In New York, everyone is proud of having a repertoire of insider spots for almost any occasion – whether it’s the best place for tacos, craft beer or discount designer clothes. Speakeasies are for a special breed of cocktail connoisseur – though they became prominent during the Prohibition era nearly a hundred years ago, a “speakeasy” today refers retro-style, under-the-radar bars. When I go to a speakeasy here in NYC, I expect a top-notch cocktail menu, dim lighting and an air of exclusivity. Here are six of our favorites.
A date brought me to this hard-to-find spot, and I was thoroughly impressed. He led me to the second floor of a Chinese restaurant and through an unmarked door (I was equal parts skeptical, concerned and curious), into a dark, narrow bar. We had to wait around twenty minutes for seats, on a weeknight, but the excitement of a secret bar and the delicious drinks were worth it. Rotating menu; order anything with matcha.
This is one of the loveliest bars I’ve ever been in – its design was inspired by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and incorporates a time-traveling theme into the four-room space. Themes include Marie Antoinette’s parlor, the Gatsby Room, the JFK Room and the Abraham Lincoln Room. Each one is more stunning than the last, but I love the retro-mod vibe of the JFK space. Warning: expect a wait. Order the Feel No Pain.
This was the first speakeasy-style bar I went to, and I was instantly enthralled by this Long Island City spot. There’s no signage other than a small neon “Bar” sign, but inside the discreet building is a beautiful bar with lots of seating and infamously strong cocktails. P.S. They have happy hour! Order the Daiquiri or ask for something special.
If you love vodka, stay away from Lantern’s Keep – you can read more about this in their very serious list of rules, which also forbids gentlemen to wear hats inside. Its midtown location makes this spot great for after work drinks, and is housed in the glamorous Iroquois hotel. They have one of the longest cocktail menus I’ve ever seen, as well as snacks like oysters Rockefeller and deviled eggs. Order the Pineapple Collins or the Brandy Cobbler.
This Brooklyn spot was inspired by Marie Antoinette’s opulent chambers – think red velvet sofa, Renaissance paintings and gorgeous glassware. Le Boudoir has live music on Mondays, and an extensive menu that includes traditional and nouveau cocktails, as well as French-y bar snacks (foie gras and frog legs!). Order the Fantôme or a French 75.
Come for the charming decor, stay for the excellent drinks. The Wooly Public is located in the iconic Woolworth Building, and offers a menu that includes lesser-known classic cocktails and “contemporary concoctions.” Order the Woolynesia, or ask for their version of an Old Fashioned.