lighting that comes mostly from a crystal chandelier, faux gas lamps and the warmly backlit shelves stocked with a vast variety of booze reveals vintage-style exposed brick walls and an ornate pressed-tin ceiling. A couple of high tops, a few booths and leathered dark granite-topped bar can accommodate 30 people max; guests are limited to 90 minutes, and weekend visits might include a little lingering until space inside is available.

The entrance to Community Speakeasy, courtesy photo

Refreshed every summer and winter, the drink menu “is a modern take on fine dining for cocktails,” says Fred Telles, bar manager and lead mixologist, who has been at Community since it opened in 2018. “We elevate old speakeasy-era drinks with new style and revitalize recipes with new techniques,” which includes house-infused spirits made naturally without additives, just-squeezed juices, mixers made in-house daily and fresh herbs such as rosemary and sage.

Recent house favorites on the menu include the Velvet Mission made with Hendrick’s Gin, velvet falernum, Afghan saffron, honey, lime, cucumber and rosemary—served up in a coupe, of course. A little something dubbed Rad Train #3 is made with Herradura blanco, lime, agave, honey, pineapple, peppercorn-infused Campari and cherry bitters and served on the rocks. The bartending staff also mix up monthly specials.

Crystal-clear king cubes shaved to fit a cut glass tumbler rule here, made in-house through a “directional freezing” process that takes two and a half days. “They are five times denser than regular ice,” says Telles, adding, “Impurities are eliminated, and the ice doesn’t dilute the drink. It just sort of disappears.”

Barrel-aged cocktails rest on small white oak barrels for about three weeks, “aging and smoothing out flavors and imparting a distinctive taste to a drink you’ve had a million times,” says Telles. A couple of recent pours from the cask include the Two Feathers Negroni mixed with St. George Botanivore gin, Campari, house vermouth blend and a touch of California’s poppy flower liquor, and the 1930s New Orleans-inspired Vieux Carre made with Redemption rye, Pierre Ferrand cognac, house vermouth, Benedictine and bitters.

Of course, the bartenders will also build a drink based on your favorite flavor profile or a tipple from a previous visit. Alcohol-free options are also available for those who want to partake in the fun but steer clear of the booze.

Community Speakeasy bartenders shake, mix and stir current menu cocktails or are happy to make something special to order, photo by Brian Walker

“We have amazing non-alcoholic drinks,” says Telles. “Every good cocktail starts with a great mocktail.”

A tiny stage framed by a velvety pink curtain conceals a tiny stage for nightly musical performances at sound levels that encourage interaction and conversation; Community Speakeasy’s suggested etiquette includes hushed voices, as “loud noises bring unwanted attention by the coppers.”

“It’s a nice place for a date night,” says Telles. “Everyone is seated. No one is bumping into you.”

A couple of rules keep it so: Stay in your seat and no flash photography or videos. And don’t try calling or contacting the business because no one will answer, says Telles. “It’s not really the culture of a hidden bar.”

Community Speakeasy, 1001 Heavenly Village Way, Suite 3, South Lake Tahoe, California 96150, (530) 539-4746, open nightly from 5 p.m.

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