On October 29, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act, making it illegal to sell alcohol. The law went into effect on January 17, 1920, and lasted for 13 years, but some might say the Prohibition Era (the name given to the time period) had the opposite effect on the country that it was intended to. In fact, alcohol was probably more glorified during the 20s than at any other time in U.S. history. Speakeasies (hidden bars where alcohol was sold illegally) popped up in every city across America. And now, more than 80 years later, the speakeasy is popular once more.
In Nashua, NH, Codex opened its doors in September 2015. But Codex isn’t an ordinary bar, it’s a speakeasy. Inspired by the Prohibition Era, this bar is hidden. And by hidden, I mean it’s disguised as a used bookstore on Elm Street. That’s right, a bookstore.
Conveniently located next to a parking garage, it looks like a typical storefront, but if you look closely you’ll notice the front door is suspiciously plastered with “vote dry” fliers.
This storefront, however, is not the actual entrance to the secret speakeasy. Nope. To get in, you’ll have to go down the side alley and find the unmarked door. In the window, you’ll see a red lamp. If it’s on, Codex is open for business. But the fun doesn’t stop there.
Once you enter the “bookstore” you’re presented with a large bookcase and an apparent dead end. Before you turn around and go home, take another look at the books. One of them is actually a secret lever! Pull the right book on the shelf, and you’ll be granted entrance through a secret door into the speakeasy. I know, it sounds like something out of a Scooby-Doo episode, except this place isn’t haunted (unless you count all the BOOze).
As soon as you walk in you’re greeted with soft jazz, piano music, and a dimly lit lounge area. Codex is furnished with old-style couches, antique armchairs, and a number of other things. Exploring the space is half the fun, so I won’t spoil all the details.
This area is perfect for groups, but if you’re alone or with a small number of people, the bar area is no less impressive.
The entire place is covered with antiques, old photographs, grandfather clocks and deco mirrors straight out of The Great Gatsby. There’s even some unique décor hidden in the bathrooms.
And naturally, books are scattered over every nook and cranny. In fact, with a few exceptions, all the books you see at Codex are actually for sale. Yup, you can have a drink and buy a book all at once.
Their menu features both food and drink. All of their cocktails are, of course, 1920s themed, and include old-time cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Sidecar, and Manhattan. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can give one of Codex’s original creations a try, like the “Coffee and Cigarettes,” “Paper Plane,” or “Where Theres Smoke.” While the cocktails range from $10-$13, they are impeccably made and well worth the money.
SEE MORE: In Search of New England’s Classic Cocktails
For an exceptionally fun time, you can dress in classy attire, which adds to the whole experience and really makes you feel like you’re a part of the decade and the speakeasy way of life.
Have you been to Codex? Do you have a favorite 20s cocktail or secret speakeasy? Tell us about your experience!
Codex. 1 Elm Street, Nashua, NH. (603)-864-0115; codexbar.comThis post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.