30 Amazing Speakeasies Around the World

But we didn’t tell you.

1C Portland Pl, Marylebone, London W1B 1JA, UK
On weekend nights, The Palm Court at the Langham Hotel, London’s classic spot for afternoon tea, transforms into a speakeasy-style gin bar. Sipsmith’s Jared Brown (featured in the October 2012 issue) worked with the Langham’s mixologist, Alex Kratena, to devise a menu that gives drinkers a quirky history lesson and showcases the complexity of Sipsmith Gin. The journey begins with the story of how gin was invented to save the citizens of London from their contaminated water supply, fizzes through Jean Jacob Schweppes’s invention of carbonation (five different levels for different digestive ailments), and ends with modern mixology. Those who don’t care for history lessons might be swayed simply by the menu’s drink descriptions. The Gineveristic, for example, made with Langham tea-infused syrup, tastes of “Genever sexy citrus tea bubbles.” 1c Portland Place, 44/(20) 7636-000. Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 7pm-midnight.
1439 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226, USA
“Have you heard about d’Mongo’s? It is Ryan Gosling’s favorite place to visit when he comes to town!” Although I never saw Ryan Gosling, bartender Red knew immediately that I was new in Detroit and that I’d never been in before. She recommended I try the Detroit Brown, made with Michigan’s own ginger ale: Vernors. As I sipped gently from the cold glass and looked over the top of its rim at the eclectic crowd filling the speakeasy, I couldn’t help but think, “Who cares what celebrity does or doesn’t frequent this place, I’d come back here for the drinks and the crowd any day!” Cafe d’Mongo’s draws a crowd every night it is open—which is usually only on Friday, maybe Saturday—and whether the customers come because of the drinks, the music, the crowd, or because they hope to see Ryan Gosling or Mark Wahlberg, the point is they keep coming. There’s an element of secrecy that has kept even my hotel’s valet from being able to tell me how to get to the revered speakeasy, yet it’s one of the first places I heard about when I asked people on the street where I needed to go get a drink in Detroit. If you find yourself at Cafe d’Mongo’s, tell Red I say hello, and order the Detroit Brown.
510 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014, USA
Lower Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA, USA
Bourbon and Branch is a traditional speakeasy. Their 8 house rules—hushed voices and no cell phones among them—encourage neighborly conversation in a very relaxed setting. It’s a great way to meet people if you’re traveling alone as well. There is a binder’s worth of libations here that are each expertly prepared by resident ‘mixologists.’ Don’t forget the password—they’ll give it to you when you make a reservation. It’s all part of the fun!
7111 E 5th Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
A contemporary take on a traditional pub, Citizen Public House is known for its craft beers, classic and modern cocktails, and interesting pub grub. Snacks include bacon-fat popcorn and a beer fondue made with the local Kilt Lifter brew. Main courses like short ribs with a coffee rub and pan-seared scallops with grits are hearty and delicious. The spot is beautiful, too, with mahogany furniture, oversize leather booths, and a large stainless steel–topped center bar. Speaking of the bar—Citizen Public House is a good spot to tip one back with the locals. Because the bar supports Arizona brewers and wineries, you’ll find Four Peaks Hop Knot IPA and Pillsbury Wild Child white blend on the list, along with wines from Caduceus Cellars and Dos Cabezas.
530 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001, USA
Located atop The McKittrick Hotel—site of the immersive theater experience “Sleep No More"—Gallow Green is a beguiling outdoor space overgrown with flowers and vines that offers up views of the Hudson River and the High Line. It’s as popular for late-night drinks as it is for weekend brunch; art lovers can fuel up here and then hop around the Chelsea neighborhood afterward. During warmer months, the rooftop hosts “Potions and Plantings,” a monthly tea party for kids (ages 5-10) and their adults. The event outshines all other kids’ tea times in the city (and there are many) and will make the grown-ups want to return for their own happy hour.
Nybrogade 10, 1203 København, Denmark
Copenhagen is one of the world’s most sophisticated cocktail cities. Bars as far afield as Tokyo and New York keep a close eye on what is shaking—and stirring—here. Ruby, among the more elegant of Copenhagen’s bars, opened in 2007 with a focus on classic cocktails. It can be hard to find, but look for the flag of Georgia to guide you there, as it’s in the same building as that country’s embassy.
