World’s 22 Best Secret Bars (Slideshow)
March 27, 2014
Grab a cocktail at some of the best secret bars and speakeasies across the globe
22. Speakeasy — Cleveland
Cleveland’s Speakeasy, located below McNulty’sBier Markt, serves up rustic décor and classic cocktails. The bar, which meets green building standards, has reclaimed barn wood from the early 1800s. Speakeasy is open from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays only. Interested in a featured drink? Try the “Cento Cosmo” made of black cherry vodka, Griotte cherry cordial, lime and orange bitters.
21. East Room — Chicago
19. Employees Only — New York
The mood at Employees Only is reflective of “the frivolous spirit of the 1920s and 30s.” The guys behind Employees Only even wrote a book on speakeasy cocktails. WCBS named Employees Only one of the best secret bars in the city, explaining you’ll know you’re there when you see a red neon sign advertising a psychic and a live tarot card reader.
18. The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. — Philadelphia
This place has history as a speakeasy. In the 1920s, The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. in Philadelphia was “the front for the largest alcohol ring in the country.” The man behind the operation, Max “Boo Boo” Hoff ran 10,000 gallons of booze a day via train, truck, and bus. Today, The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. is still serving up quality classic drinks using ingredients including rye, Scotch, and brandy.
17. Bar le LAB — Montreal
Canada's Bar le LAB in Montreal embraces the speakeasy concept. Ask your “labtender” to create a cocktail for you. Many of the drinks even have maple syrup as a special ingredient. Urban Expressions recommends the “Fleur de Lys,” a strong combination of “Canadian whisky, locally-sourced maple syrup, and fresh mint leaves.”
15. Williams & Graham — Denver
14. Little Red Door — Paris
Stop by Paris’ Little Red Door for interesting concoctions, especially on the random Sundays when this speakeasy has OTT (Over the Top Sundays). According to their Facebook page, that’s when their bartenders have “an opportunity to party” and “unleash a fury of kitsch and excessive garnishing” to entertain the bartenders and the customers too.
13. The Violet Hour — Chicago
Named for a line in a T.S. Elliot 1922 poem, “The Wasteland,” The Violet Hour is a James Beard Outstanding Bar Program nominee. The bar, which doesn’t take reservations, serves handcrafted artisanal cocktails. A few rules: leave your cell phone and your baseball hat at home — they’re not allowed in the lounge. Their website also urges patrons: “please do not bring anyone to The Violet Hour that you wouldn't bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner.”
12. Raines Law Room — New York
It sounds like a law firm, but The Raines Law Room is actually a Manhattan speakeasy. Email for reservations. When you get to the unassuming stairwell at 48 West 17 Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), ring the bell for service. The menu includes “tall & fizzy cocktails,” “stirred & potent cocktails,” and “short & shaken cocktails.” Ready to order? Call your waitress using the tableside wall buzzer.
11. Evans & Peel Detective Agency — London
If you’re just hearing about The Evans & Peel Detective Agency, you might think you’ve reached an office for private eyes but it’s really an undercover bar in London. They prefer reservations made by email and will accommodate up to six guests per party. They’re pretty official too so give them your case number and an explanation of what you need them to investigate. The fun and cocktails will follow!
10. Hop Sing Laundromat — Philadelphia
When you hear about The Hop Sing Laundromat you might not think it’s the trendy speakeasy in Philadelphia that’s getting rave reviews. The bar made Zagat's list of “10 Hidden Watering Holes” in Philadelphia. The article explains the entrance is an “unmarked door in Chinatown.” There are rules for patrons too, including no photography and strict adherence to a dress code.
9. Midnight Cowboy — Austin
Search the internet for this Austin speakeasy and you might think you’ve gone to the wrong website. Don’t let the “Midnight Cowboy Modeling Oriental Massage” page throw you off. It really belongs to this cool bar. Make reservations or walk-in for drinks. If a table is available, “the vacancy sign above the entry will be illuminated.” Oh, and for entry, you have to ring the buzzer marked “Harry Craddock.”
8. Drink — Boston
Drink is committed “to the craft of the cocktail.” On their website, they explain they “blend time-honored techniques and the classic cocktails of the prohibition era with modern innovation and the very best artisanal ingredients.” In addition to cocktails, Drink also serves a variety of wines. The Boston Globe lists Drink as one of Beantown’s best spots to celebrate the city’s “speakeasy scene.”
7. 001 — Hong Kong
Foursquare/ Lillian L/ Rashiq M
A foodiologie blogger found Hong Kong’s 001, near Wellington Street and Graham Street, after a bit of a search. Once she got there, she loved the “Earl Grey Martini,” calling it, “aromatic, soft, and downright delicious.” Other customers say it’s worth the effort to find 001, but recommend calling for a reservation.
6. The Owl Bar — Baltimore
Open since 1903 in the Hotel Belvedere, The Owl Bar was formerly known as “The Bar at the Belvedere” and was actuallyu open for business during prohibition. According to The Baltimore Sun, the restaurant’s decorative owls, which now overlook the bar, “would inform patrons — through winking eyes — when it was OK to imbibe without the fear of getting arrested.”
5. Scofflaw — Chicago
While this Chicago speakeasy is focused on gin cocktails, it also serves up American craft beers and other drinks. Scofflaw doesn’t take reservations and the place is busy. Chicago Magazine named Scofflaw the best bar in Chicago, saying it’s “flush with lovingly salvaged furnishings, locally produced spirits, and a devoted staff who elevate the once-sidelined juniper berry-based spirit.”
4. PDT — New York
The name says it all: PDT means “Please Don’t Tell.” Call ahead to make reservations. Finding and getting into this secret bar takes a little work. According to WCBS, you need to walk down stairs into Crif Dogs restaurant on St. Marks Place, step inside a phone booth, and press a buzzer for admittance. If you’re allowed in, a phone booth wall will open to a small room with a bar. Once you’re here, order a classic cocktail.
3. Door 74 — The Netherlands
The first bar of its kind in The Netherlands, Door 74 has a secret door, antique furnishings, and of course, impressive cocktails from their “Old is Gold” menu. Check out the number system when you order. A five means you’ve got a strong drink, while a one is tame. The Moscow Mule, for example, rates two-and-a-half stars. House rules? No hats are allowed, no phone calls at the bar, and you must behave at all times.
2. PX, Alexandria — Virginia
PX in Alexandria, Virginia takes cocktail hour very seriously. Their website advises patrons to “slide on a jacket, don the jewels and step into our world.” They’re celebrating the “rebirth of a golden age,” which means you can’t wear flip fops, tank tops, or tees. The historic building has original woodwork and 1920s flair. Make a reservation online (they only seat 25 guests at a time). Without a reservation, you’ll have to look to see if the blue light is lit. If so, knock on the door for possible entry.
1. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town — London
Londoners have the inside scoop on this speakeasy, located inside The Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane. Can’t find the entrance to The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town? Open the Smeg fridge and walk through, look for the colorful “Thrills” sign and make sure you ask for the mayor. Once you’re in the dark, yet cozy bar, celebrate with a champagne cocktail or a Gin Collins.