Jan 27, 2020

The Best Secret Speakeasies in the World

Visiting popular local bars is fun. But there’s something more exciting – and far more secretive – that you might be able to explore. The next time you’re headed out to sip cocktails and enjoy a bit of ambiance, you should consider stopping by a speakeasy.

First popularized during the Prohibition era of 1920 to 1933, speakeasies are still around today. They were originally secret hideaways that allowed patrons to drink alcohol without being caught. In today’s modern world, they’re exclusive bars that are hidden away in some of the world’s best-known cities. 

If you relish a bit of adventure and elegance with your cocktail of choice, it’s time to explore the speakeasies and hidden bars of your own city. Most cities have speakeasies – but because they’re so exclusive, they tend to cater to an elite crowd. However, there are some bars that want to keep their location a secret because they want to create an ambience that’s only possible with a smaller number of patrons. 

Certain secret speakeasies are truly the best in the world because they’ve crafted such a unique experience for the few that manage to learn the code, pick the right brick, or find the hidden door. If you’re looking for an unforgettable night out with ambience and amazing cocktails, you should check out these world-class secret speakeasies.

  • New York City is home to tons of incredible bars, but one of the most sought-after seats is at PDT, a speakeasy located in the East Village. PDT, which stands for Please Don’t Tell, features an entrance through a vintage phone booth. But this phone booth isn’t easy to find – it’s located inside a greasy hotdog store called Crif Dogs. 

    Once you locate this hidden phone booth, you’ll use the phone to call the hostess. If you’re allowed inside, you’ll be ushered through a sliding glass door that reveals a lush bar with walls covered in funky taxidermied animals. Then, you can enjoy a rotating menu of cocktails, perfectly grilled hotdogs, and cheesy fries that come from the upstairs kitchen through a hidden sliding wall. Cocktails start around $15, but the unusual flavor combinations make them totally worth the price. 

  • The tiny, picturesque Swiss town of Gruyères is famous for its cheese of the same name. But surprisingly, there’s something even more delicious hiding inside Gruyères’ city limits. The best-kept secret is a valuable hidden treasure that’s still under wraps. 

    Gruyères is home to the Museum HR Giger Bar, which is located in Château St. Germain. The interior of the building itself gives no hint that inside, there’s an entire bar designed in the style of artist HR Giger, who rose to fame for his design work on the movie Alien. 

    The whole bar inside Museum HR Giger Bar is crisscrossed with massive supporting arches that look like vertebrae. It looks like a scene straight out of the famous film: each chair looks like it’s made of the skeletal remnants of an alien civilization, and you can sip Alien-themed cocktails like the Alien Blood Shot. It’s truly one of the coolest bars in the world.

  • The popular San Francisco bar Bourbon & Branch is one of the best bars in the city. But it’s no basic bar – it’s actually risen to fame because it actually contains other bars that are located within its walls. Bourbon & Branch is home to three not-so-secret speakeasies within the main bar complex. 

    The best-known of these speakeasies are called Russell’s Room, Wilson & Wilson, and The Library. And there’s also a fourth one that’s managed to remain secret: Ipswitch. 

    Ipswitch is located in the basement of Bourbon & Branch, and it’s the name of an actual Prohibition-era bar that once operated on that site. Ipswitch is exclusive partially because its just so tiny. The bar only seats two people, and it can be accessed through a trapdoor on the floor of the main bar. 

  • There are a number of Mr. Fogg’s bars throughout London, and they’re popular for a reason. Each location features its own special theme. One of the most popular is Mr. Fogg’s Society of Exploration, which is a basement bar with a distinct Victorian exploration theme. However, it’s Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour that’s the most exclusive, and it’s because it’s a bar within a bar.

    The Gin Parlour can be accessed through a nondescript door that’s located behind the other, “regular” bar, Mr. Fogg’s Tavern. You’ll only be able to get inside the speakeasy if you can manage to get a reservation – and they’re regularly booked up for weeks in advance. Once you do have a day and time reserved, you’ll be escorted up to a genteel parlour with over 150 gins behind the bar. Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour also hosts a lovely high tea every afternoon, where you can get a cocktail along with a selection of cakes, scones, and sandwiches.

