NYC Speakeasy Bars

Published by Chris Frost

  • Angel's Share

    • 8 Stuyvesant Street
    Tel: +1 212 777 5415
    Long before absinthe spoons, hand-cracked ice and tight-vested mixologists found new life in the NYC bar scene, Angel's Share was speakeasy-cool. The owners and managers of trend-setting bars like Milk & Honey and PDT freely pay homage to this East Village staple that opened in the mid 1990s.
    Make your way through a Japanese comfort food joint and head upstairs for delicious drinks and a view of the scuttling street below. Maybe it's the jazz, maybe it's the Suntory whiskey cocktails, but this is Prohibition with a Tokyo-noir twist.
    Angel's Share is perfect for couples – no standing and no parties greater than four admitted.

  • Apotheke

    • 9 Doyers St
    Tel: +1 212 406 0400
    Sundown on Doyers Street, you can hear the wind whistle it's so empty. Pass the signs for foot-rub storefronts and the smells of pungent fish markets and you might end up at the barely marked door of Apotheke, a former Chinatown opium den.
    It's a cure-all for the well-worn soul: order a "Pain Killer", such as Mezcal Mayan Summer, or a "Euphoric Enhancer", such as the Rum Opium Uplifter. Over 250 speciality cocktails are prescribed from the bar. Ask the waiting staff and they might tell you about the house absinthe, made from a secret 200-year-old recipe with fermented sugarcane juice.
    There's a weekly line-up of live music on Mondays, Tuesdays and Sundays. "Prohibition Wednesdays" feature a house jazz band and require a password for entrance (follow @apothekenyc on Twitter for the month's equivalent of "open sesame").

  • Attaboy

    • 134 Eldridge St.
    Sasha Petraske’s Milk and Honey was at the forefront of New York’s speakeasy scene when it opened on the Lower East Side in 2000 with a private phone number and well-concealed entrance.
    It closed in 2012, but two longtime Milk and Honey bartenders opened the bespoke cocktail bar Attaboy in its place, complete with flickering candles and no drink menu.
    Look for the steel door with “AB” on it and a neon “A” in the window; then ring the buzzer to be let in to this no-reservations drinking den.
    Once seated, you’ll answer questions about your spirit of choice and other drink preferences that will help the bartender create a customized cocktail that will knock your socks off.

  • Bathtub Gin

    • 132 Ninth Avenue
    Tel: +1 646 559 1671
    The back wall inside the Stone Street Coffee Company pulls out: a trick door opening to Bathtub Gin, a hopping Chelsea gin joint harkening back to the days of false store fronts.
    Since there's no hooch steeping in any tubs, order a round of the good stuff (gin shaken, stirred, or on the rocks). There is a copper bathtub in the middle of the place, and you're welcome to hop in if the spirit moves you. The Martinez is nice and stiff (made with junipero gin, dolin rouge, maraschino liqueur, bokers bitters and lemon oils). Raise a glass to the end of prohibition.

  • Death + Company

    • 433 E 6th Street
    Tel: +1 212 388 0882
    Cocktails were popularised in the 1920s when speakeasy patrons needed something sweet to make the bathtub gin go down a little easier. Concoctions involving lemon juice, simple syrup and anything fizzy were basic, but did the trick.
    These days cocktail experts at Death + Company have nothing to disguise. Their craft spirits could no doubt stand on their own, but why leave a liquor lonely? A drink like the Javanese Daiquiri packs enough rum to satisfy a privateer, but the addition of a lime cordial and fresh curry leaves transforms it into a drink to savour.
    The bar doesn't accept reservations and operates on a first-come, first-served basis. If the place is full, however, they'll take your number and call when room becomes available.

