This led to one of the most ingenious American inventions. The Speakeasy.
The modern New York Speakeasy falls into two categories:
A) Bar that is true to the Spirit of Speakeasies. Where even if you are directly in front of the place - you can’t find it. There is no signage of any kind nor a doorman(woman) to be found. And once you are inside, you will be confounded on how you got in there.
B) Prohibition Style - the bar is hard to find but there is some signage or maybe a person standing at the door. Everybody knows where it is and the decor, cocktails, and staff are all crafted as a tribute to the era of bathtub Gins, cigarette smoke filled rooms and jazz-fueled nights.
That said and (loosely) defined, here are a few New York City speakeasies that hit all the right notes when it comes to being hidden in plain sight and serving up the best cocktails NYC has to offer.
Holy Oscar Mayer Batman!
A list of NYC Speakeasies is incomplete without mentioning Please Don’t Tell. Jim Meehan’s West Village gem did not start the trend of the modern Speakeasy, but it blazed a trail for others and made the surrounding bars stand up, take notice and improve their cocktail game.
Please don't tell
PDT has no secret password, only a phone number for reservations. With a small prayer and the grace of a long-handled spoon, one might get a seat at the bar. Bring cash and be on your best manners. PDT does not suffer fools. Enjoy the hotdogs & Tater Tots!
Middle Eastern meets East Village
It was created by Sother Teague, the mastermind behind NYC’s Amor y Amargo, writer of I’m Just here for the Drinks and co-host of The Speakeasy Podcast. The Blue Quarter is completely hidden from the outside world by being tucked inside a fine dining establishment.
The Blue Quarter
Their tea-based cocktails, amazing staff and cool vibes are the envy of bars twice the size. It’s an intimate (so small it fits 92 Locals.) imbibing encounter that larger established bars can’t do.
Day 2 of #NegroniWeek has me at @bluequarternyc, serving up The Source, by @maxwellsgreenhammer. Comprised of Campari, Appleton Reserve, Novo Fogo cachaca, and Cinzano Bianco, we also skip the stirring and discarding of excess ice, and dilute it with mint tea instead, saving water. Proceeds from the drink are going to @waterforpeople, who help provide access to clean drinking water and better sanitation in developing countries. ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ?????????????????? ????????? #Negroni #cocktails #campari #rum #cocktail #bartender #bar #drinks
This Hell’s Kitchen Gin Joint is more time machine than bar. With its live Jazz, steamy burlesque shows, high end concoctions, and false wall entrance - patrons are delivered to a unique imbibing experience of a flashy flappers, and bespoke cocktails.
And yes, Gin is on the menu. And not the blinding rot gut they served the 20’s. One of their signature Gin (Yes, they serve Bourbon.) cocktails is called the Golden Hour: Tanqueray No 10 Gin, Rosemary Infused St. Germain, Green Tea Agave, Lemon & Yuzu Juice, shaken, served tall & topped with Prosecco. And coffee in Bathtub Gin is pretty good.
The 18th RoomIf Nick Carraway had taken up decorating and design instead of trying to sell bonds in New Egg The 18th Room would be his masterpiece. Hints of Gold trim, cozy velvet booths and a bathroom so aerodynamic you’d think NASA installed the facilities.
This hidden gem is a late-night New York treat with drinks made cocktail pros. And just like Bathtub Gin, their coffee isn’t bad either.
Back in the day, a real speakeasy was almost impossible to find - on purpose! Lost locations behind back alleys, coded street names. It was word of mouth, cryptic chalk drawn clues on the sidewalk or three knocks on door IF a candle was in the window. It was about keeping the police out and getting the patrons in.
If New York is recognized for one thing, it’s having a ton of everything. These are not the only speakeasy establishments in NYC. Others of note include:
- The Back Room
- Le Boudoir
- Angel’s Share
- Bootlegger Jack’s
- Lost Hours
- Sunshine Laundromat
- The Garret
If you notice the addresses for each of the bars mentioned have been left out. Yes, the links will show the addresses. Within the descriptions there are clues to their locations. Can you spot them? Been to any good speakeasies lately? Let us know which ones were the bee’s knees.
*The 18th Amendment only forbade the “manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors” —not their consumption.