Speakeasies, born out of the Prohibition era, continue to captivate cocktail enthusiasts with their allure and history. These clandestine establishments, once a necessity for drinkers seeking to socialize during the alcohol ban, have now become iconic symbols of creativity and exclusivity.
Today, many bars across the United States pay homage to this fascinating era, embracing the hidden entrances, secret passwords, and members-only experiences.
In this article, we will embark on a journey to uncover the best speakeasy bars in the country, each offering a unique and immersive experience that transports visitors back in time.
Apotheke – New York, New York:
Hidden within the depths of New York City’s Chinatown, Apotheke stands as a legendary speakeasy that embodies the essence of the Prohibition era. Housed behind a 200-year-old door with a peephole, Apotheke’s location was once an opium den, adding an air of mystery to its allure.
Stepping inside, guests are greeted by a sophisticated cocktail bar that takes the art of mixology to new heights.
The menu features categorizations like “aphrodisiacs” and “pain killers,” offering a diverse range of expertly crafted drinks. The bar’s attention to detail extends to its absinthe menu, ensuring a truly memorable experience for patrons seeking a taste of history.
La Descarga – Los Angeles, California:
Situated in the heart of Hollywood, La Descarga invites guests to immerse themselves in the vibrant world of Cuban rum bars. Behind a facade of a fake closet lies a two-level bar buzzing with tiki drinks, live salsa, and jazz music.
This upscale establishment requires reservations, adding to the sense of exclusivity. The expertly crafted cocktails, made with exclusive pours of rum and hand-carved ice, transport visitors to a bygone era of tropical elegance.
Whether indulging in bottle service or sharing a boozy punch bowl, La Descarga promises an unforgettable night of dancing, mingling, and indulging in the finest libations.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog – New York, New York:
Located in New York City, The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog is a multi-level establishment that combines the charm of an Irish pub with the allure of a speakeasy.
This award-winning bar has gained international recognition for its outstanding cocktail program and immersive atmosphere. The ground floor features a traditional taproom, while the second floor houses a parlor with a vintage aesthetic.
The Dead Rabbit offers an extensive menu of meticulously crafted cocktails inspired by the history of cocktails from the 19th and early 20th centuries. With its impeccable attention to detail and dedication to mixology, The Dead Rabbit provides a truly unique speakeasy experience.
PDT (Please Don’t Tell) – New York, New York:
Hidden behind a phone booth inside Crif Dogs, a hot dog joint in New York City, PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is one of the city’s most renowned speakeasies. Guests enter through a secret door within the phone booth, revealing a cozy and intimate cocktail lounge.
The bar is known for its innovative drink menu, crafted by world-class mixologists. From classic cocktails to inventive creations, PDT offers a wide range of libations to satisfy every palate. The dimly lit space, attentive service, and carefully crafted drinks create an unforgettable experience for visitors.
The Violet Hour – Chicago, Illinois:
Nestled in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, The Violet Hour is a sophisticated speakeasy that focuses on the art of craft cocktails. The bar pays meticulous attention to every detail, from its elegant decor to its inventive drink menu.
The Violet Hour features a rotating selection of seasonal cocktails, highlighting fresh and unique flavors. The bartenders are true artisans, creating customized cocktails based on individual preferences.
The ambiance is refined yet relaxed, making it an ideal spot for both intimate conversations and lively gatherings. The Violet Hour has solidified its reputation as one of Chicago’s top speakeasies.
Baita – New York, New York:
Baita, located in New York City’s Flatiron District, offers a modern take on the traditional speakeasy concept. Inspired by Italian alpine huts, Baita provides a cozy and inviting atmosphere reminiscent of a winter getaway.
The bar features a curated selection of Italian-inspired cocktails, showcasing a fusion of traditional and innovative flavors. Guests can sip on handcrafted drinks while enjoying the rustic charm of the space.
Baita’s warm and welcoming ambiance, combined with its exceptional cocktail offerings, makes it a must-visit speakeasy in the heart of the city.
Blind Barber – Los Angeles, California:
Blind Barber seamlessly blends the worlds of grooming and mixology in its unique speakeasy concept. With locations in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, Blind Barber offers a distinctive experience that combines a barbershop and a hidden cocktail lounge.
Guests enter through the barbershop, passing through a hidden door that leads to the speakeasy. The dimly lit space exudes a retro vibe, with a focus on classic cocktails and a carefully curated selection of spirits.
