Back in the era of American prohibition, speakeasies emerged as clandestine havens of revelry. These covert establishments, concealed behind unmarked doors and whispered passwords, became synonymous with the 1920s' rebellious spirit and illicit allure. Yet even as the shadows of prohibition have faded into history, the charm and mystique of speakeasies endure, captivating modern-day imaginations.
What renders speakeasies timeless is their enigmatic ambiance. Stepping into a speakeasy transports patrons into a nostalgic world of secrecy and glamor, enticing visitors to partake in forbidden pleasures without actually doing anything illegal. Moreover, speakeasies offer a reprieve from the monotony of mainstream nightlife, embracing an ethos of intimacy. Even better is the fact that, unlike their counterparts of yore, today's hidden bars can prioritize quality over quantity with meticulously curated drink menus and personalized service.
In an age dominated by mass-produced experiences, the bespoke charm of speakeasies shines anew. No wonder there are so many. It's unsurprising, then, that many speakeasies don't rise to expectations. For this reason, we've put together a list of the most unique speakeasies around the world. We've based this list on personal experience and online reviews; more information on our methodology is provided at the end of the article.
Read more: 23 Cocktails To Try If You Like Drinking Gin
1. Bathtub Gin In New York
For a classy speakeasy experience in New York, duck into an unassuming coffee shop on 9th Avenue and wait until you're ceremoniously let into the back room. That's where the glamor of Bathtub Gin begins. A roaring '20s vibe permeates the space, where Art Deco décor, scrumptious cocktails, and live jazz performances are the order of the day.
The bathtub part isn't just a nod to homemade contraband gin, either: There is an actual bronze bathtub in this place, but you won't find any gin in it. Most likely it will contain one or two patrons, laughing at the novelty of getting into a bathtub at a bar.
132 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, United States
2. Evans And Peele Detective Agency In London
To get into this speakeasy you have to think ahead -- and you have to think hard. First of all, you need an appointment, but that in itself isn't going to be enough. You also have to come up with a riveting scenario of murder, theft, or mysterious disappearance -- in short, a case to bring to the detectives ostensibly working for this agency.
This is no joke: You might not get accepted unless you come up with an interesting case. You also have to remember the details when questioned because upon arriving, guests are thoroughly interviewed. Your creativity and perseverance are rewarded with fine cocktails and tasty bites.
+44 020 7373 3573
Evans & Peel Detective Agency, 310c Earls Ct Rd, London SW5 9BA, United Kingdom
3. 1930 In Milan
It may seem strange that one of the most secretive speakeasies to ever exist is in a country that has never once banned alcohol. Yet here it is. 1930 is a place you can only get to if you already know the location. It's also said that the only way to find it is to make friends with the owners, Flavio Angiolillo and Marco Russo.
While the décor recalls the 1920s and 1930s, the cocktails do not. Bartenders in modern-day Italy have no problem finding the full gamut of liquors on the market, including a vast selection of gins and unusual spirits like Brandy Lepanto.
4. The Pawn Shop In San Francisco
There's something inherently naughty about speakeasies, even now that they're no longer illegal. So it makes sense to put one at the back of an apparent pawn shop, a business typically associated with other types of illegal goings-on.
But don't worry. This isn't an actual pawn shop -- it's just part of the game. This is where wannabe patrons negotiate their entry into the tapas bar and lounge that they've actually come to enjoy. Speed up your entry by bringing an item you can pretend to pawn.
993 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States
5. The Back Room In New York
This bar is aptly named: You have to walk through a long underground corridor to reach a back building behind the La Contenta restaurant to enjoy it. This circuitous entrance is the same one that was used during the prohibition era. That's right -- The Back Room has been in continuous operation since those long-ago days.
Once you're inside, you'll be treated to additional throw-back treatments, such as being served alcohol in teacups instead of clear glasses. This was originally done to provide patrons with plausible deniability if the establishment was raided. The cocktails here are also pretty strong -- if you're going to have to make a run for it at any minute, you better get drunk fast.
102 Norfolk St, New York, NY 10002, United States
6. Handshake Speakeasy In Mexico City
Like any self-respecting speakeasy, Handshake Speakeasy in Mexico City is not easy to find. The best tactic is to head to the Colonia Juarez neighborhood and ask around. Don't give up -- the cocktails are worth the effort. Like the speakeasy itself, they're designed to look unassuming, but hide a burst of flavor on the inside. For instance, the Matcha Yuzu looks like a highball, but with ingredients like the titular two, plus whiskey and vanilla, it's anything but.
