The last time speakeasy-style dens became coveted in New York City was around 2007, when PDT aka Please Don’t Tell launched in the East Village and kicked off a spate of new bars with increasingly elaborate hidden entrances. The throwback to the Prohibition-era establishments is once again in vogue, but luckily they’re less ostentatious, more chill, and most importantly, serving outstanding cocktails. Here’s where to hide while nursing a drink in the city.Read More
19 Hidden NYC Bars Worth Seeking Out
Where to find booze disguised by unmarked doors, hot dogs, and a laundromat
1. Manhattan Cricket Club
Uptown got its own glittery speakeasy in 2013 with the opening of Manhattan Cricket Club, styled after bygone British gentlemen’s clubs. Adjoining the Australian restaurant Burke & Wills, the plush, leather-lined interior offers a more affordable taste of nobility with cocktails priced around $15.
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2. Bootlegger Jack’s
Astoria steakhouse Uncle Jack’s Meat House got in on the speakeasy game with Bootlegger Jack’s, masked by a steel-vault door in the basement. The Tiffany lamps and peeling wallpaper evoke early-20th-century New York. Old-Fashioneds can be accompanied by beef-heavy bites. Ask a doorman or a manager for the “secret” password to get in.
3. Patent Pending
This radio-themed speakeasy in the Radio Wave Building’s cellar executes on its concept with a menu sorting drinks into four categories: energy, frequency, vibration, and descent. Each drink is illustrated and described in painstaking detail, like the “Light Me Up,” with bourbon, Jamaican rum, mango black tea, amaro, yellow chartreuse, Sichuan peppercorn, lime, and pineapple. It ends up being a complex drink with layered flavors. During the day, the space is a coffee shop with speciality grab-and-go coffee, nitro cold brew, pastries, cookies, and chia parfaits.
4. The 18th Room
New York, NY 10011
While there is a menu at the 18th Room, it’s better to put everything in the hands of the bartenders, who create whimsical specialties based on a customer’s taste preferences. The speakeasy, which opened in spring 2018, is stashed behind a fake coffee supply storefront and has stunning Art Deco-style design. The bar also has a focus on sustainability, employing practices such as recycling cardboard for coasters and giving bottle glass to local artists for reuse.
5. Dear Irving
New York, NY 10003
The team behind Raines Law Room, which set a new standard for speakeasy elegance, opened this similarly sexy bar in Gramercy in 2014. While the apartment-like entrance is anything but striking, the decor, including crystal curtains and a room inspired by Marie Antoinette, makes a dramatic and luxe statement. Drinks run the gamut from tiki to a wide selection of whiskeys.
6. Little Branch
New York, NY 10014
A nondescript door in the West Village leads to a stairway down to the basement-level Little Branch, the late and lauded bartender Sasha Petraske’s ode to refined cocktail culture. Bartenders in obligatory vests can make drinks from the twee menu or work out something on the spot. While the wait can be long on the weekends, the complimentary handmade pretzels and occasional live music are worth it.
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7. Angel's Share
Angel’s Share has been around much longer than PDT, though it has only more recently earned its deserved praise. A staircase in the izakaya restaurant Village Yokocho gives way to the romantic room with a view, modeled after hushed Tokyo cocktail temples. Drinks made with luxe Japanese whiskies are available alongside other globe-trotting fare. It’s regularly packed, but Angel’s Share also opened a nearby annex.
8. Sunshine Laundromat
During Prohibition, speakeasies weren’t slinging fancy Manhattans but rather whatever hooch the staff could obtain under the alcohol ban. Sunshine Laundromat harks back to those simpler days, slinging bottles of Miller High Life behind a faux-washer door. The real draw, however, are the numerous pinball machines played by arcade junkies.
9. Please Don't Tell
Blame PDT owner Jim Meehan for the mid-aughts fascination with speakeasies. But more mercifully, the bar behind a phone booth in Crif Dogs signaled a sea change in New York cocktail culture. Its meticulous approach to both classic and hyper-specific house cocktails remains among the most sophisticated around, even though a fine Sazerac is now widely available. Sample a concoction laced with port along with the fancy hot dogs.
10. Blue Quarter
Blue Quarter, nestled inside Moroccan restaurant Local 92, zeroes in on cocktails made with tea. All nine cocktails, at $15 each, incorporate the tea theme, from a riff on the Long Island to the matcha-laced Unfinished Story. It’s also run by industry favorite Sother Teague, who’s known for popular bitters bar Amor y Amargo.
11. The Hidden Pearl
While this tropical Japanese-themed speakeasy behind Wanpaku is small (there are only 18 seats), the brightly lit, airy space doesn’t usually feel overwhelmingly crowded. Owner Leif Huckman, who is also behind Donna in South Williamsburg, calls the bar a “Japanese clam shack,” and as such, small plates like salmon skin chicharron or fried baby octopus round out the menu. The drinks menu has an entire section devoted to highballs, all of which are worth a try.
12. Peppi's Cellar
New York, NY 10013
This fairly recent addition to the New York City speakeasy scene is located under Italian restaurant Gran Tivoli. There’s a 1950-esque feel to the space, with antique lighting, aa small stage for live jazz performances, and deep booth seating for six to 10 — making it an ideal spot for mid-sized groups. Drinks include Italian cocktails like the sgroppino with amaro, sorbet, vodka, and prosseco, as well as an extensive by-the-bottle wine program with a particular focus on Italian and French wines.
13. Fig. 19
New York, NY 10002
Fig. 19’s secret pathway is more clever than most. Above the dance-centric hotspot Home Sweet Home, an art gallery has a door in the very back that leads to the hip watering hole. Chandeliers and accessible cocktails cater to the chic Lower East Side crowd, while the jazz soundtrack offers an escape from the rowdier scene below.
New York, NY 10002
The tiny Attaboy, with only bar seats and three booths, does justice to the old Milk & Honey space. Ring the bell on the unmarked door to get in, though a line on the weekend will give away the gimmick. Reservations and menus are shunned, but a bartender will happily chat in order to find the ideal beverage.
Down a windy path and behind an unmarked door in Chinatown, Apotheke combines speakeasy trappings with lavish lounge-like atmosphere. The relatively spacious room can get loud, with late-night revelers choosing from the “prescriptions” on the menu delivered by bartenders in white lab coats. While it can get a bit gimmicky, the ornately designed cocktails are solid.
The bi-level Chinese Tuxedo is also home to subterranean Peachy’s, which announces its cheeky humor with a neon sign saying, “no photos, no fighting.” A dragon made of light is the centerpiece of the artful space. Drinks are heavy on superfoods tailored to customers who want to booze without feeling too badly about themselves.
17. Mezcaleria La Milagrosa
La Milagrosa, a speakeasy and mezcaleria in one, lies behind an apparent freezer door in a Williamsburg deli. The narrow, woody space specializes in agave-based spirits used in drinks like a just-smoky-enough mezcal margarita. The hip yet friendly crowd is usually lost in conversation or bopping along to an eclectic music mix provided by rotating DJs.
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East Williamsburg’s Sweet Science turns out burgers and Southern food, as well as its own worthy bar. But its vaguely boxing-themed speakeasy Featherweight, found through a hidden door in the restaurant, adds another dimension. In the warmly lit space, low-key bartenders ably serve individual tastes, from custom creations to the popular gin-based house cocktail Keep Calm and Carry On.
Karasu, in the back of the Fort Greene standby Walter’s, is a sophisticated Japanese take on a neighborhood restaurant and bar. Alongside sake and Asian-inspired cocktails, the subtly glamorous room serves a full menu, including oysters doused in yuzu kosho mignonette and a fried pork chop.
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