Whether patrons come for a haircut or to enjoy an expertly crafted drink, Blind Barber provides a memorable and immersive experience.
The Cloakroom – Montreal, Quebec:
The Cloakroom, located in Montreal, Canada, offers a luxurious speakeasy experience in a sophisticated setting. This high-end bar is hidden within a tailor shop, adding an element of exclusivity and intrigue.
Guests must pass through the shop and discreetly present a reservation to gain entry. Once inside, they are transported to an opulent lounge adorned with elegant furnishings and a refined ambiance.
The Cloakroom’s extensive drink menu features expertly crafted cocktails using premium spirits and unique flavor combinations. With its impeccable service and attention to detail, The Cloakroom epitomizes the epitome of a lavish speakeasy experience.
Midnight Cowboy – Austin, Texas:
Tucked away on 6th Street in Austin, Texas, Midnight Cowboy stands as a speakeasy with a captivating story. Housed in a former brothel disguised as a massage parlor, the bar’s name pays homage to its hidden past.
This reservations-only establishment offers an intimate setting reminiscent of the 1920s. With limited capacity, guests are transported to an upscale lounge where seasoned bartenders meticulously craft old-school cocktails.
The drink menu is ever-changing, allowing patrons to embark on a unique tasting journey with every visit. For those seeking an intimate and nostalgic speakeasy experience, Midnight Cowboy is a must-visit destination.
Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
Nestled within the Franklin on Rittenhouse boutique hotel, Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. is a reservations-only speakeasy that exudes sophistication and a deep appreciation for the history of the Prohibition era.
The unassuming entrance leads guests downstairs into a dark and discrete bar adorned with an Art Deco ambiance.
The cocktail menu, while lacking a distinct theme, showcases the bartenders’ expertise in crafting well-balanced drinks. From a classic gin and tonic to inventive twists on tiki cocktails, each libation is thoughtfully prepared.
The bar also offers delectable small plates that perfectly complement their signature drink recipes.
The Laundry Room – Las Vegas, Nevada:
Hidden within the Commonwealth bar on Fremont Street, The Laundry Room is an intimate and coveted speakeasy experience in the bustling city of Las Vegas. With a capacity of only 22 people, securing a reservation becomes a sought-after privilege.
The speakeasy derives its name from its location, once serving as the laundry room for the iconic El Cortez Hotel. A discreet red laundry pin marks the entrance for those in the know, further adding to the allure. Inside, guests are transported to a bygone era with an Old Hollywood atmosphere and live piano music.
The expertly crafted cocktails, made with Prohibition-era ingredients, are the highlight of the experience, tantalizing the taste buds of discerning cocktail enthusiasts.
Room 13 – Chicago, Illinois:
As the name suggests, Room 13 is an exclusive and secretive speakeasy hidden in the basement of the Old Chicago Inn. Only accessible through reservations from hotel guests or members of the bar’s club, Room 13 creates an atmosphere of confidentiality and intimacy.
The sultry drinks and classy live performances, ranging from jazz music to cabaret, transport guests to the glamorous era of the 1920s. With limited capacity, the underground lounge exudes an air of exclusivity, making it a perfect spot for a memorable night out.
The Aviary – Chicago, Illinois:
The Aviary in Chicago is not your typical speakeasy but deserves a mention for its innovative approach to cocktails. Helmed by renowned chef Grant Achatz, The Aviary pushes the boundaries of mixology, creating avant-garde and visually stunning drinks.
The bar offers a theatrical experience, where bartenders use molecular gastronomy techniques and unique presentation styles to elevate their craft. From smoke-filled glass orbs to edible garnishes, every detail is meticulously designed to enhance the overall sensory experience.
The Aviary’s experimental approach to cocktails has earned it numerous accolades and solidified its reputation as a pioneer in the industry.
Employees Only – New York, New York:
Employees Only in New York City is a speakeasy known for its timeless elegance and exceptional cocktails. Hidden behind a psychic’s storefront, this iconic bar has been serving patrons since 2004. The interior exudes a glamorous and vintage charm, reminiscent of the Prohibition era.
The bartenders at Employees Only are highly skilled and passionate about their craft, using premium spirits and fresh ingredients to create expertly balanced drinks. Alongside its impressive cocktail menu,
Employees Only offers a delectable food menu, making it a perfect destination for a complete night out.