+52 55 6413 1693
C. Amberes 65, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
7. Floreria Atlantico In Buenos Aires
Between their powerful scents and lush foliage, fragrant flowers are the perfect concealment for a speakeasy. Floreria Atlantico makes a strong case for this: Blooms disguise this Buenos Aires spot. Once you're behind the flowers and bottles of wine (admittedly not a great front if this were operating like a real speakeasy of yore), you're ushered to a refrigerator door that opens into a bar space with whimsical decorations. Sip inventive craft cocktails like the Huarpes, which boasts Pisco Calavera, Mendocino river water, quinoa, typha root, yellow corn, and pumpkin.
+54 11 3984-7849
Arroyo 872, C1007 CABA, Argentina
8. No Vacancy In Los Angeles
As the name suggests, this Los Angeles speakeasy is hotel-themed, which means that to complete the ruse, you have to check in. You're looking for room 1902 in this Old Hollywood-style joint, and once you say so, you talk to the person sitting on the bed and discover that there is, in fact, a vacancy for you. Descend into the actual bar and patio and enjoy a burlesque show while drinking old-timey cocktails like The Professor, made with Bols Genever, Solerno Blood Orange liqueur, Aperol, and fig bitters.
1727 N Hudson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028, United States
9. Cellar Door In London
This is not strictly a speakeasy (though technically, nothing on this list truly is), but Cellar Door can be hard to find unless you happen to suddenly require the loo while walking down The Strand in London. Just steps away from the Lyceum Theatre is an old Victorian restroom that has been converted into a bar. Make your way down the steps to this underground establishment and find a burlesque vibe and comfortable seating. The real surprises are the bathroom doors, though -- they look completely transparent until you twist the lock, instantly making them opaque.
+44 20 7240 8848
Zero Aldwych, Wellington St, London WC2E 7DN, United Kingdom
10. Adults Only In Los Angeles
If you're going to do something shady like open a speakeasy, what better disguise than a business that looks even shadier, like an adult video store? That's what's going on with Adults Only, which opens into a clubby speakeasy with hot DJ sounds and plenty of dancing space.
Be aware: To stay in tune with the adult theme, the bar often screens nudity-filled films as revelers dance and sip on craft cocktails. One standout is the Dirty Sanchez, made with mezcal, lime, agave, cucumber, serrano chili, and cilantro.
7065 1/2 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028, United States
11. Bank Bar In Manila
A 7-Eleven, even one in Manila, is so inconspicuous that few imagine there's anything untoward hiding behind it. Yet there is in the form of the Bank Bar, which you can access by passing through a fake stockroom into a modern and sophisticated bar -- the antithesis of any 7-Eleven.
The drink menu is extensive and high-quality. The Pinay Colada is a must-try; it's put together to look exactly like a pineapple. The food also includes some truly high-end dishes, like wagyu beef tacos.
+63 2 8801 4862
RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 26th and 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines
12. Janai Coffee In Tokyo
In case you haven't guessed it yet, Janai Coffee in Tokyo is more than just a coffee shop. It's also not your average speakeasy: Getting in requires you to solve a puzzle on the website to access the secret booking platform. Only at that point are you able to make a reservation, which is required for entry. No trickery will be tolerated here. If you haven't been able to find the secret website and you show up anyway, the coffee barista might not even admit that there's a speakeasy on the premises. Don't take it personally -- it's all in good fun.
Yamane Building B1, 2-3-13 Ebisu Minami, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
13. Bourbon And Branch In San Francisco
One of the original modern-day speakeasies, Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco set a high bar when it opened in 2006. Sophisticated cocktails and a laid-back atmosphere soon set this place even further apart. The hype has died down to a certain degree, as Bourbon and Branch has been around for so long and there are many others like it these days. But this isn't a bad thing. Now, patrons enjoy some peace and quiet, -- especially if they get a seat in Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency, the speakeasy within the speakeasy.
501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102, United States
14. L'Antiquario In Naples
Naples is known for pizza, not cocktails. Moreover, until recently, you'd be hard-pressed to find a really good cocktail program anywhere in the area. Luckily we now have L'Antiquario, which in addition to serving good drinks also provides a fun and sophisticated speakeasy vibe behind a nondescript wooden door.
You can of course get a good Negroni here, but there are a slew of other cocktails paying tribute to the city's artistic history worth trying. The Andy, for instance, is dedicated to Warhol, and is made with calvados, vodka, roasted banana, and champagne.
+39 081 764 5390
Via Vannella Gaetani, 2, 80121 Napoli, Italy
15. 28 HongKong Street In Singapore
Although this speakeasy makes some pretense of being hard to find -- it hides behind a generic-looking door, for one thing -- the location is in its name, so it shouldn't remain concealed for long to even the most befuddled searcher. The vibe is not like most speakeasies, which try to recall the bygone era of the 1920s. Rather, 28 HongKong Street opts for the 1990s, with hip hop hits of the era regularly blasting. The cocktails aren't very '90s, but are very delicious. The Guava Spicy Margarita adds spice and sourness by including intense reaper chilies and some sour plum.
