Speakeasy style bars have been blowing up these past few years, and New York City is no exception. And, really, what better place to grab an old-fashioned cocktail in a prohibition-era setting than the Big Apple? Today let’s go Speakeasy: NYC Edition, and talk about our favorite “secret” city spots for drinks, food, and old-timey fun. Whether you’re looking for a classic joint, straight outta Boardwalk Empire, or a laid back bar serving up burgers and fries, this list should satisfy any discriminating speakeasy-er.
Hidden behind the Stone Street Coffee Company is the classic epitome of a speakeasy bar –Bathtub Gin. Complete with low lighting, damask fabrics, and an antique tin tile ceiling, you’ll certainly feel like you’re sipping your cocktail in prohibition-era NYC.
Add to that some seriously tasty food, courtesy of the chefs at Harry’s Steak on Stone Street, yummy cocktails (heavy on the gin of course), and burlesque dance shows, and you have all the makings of a top shelf speakeasy evening. Oh, and if you get adventurous enough (read: drunk), you may want to hop into the actual clawfoot bathtub sitting in the center of the room.
132 9th Ave
The Back Room resides in the exact spot of an actual 1920s speakeasy; walk past the “toy shop” to find the entrance. If that’s not enough to peak your interest, how about sipping your prohibited beverage out of a tea cup, or if that’s too classy, a bottle not-so-cleverly hidden in a paper bag? Check the place out on Mondays, when they have live jazz courtesy of Svetlana and the Delancey Five.
And don’t worry about your rug-cutting abilities, they even give you a free 1920s dance class before the music starts.
102 Norfolk St.
Don’t come to Attaboy’s expecting to peruse a menu –can’t leave a paper trail, people! Rather, head over to the bar and chat with one of their master mixologists, they’ll fix you up with something exactly to your taste. Look for a door with AB on it, knock or ring the buzzer, and you’ll be let in. The space is small and unassuming, perfect if you’re looking for a more low-key sort of evening. Attaboy is actually located in the same space Milk&Honey used to occupy –glad the place is sticking to its speakeasy roots.
oh, and if that’s not enough, they were even voted as one of the world’s top 50 bars.
134 Eldridge St.
Yes, this speakeasy has great atmosphere, and yes it has amazing, creative, delicious cocktails, and yes it’s hidden up a small staircase. But that’s not all my new favorite bar has going for it. You ready for this? You can order up 5 Guys food! That hidden staircase I mentioned is conveniently located in the back of the Bleecker Street 5 Guys Burgers and Fries.
Enjoy a specialty menu of 5 Guys burgers from your seat in the cozy, loft-style room, complete with beautiful skylights. Try the Italian Neighbors Burger, topped Ottomanelli Bros. prosciutto and house-made marinara . And you thought 5 Guys couldn’t get any better.
286 Bleecker St.
Employees Only has long been a go-to spot in the NYC speakeasy scene (another bar from the world’s best bar list) . But it’s worth a visit as it definitely lives up to the hype. If you’re looking for old school cocktails mixed by mustachioed bartenders in a dimly lit room, this is the place for you. The food is also top-notch. Eat dinner in the dining room, or snack on their late-night bar menu until 3:30am –bone marrow poppers are a big favorite. They also have a house psychic –drunken palm readings anyone?
510 Hudson St.
If a tiny, crowded, backroom isn’t the vibe you’re looking for, check out Beauty and Essex. Located behind a pretty rad pawn shop, Beauty and Essex boasts 10,000 square feet of upscale food, drinks and atmosphere. There is a restaurant, lounge, and multiple bars, so come for dinner and stay for drinks. Oh and pssst! Ladies, there’s free bubbly in the bathroom. Sorry, men-folk, no such luck with the little boys room.
146 Essex St.
Ok, why does lower Manhattan always get all the speakeasy fun? Thank goodness for 67 Orange, a Harlem speakeasy spot with great drinks, creative food, and some great history to go with it.
The name is a shout out to the location ofAlmack’s Dance Hall, one of the most well-known black-owned businesses of pre-Civil War New York.Almack’s was famous for its all-inclusive clientele, and fun, boisterous atmosphere (it was even immortalized by Charles Dickensin his book “American Notes.” ).
67 Orange seeks to bring that same vibe to modern-day New Yorkers, with not-so-serious takes on classic drinks with fantastic names like Cleopatra’s Lust (gin, green Chartreuse, coconut water, honey liqueur, lime juice, orange, egg white, sugar, cream), Rude Boy’s Old Fashioned (Smith&Cross, scotch, velvet falernum, fennel bitters), and the Master Cleanse Margarita (lemon juice, Herradura Silver, agave, cayenne, maple syrup). The food is not to be missed, either. Deep fried brussel sprouts with fig balsamic reduction? Fried chicken and red velvet waffles? What is this wonder of wonders?!
2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd
Which of these speakeasy bars tickles your fancy? Tell us about your favorites or ones we missed in the comments below!
Lauren is a New York based actor/singer/writer. She is a graduate of the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University as well as the College of the Holy Cross. She’s a fan of beer, pasta, and academic establishments with unnecessarily long titles. Find her on stage, or online– she’s there often.