Smuggler’s Cove – San Francisco, California:
Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco transports guests to a tropical oasis with its immersive tiki bar experience. This Polynesian-inspired speakeasy pays homage to the golden age of rum and exotic cocktails.
The bar boasts an extensive rum selection, featuring a wide range of styles and flavors from around the world. The interior is adorned with nautical decor, thatched roofs, and vintage artifacts, creating an atmosphere of adventure and escapism.
Smuggler’s Cove is renowned for its elaborate and meticulously crafted tiki drinks, served in thematic glassware with vibrant garnishes. It’s a must-visit destination for rum enthusiasts and those seeking a unique and lively speakeasy experience.
The Franklin Bar – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
The Franklin Bar in Philadelphia is a hidden gem that captures the essence of a classic speakeasy. Located beneath the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company, this underground bar transports guests to the Prohibition era with its vintage decor and intimate ambiance.
The Franklin Bar specializes in craft cocktails, offering an extensive menu that showcases both timeless classics and innovative creations. The bartenders are knowledgeable and passionate, always willing to provide recommendations based on individual preferences.
The dimly lit space, complemented by jazz music, creates an intimate and nostalgic atmosphere, making it a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts.
The Edison – Los Angeles, California:
The Edison in Los Angeles takes speakeasy vibes to another level with its unique blend of steampunk aesthetics and old-world charm. Housed in a historic power plant building, this multi-level venue offers a captivating experience for patrons.
The main bar area features vintage decor, including antique machinery and exposed brick walls, while live entertainment adds to the lively atmosphere. The Edison boasts an extensive drink menu, featuring classic cocktails and innovative concoctions.
Guests can also enjoy a selection of small plates and live performances, making it an all-encompassing destination for a memorable night out.
Red Phone Booth – Nashville, Tennessee:
Located just off the bustling Broadway Street in Nashville, Red Phone Booth offers a stark contrast to the crowded clubs and bars in the area. Concealed behind an unassuming London red phone booth, accessing this speakeasy requires a phone number obtained from a member, concierge, or friend.
The bar fully embraces its spy-themed concept, allowing guests to channel their inner secret agent. With a masculine and sophisticated decor, Red Phone Booth offers a range of meticulously crafted cocktails, cigars, and Neapolitan-style pizzas.
The air purifier ensures a comfortable environment, allowing patrons to fully immerse themselves in the black-and-white TVs, old-school atmosphere, and a memorable cocktail experience.
Williams & Graham – Denver, Colorado:
Regarded as one of Denver’s must-visit bars, Williams & Graham provides a hidden gem within a diminutive corner bookstore. The entrance, disguised as a bookcase, transports visitors into a world of over 500 different bottles of spirits from around the world.
The signature cocktails, crafted by skilled bartenders, are both innovative and masterfully executed. The bar’s seasonal menu ensures fresh and intriguing options, while the selection of classic cocktails showcases the bartenders’ expertise.
Williams & Graham also offers a food menu with delectable entrees and shared plates, perfect for pairing with the libations on offer.
SafeHouse – Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
For a truly immersive spy-themed experience, SafeHouse in Milwaukee goes above and beyond. Disguised behind a red door marked “International Exports, LTD,” this spy-themed bar and restaurant fully embraces its clandestine concept.
Guests are encouraged to embrace their inner secret agent as they navigate through the covert entrance. Once inside, patrons can explore rooms filled with real intelligence artifacts from the Cold War era.
The bar offers a range of espionage-inspired cocktails, while also catering to families during the day. SafeHouse creates a fun and unique atmosphere where patrons can enjoy the best of both the spy world and quality libations.
Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency – San Francisco, California:
Situated within Bourbon & Branch, the Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency is a legendary speakeasy in San Francisco. Accessible only by knowing the password or making a reservation, this speakeasy within a speakeasy captures the essence of the Prohibition era.
Once inside, guests are transported to a saloon straight out of a detective novel, complete with an authentic detective theme.
The bartenders at Wilson and Wilson are skilled in the craft of mixology, offering an extensive selection of signature cocktails and classic drinks. The bar also offers cocktail classes, allowing patrons to learn the secrets behind creating their favorite libations.
The Gibson – Washington, D.C.:
Located in Washington, D.C., The Gibson is a hidden gem that exudes sophistication and charm. While it may not advertise itself as a traditional speakeasy, the unmarked black door leading to its entrance hints at the allure of secrecy.