2601 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Located in Logan Square, and featuring one of the more eclectic wine lists I’ve seen in a while, Telegraph Wine Bar is the perfect place to swing by for a leisurely bite to eat and drink. The antique fixtures and lights provide a bit of a speakeasy vibe, and the rustic double bar and hardwood furniture definitely make you feel right at home and safe from prohibition-era raids. As you sip your craft drinks, unique wine, or small batch beer, enjoy indie tunes in the background. If you want a real local bar with a speakeasy feel, there’s a seat at the bar with your name on it. If you’re planning on having dinner as well, the menu is meat-heavy, which is not necessarily a bad thing unless you’re vegetarian. The desserts are sizable enough to feed your party of four, if you even want to share (it’s that good).
12-16 Artillery Ln, Spitalfields, London E1 7LS, UK
While it’s not the clandestine experience it claims to be (we didn’t have to ask for the mayor like the website says), The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is a fun time beneath the Breakfast Club restaurant in Spitalfields. To enter, you walk through an oversize Smeg fridge door, then proceed down the dark stairwell to a cabin-like space with animal heads and quirky posters mounted to the walls—one forbids ‘heavy petting’. The cocktail list includes remixed classics like a margarita with chili and lemongrass and some delicious fizz of ginger beer. themayorofscaredycattown.com
4/256 Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Speakeasies and secret bars are an ongoing trend in Australian cities, namely Melbourne and Sydney. Down an unassuming alley off Crown Street, behind an equally unassuming doorway, lies Shady Pines Saloon—if it weren’t for the alcohol license on the door and the bouncer outside, you would never know it was there. Inside, the décor is reminiscent of an old hunting lodge or saloon in the American West, with mounted animal heads, vintage beer trays, dim lighting, Johnny Cash on the stereo, and peanut shells coating the floor. Mustachioed bartenders mix craft cocktails and can advise you on their selection of bourbons and whiskeys. The fresh-pressed apple juice and whiskey is always tasty, while the mystery moonshine in the “leg bottle” makes for an adventurous choice.
6 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1E9, Canada
A clandestine spot to imbibe in Gastown, the Diamond is the speakeasy when you’re in Vancouver. Bar none, one of the best bars I have been to on recommendation from Nathan at Judas Goat. They will make you anything here, like a tasty pisco sour. Plus, they give you these really cute glasses with flowers on them. We didn’t try the menu, but if it’s anything like the drinks, I’ll be returning for a meal.
804 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101, USA
If you want to check out where the San Diego locals hang out, you have to stop by Bootlegger, located on the border of Gaslamp. The bar itself is unique, with a beautiful stone top and lined with hand-carved wooden panels imported from Mexico. There are comfortable seats no matter where you look. Although the decor is going for that dive bar feel, it’s got a touch of hidden elegance. When you come in, as long as it’s not too crowded, the service is highly personable. The Bootlegger is designed somewhat to look like a 1920s speakeasy, and has some interesting art on the walls. The drinks are poured using top-grade liquors; my favorite so far (pictured) is the ‘Old Fashioned'—Bulleit Bourbon, Angostura bitters, sugar, fresh lemon and orange peel. They have a good number of beers on tap and a great selection from the local micro-breweries. I recommend the happy hour—it’s not too crowded and select drinks and all appetizers are half price. For a neighborhood bar, the food is really good. The Bootlegger bar is a great place to experience the San Diego vibe. Another cool thing is that they don’t allow smoking out on the patio around the bar, so if you want to enjoy a smoke-free night, this is the place to be. Tip: It gets impossibly crowded during any game going on at Petco Park, which is the local baseball stadium. During the late week to weekend it also gets crowded. If you want to come and chill before a night on the town, come by for the happy hour, from 3–8 p.m.
30 Vicolo Cellini
At this speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar near Chiesa Nuova, hipster bartenders pour and shake American classics like Manhattans, Sazeracs and Old-Fashioneds in a smoky lounge. To gain admittance, make a booking and come armed with the secret password, a clue to which can be found on the venue’s website. Once you enter, you’ll be shown to a table or barstool, handed a menu, and asked to fill out a membership card. Service can be slow and snarky, but drinks are worth the wait. Cash only.
