Long gone are the days of America’s Prohibition era, but the secretive spirit of the 1920s is still flourishing in New York’s bar scene. Unmarked entrances and hidden stairways reveal hedonistic underworlds – where locals quaff handcrafted cocktails and listen to live music till the wee hours of the morning. Here, we round up seven of the best speakeasy bars in New York City.
This old-time barbershop, which specialises in traditional cuts and shaves, moonlights as a late-night cocktail den. Tucked away in Alphabet City, the lounge in the back features a long bar, vintage photos and leather booths. Order a stiff drink like the Sweeny Ted, made of Jameson Black Barrel, lemon, honey, egg white and Creole bitters. Pizza can be ordered from Gnocco restaurant across the road.
339 East 10th Street
Please Don’t Tell
Despite a queue spilling onto St Mark’s Place, PDT’s requisite for entry is through a phone booth in the hot dog joint Crif Dogs, which gives this bar its somewhat-secret appeal. They serve classic libations and adult-friendly hot dogs, like the Spicy Red Neck, a bacon-wrapped dog with chili, slaw and jalapeños.
113 St Mark’s Place
Walk past the tarot card reader and through the curtains to this West Village mainstay. Pedigreed mixologists will whip you up a cocktail, such as the Quiet Storm: Bulleit Bourbon and redbush tea-infused Bianco vermouth served tall with fresh lemon juice and ginger beer. Peckish? Late-night snacks, including oysters, “Bone Marrow Poppers” and Reuben croquettes, are served till 3.30am. Yes!
510 Hudson Street
Don’t be fooled by its obscure entry – a rusty metal door plunked on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Leroy Street – this subterranean gem serves some of the best cocktails in the city. Sink in to a booth while being seduced by the bar’s old piano. An establishment by the late Sasha Petraske (of Milk & Honey fame), many of his old rules apply; for example, no talking loudly or misbehaving.
20 7th Avenue South
The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog
Buried between skyscrapers, this cocktail mecca in lower Manhattan takes on a Roaring Twenties vibe. Named for the notorious 1850s street gang, The Dead Rabbits, the bar pays homage to its Irish history with the most comprehensive whiskey menu in America – 146 to be exact. The bar recently took out the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for World’s Best Bar, adding to its already stuffed cabinet of trophies.
30 Water Street
The Raines Law Room
This underground bar in the Flatiron District is named for the 1896 New York State law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays except in hotels. Press the buzzer on the unmarked door and enter a glamorous world of Victorian-era-inspired furnishings, where you can mingle with Manhattan’s elite. Private tables are fitted out with service bells for waiters and ordering the signature Old Cuban is highly recommended.
48 West 17th Street
Death + Company
This is a place locals use as their lounge room, albeit a particularly classy one. Here you’ll find some of the city’s best barkeeps serving killer cocktails such as the Firing Pin (Sombra mezcal, lime, ginger, Tiki Adam’s orgeat, Campari and Cholula hot sauce). On the food front, there’s “Truffle Mac” (with cheddar and black truffles), Welsh rarebit and “Friskets” (fried biscuits filled with spicy pork and red cabbage slaw).
443 East 6th Street
Images: Employees Only & Blind Barber