With locations across Delaware, these eight lounges focus on mouthwatering craft cocktails and classy, welcoming aesthetics.
During Prohibition, those longing for cocktails and conversation frequented secret establishments selling illegal spirits. To enter, customers whispered a password through a small opening. Consequently, they were called “speakeasies.” One of the most famous, The 21 Club, survived after Prohibition, when cocktail lounges prospered.
The craft-cocktail craze has brought lounges back into vogue. (Needless to say, none are selling illegal hooch.) Last year, the Libation Room opened in Rehoboth Beach, and the Simmer Down started up in The Quoin in Wilmington.
The locations have created a welcome stir. “When I find myself at one of these lounges—more often than I want to admit—it gives me a feeling of being at home,” says Zachary Warner, director of operations for Bethany Blues in Lewes, home of the Bourbon Lounge. “The word ‘lounge’ implies comfort—and who doesn’t want to be comfortable while enjoying some delicious, handmade craft cocktails?”
Here are eight spots with the right vibe.
The Libation Room
The Rehoboth newcomer occupies the Summer House’s back room, where locals once sought refuge from tourists. Over the bar hung a sign that read “Libations Served Here,” recalls Regan Derrickson, who, at age 21, worked the restaurant door at night.
Today, Derrickson owns the Summer House, and he’s given the back bar some style. “I decided on a new direction: a city-style speakeasy,” says Derrickson, who also owns Nalu Surf Bar & Grill in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach.
The room’s dedicated sound system plays jazz and Frank Sinatra tunes, and the cocktail menu pays homage to Willy Wonka—“an inventor coming up with fun, creative things,” Derrickson says. “That’s what we are trying to do with our cocktail menu.” The Summer House menu and tapas are available.
228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 493-3365; summerhouserehoboth.com
When Randall Cook and his team visited the basement of the former Security Trust & Safe Deposit Company, they knew what it would become. “The idea started to come together immediately after the first time we saw the barrel-vaulted brick ceilings in the basement,” says Cook, CEO and co-founder of the Method Co., which manages The Quoin, a hotel and restaurant.
The ceiling would be a dramatic focal point for a hip lounge where hotel guests and restaurant patrons could enjoy “an amazing nightcap,” Cook says. Bartenders make cocktails to order using homemade syrups, high-end spirits and a dash of panache. But it’s never a stiff affair. Guests are welcome to let their hair down, say creative beverage directors Natasha David and Jeremy Oertel.
519 N. Market St., Wilmington; 446-5600; thequoinhotel.com
The Bourbon Lounge
Renovations at Bethany Blues in Lewes turned a back room into a Kentucky-style lounge. “We have always been enamored by the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into America’s spirit—bourbon—and that has molded our businesses and décor over the years,” Warner says. The lounge is a quiet retreat from the bustle in other parts of the restaurant. “On any given night, our lounge bar will fill up before our main bar,” he says. “Although both are hot commodities these days.”
18385 Coastal Highway, Lewes; 644-2500; bethanyblues.com
“When I find myself at one of these lounges—more often than I want to admit—it gives me a feeling of being at home.”
The Copper Dram
This establishment was ahead of the curve when it opened in 2016. Originally known as The Copperhead Saloon, the bar boasts a penny-studded front and backsplash made of copper coins. The cocktail menu features the new and the old with the origin dates. (Who knew there were mojitos in 1830?) Food offerings include sandwiches, soups, sliders and tacos.
3826 Kennett Pike, Greenville; 256-0535; copperdram.com
C.R. Hummingbird to Mars
Hidden above Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub in Trolley Square, this establishment captures the speakeasy spirit. To find it, look for the hummingbird on an alleyway door, ring the bell and walk upstairs to a nest of warm rooms with ornate woodwork, stained glass and a curved bar. There’s often live music, and food is available.
The name comes from Texas Sen. Morris Sheppard’s faulty prediction: “There is as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”
1515 Delaware Ave., Wilmington; 407-5971; catherinerooneys.com
Torbert Street Social
When Eric Sugrue and partners purchased the late Darius Mansoory’s restaurant portfolio, they received a late 19th-century stable in poor repair. Inspired by Miami Beach lounges and speakeasies, Sugrue created a cozy yet distinctive cocktail bar. “People enjoy something different,” he says. “You feel part of something exclusive.”
Cocktails are the star, especially smoked whiskey-based versions, but the outdoor patio is a beer garden. Food options include pizza, bar snacks, sliders and shareable items, such as twice-cooked duck wings.
305 Torbert St., Wilmington; 407-6627; torbertsocial.com
Top of the Pines
Climb the stairs to the second story of The Pines, a Rehoboth Beach restaurant, and you’ll enter a cocktail lounge and piano bar. Sip a libation and catch a drag show or pianist’s performance.
56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 567-2726; thepinesrb.com
The Pink Pony
You can’t miss this lounge in Bramble & Brine at The Buttery. It’s every shade of pink imaginable, and there is an abundance of equine paraphernalia. The original Pink Pony was a Rehoboth Boardwalk hot spot in the 1950s.
102 Second St., Lewes; 703-2818