Drink Up!

Prohibition Style at The Ringling's Gentleman's Taproom

The Ca' d'Zan taproom might tempt tourists to have a swig.

By Alice Murphy August 9, 2017

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The bar features stained glass panels depicting scenes of the hunt.

Behind a velvet rope on the first floor of Ca’ d’Zan sits The Gentleman’s Taproom. Purchased from the Cicardi Winter Garden Restaurant, the room was dismantled and shipped by railcar in its entirety from St. Louis, Missouri, to Sarasota in 1925.

Through a stained glass door, Ringling’s guests would pass from the grand marble court room, bathed in colored light from the lac glass windows, into the cool intimate space of the taproom. The walls are paneled in rich black walnut, the Art Deco bar mounted with an enormous rolled wood burl, on top of which sit period bottles of fizzy water, a Gorham silver cocktail set, and John Ringling’s private stock bourbon. Concealed behind a slim pair of doors are a German silver sink and a petite Kelvinator unit for guests to fix their own drinks. In the age of Prohibition, this room was certainly a feisty addition to the Ringling mansion in the context of bootlegging and the boat-based “rum-runners” on the Florida coast. 

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All set up with beautiful tableware

Stained glass panels depicting scenes of the hunt are lit by recessed lighting and signed by the artist “A.Brandt.” Above the bar Ringling mounted a pair of impressive bullhorns. These are said to have been a gift from Amon Carter, who perhaps served as inspiration for Ringling to begin collecting for his own museum, like the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

And now for a little related trivia: the supposed origin of the shrimp cocktail comes from Prohibition times, when something had to be done with fancy glassware since liquor was illegal!

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