New Las Olas speakeasy: Have a drink, help a bartender

Ben Crandell, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·3 min read

Inside the city’s tallest building, the 46-story 100 Las Olas tower, the Hyatt Centric Las Olas Fort Lauderdale hotel wants you to think small the next time you’re out on the town for drinks.

The hotel recently turned one of its guest rooms into an intimate speakeasy — access involves a reservation, a password and an unmarked key — where parties of up to six people can indulge in an exclusive atmosphere of nostalgic otherness and cocktails of nationwide renown.

That last bit may be the best part: The speakeasy, known by its room number, 901, will be the setting for a bartender-in-residence program that will host some of the best out-of-work cocktail minds in the country making the drinks that put their COVID-sidelined bars on the map.

The series begins with a bartender from revered Washington, D.C., speakeasy the Gibson March 3-16; followed by Miami-based duo Ben Potts (The Sylvester and Beaker & Gray) and Gui Jaroschy (co-founder of the Broken Shaker) April 2-3; and iconic Austin speakeasy Midnight Cowboy April 12-18.

The bartenders are flown in, put up at the hotel, earn an hourly wage and tips.

Hyatt Centric general manager Eyal Goldberger says the benefits of the program are two-fold: Provide revenue for an out-of-work hospitality worker in a desirable locale while treating locals to inventive cocktails that are difficult to reach these days.

“We can give Fort Lauderdale and the local neighborhood a taste of what other cities have to offer. Traveling is really difficult in today’s environment, and people might not want to jump on a plane for fly to New York or fly to Austin to experience their favorite bar,” he says.

Goldberger says the hotel is actively recruiting bartenders to take part, including more from South Florida who, like Potts and Jaroschy, might bring a local following. He says those who are interested should email his team at 901@hyatt.com.

To visit 901 you’ll need a reservation, which gets you the password that you’ll give at the front desk to get the room key. Again, capacity is limited to six and strangers must maintain social distancing.

Inside you’ll find the bartender enveloped in a jazzy soundtrack and décor that evokes, if not the Prohibition era, then a time before color TV: Velvet furniture, bookshelves lined with vintage titles and a record player with a few vinyl albums (yes, you can play them).

There will be a menu of dishes from Executive Chef Greg McGowan, including mini Connecticut-style lobster rolls; roasted bone marrow (with spicy pickled vegetables, peach and mango); and house-fried potato chips (tossed in duck fat and served with truffle cr 1/4 u00e8me fraiche). Just like Al Capone used to eat.

Of course, there are drinks. The Hyatt Centric has its own menu of cocktails at 901 with names like Late Check Out and The Butler Did It.

The Gibson was part of the speakeasy vanguard in Washington, D.C., when it was opened in 2009 by Eric Hilton, half of electronic-music duo Thievery Corporation. Known for drinks presented on a black leather bar top illuminated by candlelight, the Gibson closed in November. A new Gibson in another location in the city is said to be in the works.

Among the signature drinks you can expect during the Gibson residency is Hay Fever, made with vodka, St. Germain, lemon, grapefruit and grenadine, finished with a squeeze from a flaming lemon. Just like Al Capone used to drink.

Reservations for 901 have a one-hour minimum for one to two guests, two hours for three to six, and there is a $50 per person minimum on food and drinks. It is open weekly Thursday-Sunday, with reservations accepted at 5, 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. To make a reservation, visit roomnine01.com.

The Hyatt Centric Las Olas Fort Lauderdale hotel is at 100 E. Las Olas Blvd. Call 954-353-1234 or visit Hyatt.com.

Staff writer Ben Crandell can be reached at bcrandell@sunsentinel.com.