  • 28 HongKong Street is located in Singapore’s Chinatown, and it’s a classic speakeasy in every sense. The bar is hidden behind a nondescript unmarked door only a few minutes away from the city’s Parliament House. Inside, you’ll find a Western-style bar with uncomplicated, tasty cocktails that use ingredients you can actually pronounce. 

    What really makes 28 HongKong Street a hit is the staff and environment. The bartenders are famously friendly, and the speakeasy offers fantastic bar snacks that go beyond bowls of popcorn and peanuts – like buttermilk fried chicken bites. Overall, people like this bar because it’s fun, but also laid back in a way that’s different from many other bars in Singapore.

  • Not every florist shop sells wine, but Florería Atlantico does this – and one better. Located in a traditional flower shop inside of a refrigerator, this speakeasy features an entrance that literally takes you underground.

    Florería Atlantico is an American-themed speakeasy with an Argentine twist. The décor and menu tell the story of the immigrants who crossed through Buenos Aires starting in the mid-19th century, sharing the cuisines and liquors they brought with them on their journey. The walls of the bar are decorated with paintings of mythical sea creatures, and if you like one of their wines, you can purchase it (along with a bouquet of flowers) in the flower shop on your way out.

  • Every little kid dreams about discovering a secret bookcase that will lead them through a tunnel and into adventure. Fortunately, as an adult, you can actually have that experience – if you visit the right speakeasy. 

    Williams & Graham is a hidden bar that’s located in the back of a Denver bookstore. To get in, you’ll have to find the bookstore’s section on drinking and pull out The Savoy Cocktail Book, a classic cocktail bible and recipe compendium dating back to 1930. Before your eyes, the bookshelf will spin, and you can walk through to the bar. Inside, you’ll find a long-standing menu packed with over 60 classic cocktails. 

    Can’t find something you like? The talented bartenders at Williams & Graham can whip you up something special to suit your taste. The bar also has a dinner menu that’s as creative as the cocktail list.

  • Pub Le Sainte-Elisabeth is a Montreal institution, but it’s surprisingly unknown to people outside of the downtown area. The bar itself is a classic dive bar: on the outside, it appears dingy and nondescript. What’s really remarkable about this place, however, is the back terrasse, which is invisible from the street. 

    On the terrasse, you’ll be surrounded by high walls covered in vines that make the space feel like the most elegant backyard imaginable. The bar has plenty of cocktails, but the collection of Quebec microbrews is what brings many people in. If you want to ensure a seat on the terrasse, it’s best to arrive early or make a reservation in advance.

  • Located behind a basement door in an alleyway in the Central Business District of Sydney, The Baxter Inn is famous for two things: whiskey, and pretzels. People come from all over the world to enjoy the Baxter Inn’s wall of whiskey, which features approximately 900 bottles of whiskey. And that wall includes some of the rarest vintages in the world. 

    Inside this hidden bar, service starts with a prompt bowl of pretzels, which you can snack on as you pick which distillery or country you want to start with. The bartenders are extremely knowledgeable about spirits of all kinds, and they’re adept at making cocktails despite the fact that it’s a whiskey-heavy bar. If you want to ensure a seat, get there early – they don’t take reservations. 

  • One of the best speakeasy entrances in the world leads to Foxglove, a secret bar that’s decorated to look like a 1950’s first-class aircraft cabin. To get inside, you’ll need to do a little searching. You can only get into the bar if you find the right umbrella handle inside an umbrella shop storefront. And if you want to access the VIP room, which looks like a dimly-lit train dining car, you’ll need to find the right painting and press it just so. 

    If you do figure out the secret entrance, the bar offers creative cocktails, with infusions that are made in-house. Foxglove also serves really great oysters and often features live music.

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