Stars and Bars: The Speak, an Underground Cocktail Bar, Opens on K St

The Speak owner Seth McClelland
The Speak owner Seth McClelland

The new underground cocktail bar by Seth McClelland, The Speak, is open for business. They serve a wide array of tasty cocktails, including the Old Cuban and Aviation.

I was able to try a few during the preview event on May 12th. Upon arrival, I was greeted at the top of the stairs, and directed to go down and ‘through the looking glass’.

Somewhat intrigued, I snuck down, wondering if I was entering the basement of an abandoned building.

Walking through the stairway door, there was no obvious way to proceed. Yet a mirror against the wall beckoned. The looking glass, when pulled, became the entrance to the cozy and dark The Speak, as envisioned by McClelland.

After two years in New York City, McClelland returned to his hometown, DC, with a relaxed interpretation of a speakeasy. “I want this to feel like a classic neighborhood bar with super friendly staff, while also offering a cocktail menu rich with a variety of ingredients, house-made syrups and unique garnishing,” says McClelland. “Our goal is to give customers the ability to start their cocktail journey in a place where they feel comfortable.”

McClelland also doubled as designer for his 1,750 square-foot, 100-person bar, invoking a homely aesthetic inspired by the 1920’s prohibition era and the carnival lights that lit up the decade.

My cocktail journey started off with the Old Cuban, and moved on to the Aviation.

The Speak Cocktail
Aviation (typical ingredients: Crème de violette, 1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur, 1 1/2 oz Gin, 1/2 oz Lemon juice)

Jeff Coles, the bartender, and McClelland served the packed bar with an ever flowing mix of cocktails. I did like the Aviation, but may be most partial to the New York Sour, as it was finished with a flourish, with a pour of red wine.

I culminated my cocktail journey with a robust Scofflaw. I was very ‘happy’ with the results.


The Speak (at 1413 K Street (downstairs) NW, DC) will be a great little place to grab a drink with a friend. Prices are not unreasonable, $11 cocktails, $8 vodka shots and $5 beers.

The Speak 1
Inside The Speak

Through the looking glass

Stars and Bars: Jim Beam Bonded Returns @ Harold Black — 3/23/15

Theo Rutherford of Jim Beam

Bourbon lovers and media had a chance to taste Jim Beam’s new Pre-Prohibition Style Rye whiskey and the return of their Bonded bourbon at a most apt venue. Harold Black, a speakeasy-style bar tucked away in Eastern Market (above Acqua Al 2).

The friendly staff at Harold Black mixed four agreeable cocktails designed for this event, showcasing the two bourbons. The Gingerly brought out the best in the Rye and the Blueberry Hill, with mashed blueberries, proved to be a fine complement to the Bonded.


Theo Rutherford, of Jim Beam, hosted a brief tutorial for guests to learn how to properly drink bourbon. It involves proper breathing and ample use of smell. Guests then were given the ingredients and tools to make their own ‘delicious’ cocktail. Mine was not Harold Black quality, but I was happy with it.

The overall old-timey, Prohibition theme was well done throughout the speakeasy; in the decor, the lighting, and the attire of the bartenders and organizers.

Continue Reading