China, Shaanxi, Xian Shi, Yanta Qu, GaoXin ShangQuan, 高新一路 邮政编码: 710065
This is a slightly odd place. It’s in the middle of a commercial area, with no restaurants in sight. If you get to the right block, it’s actually behind a large building. You have to knock and be let in like a speakeasy. Once inside, it’s a pretty normal expat locale. The first floor is a Spanish restaurant, supposedly with one of the only wood-burning pizza ovens in Xi’an. Downstairs is the real Green Molly, an Irish pub. You can also order food here. The pizza was disappointing, but the Caprese salad and potato skins were outrageously good. Green Molly is 200 meters north of Ginwa Shopping Center on the intersection of Gaoxin Road and Keji Road. It is behind the GAOKE building.
728 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Alexandria has been around since before the founding of our country and has always been home to a number of taverns. However, during Prohibition, Alexandria was also home to something else: a speakeasy. In the decades since alcohol started flowing freely again, Alexandria once again finds itself playing host to an underground drinking establishment. There’s no sign for PX—you’ll know it by the blue light that shines next to a black door. There’s no web address for PX—you have to access their website through another restaurant’s website (hint: it’s the fish and chips place located right next door!). There’s also no line for PX—a reservation is an absolute must, they’ll check you out through the little peephole in the heavy, iron door. Once you’re permitted inside, dressed to impress of course, be prepared for a life-changing cocktail experience. Mixologist Todd Thrasher (a good friend of Alexandria celebrity chef Cathal Armstrong) mixes up some of the most inventive, tastiest drinks in the entire DC area. Plan on spending a few hours enjoying a cocktail or two and some snacks. PX is ideal for a small group of friends toasting a special occasion or a couple looking for a quiet table to whisper over.
4175 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2W 1Y7, Canada
Not to be mistaken for the popular izakaya of the same name (and same owners) down the street, on Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Avenue des Pins, this Big In Japan is on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Rachel. You may not notice the sign, or even the door – it adds to the sense of mystery of this high-class drinking establishment (look for the black door near the fast-food restaurant Patati-Patata). From the vaporous curtains to the long shiny U-bar, the atmosphere here is distinctly speakeasy, and the classic cocktails maintain that illusion. The champagne cocktail will never go unwanted, and the Tom Collins is fizzy and tart, as it should be. Or you could dip into the house specialties: sakes, prune wines and Japanese whiskeys, used bottles of which serve as the basis for this stylish spot’s contemporary lamp fixtures.
2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226, USA
Come for a sip of the Cliff Bell at happy hour (that’s Dewar’s Scotch, sweet vermouth, Absinthe Ordinare, and orange bitters), stay for the live jazz and the lively 1930’s atmosphere. Cliff Bell’s jazz bar in downtown Detroit is a slinky watering hole, and a legendary one at that, named for speakeasy owner and colorful local entrepreneur John Clifford Bell. Although the club was shuttered for 20 years from 1985 to 2005, it now swings on with nightly live music and even serves up bottomless mimosas for Sunday brunch.
Prime Tower, Hardstrasse 201, 8005 Zürich, Switzerland
The owners of this bi-level bar in the Prime Tower took great pains to create its visually stunning speakeasy-style décor: the impressive 80-year-old wooden bar and six tons of subway tiles were shipped from New York City. On a recent evening, patrons sipped whiskeys from Japan and ginger wines from Scotland to a soundtrack that ranged from Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi” to Fink’s “Blueberry Pancakes.”
Forresters Ln, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
A throwback to the roarin’ twenties, you can find (or maybe not find) an emerging speakeasy-style bar culture hitting the streets in Wellington. Themed bars that you would never know about or find unless someone told you first are all the rage. The aptly-named Motel Bar is right off of Courteney Place, one of the most popular nightlife areas of Wellington, and from the outside it looks like a dingy U.S. motel from the 1970s, complete with flashing neon “Vacancy/No Vacancy” sign. Buzzing the door will lead you up a dark staircase. Behind one of the unmarked doors at the top, you will find the small, cozy, New York-jazz-club-style bar and lounge: the Motel Bar. Complete with beautiful 1950s decor, elegant cocktails (more than 200 to chose from), and a record player humming in the background, you will be shocked that you doubted the entrance even for a moment.
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