Since its opening in 2009, The Gibson has been at the forefront of the city’s craft cocktail scene. With comfortable surroundings, a relaxing jazz playlist, and expert bartenders, The Gibson creates an unparalleled cocktail experience.
The seasonal menu keeps things fresh and intriguing, with a wide range of handcrafted cocktails and classic libations. The bar also offers cocktail classes, allowing enthusiasts to learn the art of mixology from the best in the business.
Ciro’s – Tampa, Florida:
Ciro’s in Tampa, Florida, pays homage to the former bar of the same name in Hollywood. This discreet neighborhood bar focuses solely on the art of craft cocktails. While the food menu offers delicious shared plates, it is designed to complement the carefully crafted drinks.
Ciro’s provides a cozy ambiance where patrons can witness bartenders employing lesser-known techniques and craft ingredients to create exceptional libations. Nestled in the historic Bayshore Royal Building, Ciro’s emanates an elegant and refined atmosphere.
Securing entry into the hidden bar requires calling ahead for the daily password, adding an element of exclusivity to the experience. Whether you’re an enthusiast of whiskey or mezcal, or simply seeking a memorable cocktail, Ciro’s is a must-visit destination in Tampa.
Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet – Seattle, Washington:
Located in Seattle, Washington, Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet offers a unique tiki bar experience with an eclectic twist. Despite its name, this speakeasy embraces the cozy atmosphere of Hawaii in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. With a limited drink menu, each cocktail at Little Tin is meticulously crafted with a plethora of ingredients.
Many of the concoctions contain the equivalent of two or three drinks, ensuring a memorable and adventurous drinking experience. Established in 2016, Little Tin provides a peaceful retreat from the rowdy bars in the vicinity.
The tiki drinks are perfectly complemented by shared plates of Hawaiian cuisine, making it an ideal spot for an enchanting and flavorful night out.
Melinda’s Alley – Phoenix, Arizona:
Situated beneath the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, Melinda’s Alley is a hidden gem in the basement that rewards those who embark on a scavenger hunt to find it.
Located through a door beneath a giant mural lit up by red neon in an alley, Melinda’s Alley offers an underground speakeasy experience like no other.
The bar provides an inviting ambiance, creating the perfect atmosphere for guests to relax and enjoy a drink. With live music, expertly crafted cocktails, and a wide selection of spirits, Melinda’s Alley caters to both seasoned cocktail enthusiasts and those seeking a memorable night out.
The Oakland – Ferndale, Michigan:
Nestled in Ferndale, Michigan, The Oakland Art Novelty Company presents itself as a discreet neighborhood bar that stands as a local staple. Despite not explicitly labeling itself as a speakeasy,
The Oakland exudes an air of secrecy with its hidden location and intimate atmosphere. Offering exclusive pours of whiskey and mezcal, this establishment caters to enthusiasts of these spirits. However, the bar’s extensive selection ensures that there is something for every palate.
With a rotating cocktail menu that changes daily based on the availability of ingredients, The Oakland provides an unforgettable drinking experience. Its sophisticated yet casual ambiance creates the perfect setting for an evening of indulgence with friends, accompanied by exceptional cocktails and engaging conversation.
The speakeasy bars mentioned in this article represent a diverse range of locations, styles, and experiences. From hidden entrances and secret passwords to innovative cocktails and immersive themes, these establishments have managed to capture the essence of the Prohibition era while offering a modern twist.
Whether you’re seeking a sophisticated and upscale speakeasy like PDT in New York or Death & Co in New York, or prefer the laid-back and tropical vibes of The Broken Shaker in Miami, there is a speakeasy out there to suit every taste. These bars not only serve expertly crafted cocktails but also provide an atmosphere that transports guests to a different time and place.
The resurgence of speakeasies in recent years has allowed cocktail enthusiasts and curious patrons to experience a piece of history while enjoying the artistry of mixology. With their attention to detail, commitment to quality, and dedication to creating unique experiences, these speakeasy bars have become destinations in their own right.
So, whether you’re a seasoned barfly or someone looking for a memorable night out, consider visiting one of these best speakeasy bars in the US and beyond. Step through hidden doors, indulge in creative libations, and embrace the allure of the clandestine world of speakeasies. Cheers to the exciting and ever-evolving cocktail culture that keeps the spirit of the Roaring Twenties alive!