  • Employees Only

    • 510 Hudson St
    Tel: +1 212 242 3021
    Look for a red neon sign advertising a psychic and then for the live tarot card reader. On busy nights, there might also be a bouncer outside the entrance. He’ll lead you through a curtain and into the bar.
    In addition to the great cocktails served up by the bartenders in white chef’s jackets, the food menu at Employees Only is something not to miss. From roasted organic chicken to seared scallops, the menu is full of good choices for a dinner or late-night appetizer. Also, the tarot card reader at the door will do live readings for guests.
    On the weekends, seating in the bar can get a little scarce. If you need a seat, or are bringing a group, show up earlier to ensure a table.
    Address: between Christopher and W 10th St – Map

  • Hotel Delmano

    • 82 Berry St.
    Tel: +1 718 387 1945
    You won’t find any rooms for rent in Williamsburg‘s Hotel Delmano, but you will find a picture-perfect Prohibition-era saloon with smoky mirrors and suspender-wearing bartenders.
    The stools along a lengthy bar and separate rooms with chandeliers and cozy banquettes make this spot is a good match for a date or for a group of thirsty friends. Despite the serious attention paid to decor, the cocktails show off a fun side.
    Try your hand at the Rattlesnake, made with rye, absinthe and egg whites.

  • Little Branch

    • 22 Seventh Avenue S.
    Go to the corner of Seventh Avenue and Leroy Street. You’ll see a single rusted metal door with no signs but a bouncer outside. Slide into a cozy booth and get better acquainted at Little Branch. Once inside, you’ll go down a long stairway to get into the bar.
    Another bar by Sasha Petraske, Little Branch’s bartenders know their stuff! Tell them what you’re in the mood for and they’ll come back with a delicious concoction that’s soon-to-be your new favorite drink. Don’t know what you want? Ask for one of the bartenders specials. Always a good choice!
    Little Branch accepts cash only.

  • PDT

    • 113 St. Marks Pl.
    Tel: +1 212 614 0386
    The award for “ultimate secret entrance” should go to the cleverly hidden PDT, shorthand for Please Don’t Tell, where you’ll need a reservation.
    Once secured, walk into the delicious but otherwise unremarkable hot dog shop, Crif Dogs, on St. Marks Place. Enter the vintage phone booth and pick up the receiver. The wall within the booth will open, revealing the window-less cocktail bar within.
    This snug, speakeasy-inspired bar serves some of the city’s best cocktails, including a version of a Sazerac called a “Staggerac” made with high-proof bourbon and absinthe. Sober up with a hot dog on the way out.

  • Raines Law Room

    • 48 W 17th St
    Find the unmarked stairwell at 48 W. 17th Street in the Flatiron District and ring the doorbell to enter this underground cocktail den where cozy velvet couches provide an intimate, upscale living room-like atmosphere for a date.
    The Raines Law Room is named after an 1896 New York State law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays … except in hotels. The idea was to stop workmen from spending their days off in a saloon-stool stupor. But this is New York; if there's a loophole, there's a way.
    Saloons added makeshift rooms to qualify as hotels (rampant prostitution, of course, following soon after). Today, cocktails provide a more licit thrill. Take a seat in your train compartment-like room and tug the pull-chain for the waiting staff to take your order. Make it a Mamie Taylor, a classic whiskey concoction. And while you wait, look closely at the wallpaper, which provides a twist on the ubiquitous damask in most modern speakeasies.

  • The Back Room (Lower East Side Toy Company)

    • 102 Norfolk St.
    Tel: +1 212 228 5098
    Go on a Monday and bet treated to great live music and dancing.
    Get into the speakeasy spirit by venturing down an alley to reach this hidden Lower East Side bar. First look for the sign that says “Lower East Side Toy Company.”
    Enter through the gate, head down the stairs, across the alley, and up a flight of stairs to reach the Back Room. Cocktails are served in teacups, just like during the clandestine Prohibition era.
    For a real challenge, try to get yourself into the real “Back Room,” a VIP lounge accessed through a trick bookcase.

  • The Blind Barber

    339 East 10th St
    Tel: +1 212 228 2123
    In truth, the Blind Barber, located on 10th Street between Avenues A and B, in the heart of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is a spot for dudes, maybe even bros, but chic ones.
    The employees of this hybrid speakeasy bar–cum-barbershop are not extras from a Noah Baumbach film, nor are they intimidating mixologists in suspenders; these men, with passions for skateboarding, tank tops, snap-back hats, and physical fitness, have sidestepped the bespoke fussiness championed by other shops in the city.