Orlando certainly has more to offer than just a universe of theme parks. One place in particular is a clandestine throwback to the 1920s Prohibition era. I heard whispers about Hanson’s Shoe Repair, a hidden bar on the rooftop of downtown’s Hanson Building. Built in 1884, it is considered the city’s oldest structure, and featured Orlando’s ﬁrst electric sign. In 1894, Andrew Hanson acquired it to house his cobbler shop.
Following the speakeasy tradition, to enter one must have a password, but since it’s the 21st century, the day’s magic word can be had on social media: @hansonsshoeshop. You’ll need better luck ﬁnding the entrance. Located on Pine Street, the building houses the craft cocktail bar Bauhaus, named after the design movement, on the main ﬂoor. Hanson’s guests should ﬁnd and walk up the red-lit stairs and make their way through a dim lounge until they discover a private door with a bell. They will be asked for the password before climbing up two more ﬂights of stairs to arrive at the rooftop, which accommodates up to 35 patrons indoors and on a charming outdoor terrace.
“Our bar pays homage to those who came before us,” says general manager Rene Nguyen. “Each evening we strive to provide our guests a respite, a place to commemorate, a night for memories. A good drink can be so much more than just a libation.”
Emphasizing that Hanson’s is a “no vodka” establishment, Nguyen says that vodka is like tofu, in that it absorbs other ﬂavors, is neutral and gives drinks strength but little taste. Instead, whiskies, rums and agave-based spirits add dominant and powerful tastes and provide an ideal base for mixologists. Hanson’s proprietary cocktails include the refreshing Cat & Canary, with Herradura Silver tequila, Strega, citrus and green apple; the sweet and spicy Sierra Norte, concocted with Ancho Reyes Verde, Lustau Amontillado sherry, Giffard crème de mûre and citrus; and the Victory Rose, with Dillon’s rose gin, Cardamaro, Few breakfast gin, lemon oleo and Fee Brothers’ peach bitters. But the expert bartenders, including Nico, Mack and Eddi, will make any classic in the book, or even something borrowed from another famous bar. Hanson’s does have a few house rules: Be mindful of manners, no ﬂash photography, no baseball caps, no smoking, and my personal favorite, which comes in the form of a gentle reminder: “Please be patient.”