+65 8318 0328
28 Hongkong St, Singapore 059667
16. Williams And Graham In Denver
This Denver speakeasy is home to a trick bookcase. This architectural feature evokes intrigue, the perfect theme for a speakeasy. To make use of this bookshelf as the owners intend, walk into the bookshop that acts as a front and pull out -- fittingly enough -- "The Savoy Cocktail Book." Watch your surroundings shift from a book library into a booze library with plenty of elegant craft cocktails to choose from.
3160 Tejon St, Denver, CO 80211, United States
17. H.R. Giger Bar In Gruyeres
If you go to Gruyeres to visit the cheese factory, the castle, or any other charming Alpine locale, you might be surprised to also find the H.R. Giger Museum, which pays tribute to the man behind the disturbing imagery featured in the "Alien" movies. Once you get over the shock, you might also notice that the museum has a bar.
This place can only be accessed through a tiny alcove hidden away near the main entrance of the museum, which is already pretty tiny. If you dare, order an Alien-themed cocktail while you sit in surroundings that will make you feel like you've been swallowed up by said alien.
+41 26 921 08 00
Rue du Château 3, Château St-Germain, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland
18. Gentlemen 1919 In Paris
Barber shops can sometimes feel like tributes to bygone eras, which makes one an obvious choice of front for a modern-day speakeasy. That's what's going on at Paris' Gentleman 1919. This place exudes classic masculinity through its mahogany-forward décor, cigars, and extensive selection of whiskeys from all over the world. Indeed, this is not really a place for fancy cocktails, although they do have some of those as well. The Gentleman 1919, made with whiskey, Mozart liquor, and Chambord, is an excellent choice.
+33 1 42 89 42 59
11 Rue Jean Mermoz, 75008 Paris, France
19. Buck & Breck In Berlin
Given its history and strategic location during the Cold War, Berlin is no stranger to secrecy. Some of that seems to have seeped into this beloved speakeasy, which is located behind a nondescript storefront. A neon sign reads "closed," but we can assure you it's open.
There's nothing secretive about this spot's bold cocktails, which are made by the owner, mixologist Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro. He creates bright and transparent flavors in drinks like the Gimlet Twist, made with gin, lime, and woodruff cordial.
+49 30 40555994
Brunnenstraße 177, 10119 Berlin, Germany
20. Bar Harding In Seoul
If you're going to Bar Harding, try to head there with a friend who already knows where it is -- otherwise, you might have some trouble finding it. There's no sign outside the establishment, and it's accessed through thick velvet drapes that don't allow passersby to see much of what's going on inside. They also keep noise levels low, which makes the place intimate, but also keeps passerby from detecting where the bar actually is.
Bar Harding is worth all the work: This spot specializes in excellent whiskies, and the food isn't too shabby either. Pair your stiff drinks with a tasty fried mung bean pancake or other fine Korean fare.
1-471 용산2가동 Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
21. The Cumberland In Manly, Australia
A lot of speakeasy fronts look a bit divey, or like something cobbled together to distract from the main event. Not so with the Cove Deli in Manly, just north of Sydney. It looks like a beautiful little shop, but is actually hiding an even more beautiful bar beneath it.
That bar is the Cumberland, which can be reached by opening the fridge door inside the deli and marking your way down the spiral staircase. Classic cocktails are available, but it's best to order off the Foraged and Found menu, which features cocktails made with local botanicals like dandelion root and native plum.
+61 2 9058 2877
17/19 Central Ave, Manly NSW 2095, Australia
22. Moonshiner In Paris
The best cover for a hidden speakeasy might just be an actual working business and not a fake one. The folks behind Moonshiner in Paris believe so: This spot operates behind a pizza joint called Da Vito. Just head to the back, go through the meat locker, and you're in.
The bar is small, cozy, and can get quite loud, but the bartenders somehow hear you over the din nonetheless. All the cocktails here are good and make use of unusual ingredients, like Le Viking, which contains cognac, fig, prune vermouth, Suze, and absinthe.
+33 9 50 73 12 99
5 Rue Sedaine, 75011 Paris, France
23. Le Mal Necessaire In Montreal
The name of this Montreal establishment literally translates to "the necessary evil" -- a perfect name for a speakeasy if ever there was one. To find it, look for a glowing pineapple. Make your way down the staircase to this tiki bar brimming with exotic cocktails. Oh, and shed your notions of a classic 1920s speakeasy -- you need to readjust to this tropical environment. Fit right in immediately by ordering the Supremo Coco, made with a mixture of spiced rums, cachaça, coconut cream, salted coconut, pandan leaves, and cocoa.
1106B St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2Z 1J5, Canada
To create this article, we drew on our personal experience of these hot spots. We also examined professional reviews of the best speakeasies in major cities around the world and selected the most unique establishments. In estimating uniqueness, we carefully considered décor, menu, style, and the steps needed to get in. With all this in mind, we assembled this list.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.