Boys – Street – masthead 2

Good golly, Miss Molly!

Angela Mason

This article has (quite literally) been months in the making. In line with the ‘hush hush’ nature of a speakeasy, the owners of Molly like to keep their cards pretty close to their chest. So, we’ve been wheedling and cajoling and prodding them since early March to bring this article to you.

Now the day is finally here…and while Molly isn’t ‘new’ news, there are still plenty of Canberrans yet to experience her hidden charm. We don’t want to reveal too much, because the fun is in discovering this sassy lady for yourself, but here’s why she’s my new secret crush. 

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IMAGE: Daniel Spellman, The Canberra Times

I like to think I was one of the first to meet Molly in late February.  As quick as I heard words like speakeasy, cheese and charcuterie station, world-class selection of spirits, I raced towards Hobart Place.

She’s been here for three months and many have had the pleasure of visiting, and reviewing the “speakeasy” bar (including my friend, and favourite review to date, Canberra Martini and more recently, Australian Gourmet Traveller).

I was keen hear how she’s settled in to Canberra. I caught up with owners Ant and Lorenzo one cool Wednesday evening, over a glass of Brothers in Arms Cabernet Sauvignon (my new favorite drop).

Speakeasies came to prominence during the prohibition era (1920 to around 1933). During this time, the sale, and indeed manufacture and transportation of alcoholic beverages was illegal throughout the United States. Speakeasies largely disappeared after Prohibition ended in 1933, but the term is still used today to refer to bars of that ilk.

Interestingly, residents of the “Federal Capital Territory” voted for the end of Prohibition in Canberra in 1928, and the first consignment of liquor wheeled into the territory later that year.

Canberra is home to a number of “speakeasies”; I’m fond of all three bars in town, but Molly is the real deal. Speakeasies of the Prohibition era were a well-kept secret – illegal, hidden drinking dens where you really only needed a bottle to call it a speakeasy.

Molly has recreated this prohibition experience for their customer on every level. Firstly, you need to find the place (the website offers little more than map coordinates), but once you do locate the unmarked door, descend down a fairly uninteresting staircase and open an incredibly weighty wooden door; you are immediately transported somewhere different.

When he’s not opening bars, Ant works in marketing, so he really understands the importance of creating an experience via each of the five senses. Your Molly encounter doesn’t begin once you’ve ordered and taken a sip; your journey starts the minute you’re searching around Hobart Place, looking for the door.

The bar is king at Molly; it dominates the space, while a wall with bottles of every spirit imaginable hangs directly in front of you. Each time I’ve entered Molly, I’m greeted immediately and invited to take a seat at the bar to order. This is another of Molly’s traits – she doesn’t give much away on the menu in regard to cocktail ingredients, nor does she want you to shout your order “gin and tonic”, or “glass of Chardonnay” – where is the fun in that! The well versed bar staff want to chat with you, find out what you’re interested in, and provide ideas and suggestions.

molly

They had over 240 applications for staff, and invest in their training to ensure you encounter someone who knows what they’re talking about. Sam was working when I visited. After my glass of red, I started asking about gin – I adore gin in every which way, but really felt like a gin and tonic. Sam provided great insight into the range and what spirit would work best with a tonic. I settled on Monkey 47 gin with Fever Tree tonic – husband was most impressed with my selection!

Drink prices are what you would expect for a quality, authentic establishment with excellent products. My glass of wine was $11, the premium gin and tonic $17.

I’m told the crowd is generally “professional”, with a mix of ages. They have had some requests for “lesser” quality drinks, i.e. tequila shots, which they will not serve. Molly is not about shots, nor is it a place for you to get wildly drunk and then hit the town; it’s class. It is where you appreciate an excellent beverage in an atmosphere that promotes good conversation.

Molly also offers another level of experience their guests. Have you ever sat at the bar and wondered what was going on behind those secret doors near the entrance? Well, I’ll give some of her secrets away but not all!

Behind one door is an exquisite, copper lined vault with concealed cabinets. You can purchase your own bottles behind the bar, and Molly will store them for you. I’m told a lot of Canberra businesses have started using this service, especially for client meetings or special functions.

There are a few other secret rooms, carefully hidden away under lock and key, but I invite you to have a chat with Ant and Lorenzo about these, and what they can offer.

Molly has listened to Canberra feedback over the last three months – hooks are now under the bar for bags and they also recently splashed out on air conditioning after some patrons stated it was quite hot and stuffy (however, the last time I was there, it’s now almost too cool!).

During winter they’ll serve up roasted chestnuts and heated cognac. They also have plans for live jazz during the week, cocktail lessons and whiskey tastings…yes please, sign me up for each of those! Ant also let slip that the team have ideas for another bar “experience” in Canberra – watch this space for more.

Before leaving, I asked Lorenzo and Ant for their favourite drinks. For Ant, it’s a Sazerac and for Lorenzo, an Old Fashioned – classic, original, simple cocktails that look like they’ve been knocked together quickly, but are made with care and attention to detail – all the ingredients that Molly herself presents.

Angela’s glass of red wine was a gift from Molly; she paid for the G&T herself. Homepage image and top image by Daniel Spellman, The Canberra Times. Image above courtesy of Angela’s husband!

the essentials

What: Molly
Where: -35° 16′ 46.45″ S – 149° 7′ 35.23″ E
When: 4 pm – 2am Tuesday to Saturday
Web: molly.net.au

Angela Mason

Angela Mason is a PR girl & Flat White aficionado enjoying life in Canberra. She loves our city, including its coffee, restaurants and attractions. She works for a not-for-profit and must only eat gluten-free. Follow Ange on Twitter @flatwhiteange More about the Author

  • Smith

    Where is the third speakeasy in Canberra besides Lucky and Molly?

    • Amanda Whitley

      Hi Smith, the bar at A.Baker is often referred to as a speakeasy, as it’s underground and not signposted…

      • Smith

        Thanks for the quick reply! 🙂

  • Miko

    Great article Angela. Who is Molly named after? Or is that one of those questions that if you ask you’ll never know?

    • Angela Mason

      Hi Miko, apparently named after a woman called Molly Pitcher, allegedly a fighter during the American Revolution, but Wikipedia (the source of all truth!) suggests the name “Molly Pitcher” may be folklore, and simply a name inspired by the actions of a number of real women during that time. Hope that helps!!

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