Prohibition has been over for 86 years, but the speakeasy tradition is still alive and well in the Merrimack Valley. We introduce you to CodeX and 815, two of the area’s most well-hidden cocktail hotspots.
Everyone wants to be in on a secret. Finding the entrance to these craft cocktail spots can be a challenge but absolutely worth it for the immersive atmosphere, farm-to-table fare, and some of the most creative cocktails in the state. Below we introduce you to Nashua’s Codex and Manchester’s 815 and give you a few tips for finding them and finding your way in.
From West Pearl Street, CodeX looks like a closed antique book store. But looks can be deceiving! That front entrance isn’t how you get in, to do that you’ll have to slip down a side alley. Once inside, you’ll find a wall of books. Pull the correct one, and step through time. Think prohibition-era furniture and decor as well as bartenders in period dress. Maybe some Cab Calloway or Robert Johnson plays on a Victrola and people talk over candle-lit tables. The menu is eclectic and locally-sourced with everything from seafood and burgers to old-time favorites like meatloaf, but the real kicker is the drinks. You won’t find a soda gun or bottles of ocean spray behind the bar. Drinks here are classic and strong (think: the Sazerac, Negronis, and Manhattans).
815 is named for its address on Elm Street. On the second floor of what seems to be a residential building, you’ll find a phone booth. Pick up the antique receiver and give the person on the other end the password (it changes weekly but you can find it on their Twitter) or your best knock-knock joke. Inside you’ll be treated to a more modern take on the speakeasy with murals by local artist Justin Chadbourne and furniture that feels more retro than vintage. You can still expect high-quality eats but focusing more on global tastes with offerings like tacos and hummus. Similarly, the drinks are just as strong but focus more on the creativity of the bartenders than staying faithful to classics.