Speakeasies can be a lot of fun. There are usually good cocktails involved, and you’re generally required to enter through some hidden doorway that makes you feel a little bit like an entry-level secret agent. And even though showing up at a modern day speakeasy-inspired bar probably won’t get you into trouble with the law, there’s still a level of secrecy that makes going out for drinks feel like an adventure. From former brothel-turned-bars to rooftop mezcalerias, these are the best speakeasies in Austin.
Milonga Room might be one of the best-kept secret speakeasies in Austin. It’s located in the basement of Buenos Aires Cafe on the East Side, through a wooden door that looks like it belongs to a haunted old building. Once inside, post up at the tiny three-seat bar or one of the handful of tables and old couches strewn about the room that looks a bit like an old Victorian parlor. It’s also dimly-lit and intimate, complete with cozy corners and low ceilings. This is very much an ideal date night spot, with amaro-focused drinks and a small menu of light bites—like empanadas and macarons—if you didn’t just come from dinner upstairs.
Located in a parking garage downtown, walking into Garage Bar feels like you’re entering the secret lair of a Fast & Furious movie villain. Once you make it into the concrete cave, follow the big cocktail sign over some parked cars and to the main entrance. Inside are a bunch of tables centered around a round, white granite bar. There’s a blend of classic cocktails and in-house creations, but we’ve found the bartenders are also pretty good at coming up with something on the spot. You don’t need a reservation, but we’d recommend grabbing one if you’re coming on a weekend—it can get about as packed as the garage racing scene from Tokyo Drift.
This is one of the oldest Austin speakeasies, housed in a former brothel on Dirty Sixth Street downtown. Make a reservation, which will come with a name that you’ll hit on the buzzer located outside of an unmarked door with a little red light overhead. Inside, you’ll see a long room that looks like it was plucked directly out of the Prohibition era, complete with tufted leather booths, dark marble tables, and old wood flooring. Make your way to the back, and you’ll find some larger rooms that we’re guessing is where business took place in Midnight Cowboy’s previous life. The menu is a mix of classic twists and staff creations, with many drinks made tableside off a rolling bar cart.
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a secret agent, head to Here Nor There. It’s located in a basement under an alleyway in downtown Austin, right next to The Driskill. Make reservations through a dedicated app, which will reveal a secret code before your scheduled time that will let you through the gate. It sounds like a lot of effort, but it’s worth it once you walk through the front door and are greeted by a life-sized stuffed bear holding a tray of champagne, a chill atmosphere, and old school hip hop on the speakers (clean white sneakers, suede chelseas, and tall leather boots all feel equally appropriate here). The cocktails can be pricey, but with liquid nitrogen-cooled olives, clarified punches, and hand-stamped ice making its way into the drink menu, it all feels like part of the show.
Austin may not have asked for a biblical sin-themed cocktail bar, but we got one—and now we’re regulars. This spot feels especially appropriate located in an alleyway right behind Dirty Sixth Street. Just look for the purple door and hope it’s not the back entrance to Voodoo Doughnuts next door. Inside, you’ll see a small, dimly-lit room with a bar the size of a large walk-in closet, and order cocktails that follow the theme with names like Fruit of the Forbidden, Naked and Shameless, or Lilith’s Affair. Old wooden floors and brick walls make the whole place feel like it was plucked off the streets of Brooklyn.
photo credit: Kinfolk Lounge & Library
Kinfolk Lounge & Library
In the 170-year-old cellar under the downtown restaurant Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill is a fancy, semi-secret bar and tasting room dedicated to high-end spirits and cocktails. Moonshine has long had one of the best whiskey selections in town, so it’s no surprise that you can taste some pretty great stuff at Kinfolk. The cocktails are organized by style and time period, so you can stick with Prohibition-era classics, or grab a modern take on a Cosmopolitan to pair with some charcuterie and cheese. There are two rooms here—one made up of smaller tables for groups of two to four, and another with a large table for more communal experiences.
photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
Techo Mezcaleria & Agave Bar
For an intimate, speakeasy-style mezcaleria experience without all the crowds, head to Techo on Manor Road. The ceilings are low, the room is dark—minus the glow of prayer candles that are on each of the small, iron tables—and there’s a cute rooftop patio that overlooks a relatively quiet side street from the second story. As you might expect, the menu is agave-leaning, but in addition to mezcal flights served in clay copitas, you can also grab watermelon mezcal daiquiris and maracuyu margaritas. There’s no food here, but they’ll let you order chips and queso from Tex-Mex spot Mi Madre’s—which they also own—on the ground floor. To get to Techo, enter from the side patio of Schoolhouse Pub.
photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
Firehouse Hostel and Lounge
Firehouse Lounge is a hostel bar and a speakeasy downtown, and it serves both purposes equally well. The entrance is right next to the check-in desk for the hostel, hidden behind a very heavy bookshelf that you’ll need to slide open. Small as the entrance is, the space is large and dimly-lit. And since there are no reservations or secret codes needed, this place can get crowded on the weekends. But it’s a good kind of crowded—a mix of visitors, off-shift service industry types, and locals looking to escape the madness of Dirty Sixth with a classic cocktail in hand—that makes it feel both lively and fun.
Located behind Shangri-La on East Sixth, The Treasury is a semi-secret, loosely bank-themed bar. And by loosely bank-themed, we mean that it’s located in a tiny room down a flight of stairs that makes us feel like we’re entering an old vault. There are no reservations, so plan accordingly—weekends can get busy—but they’re one of the few speakeasies in town that offers Happy Hour every day from 6-8pm, in case you needed another reason to kick the night off early. They don’t have food of their own, but you can bring down some White Castle-inspired burgers from the Golden Castle food trailer upstairs, and enjoy a fun, unconventional pairing with a couple espresso martinis.
If you’ve been to Whisler’s on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ve probably seen small crowds of people spilling out onto the stairs from a tiny room perched on the roof. And if you’ve ventured up, you’d find yourself in one of the first dedicated mezcal bars in Austin. Don’t come here expecting cocktails—this is primarily a place to come and sip on a variety of mezcals in a casual, candle-lit atmosphere. The space is tiny, and they’re only open on Friday and Saturday nights—so there’s not really an off-hour to pop in—but we’d recommend going shortly after they open if you want to avoid crowds.
photo credit: Robert Ledesma
Located at the top of a short flight of stairs in a parking garage downtown, Small Victory is a fairly small cocktail bar with a large selection of spirits, an extensive cocktail menu, and a great list of wines and sherries available by the glass. You can definitely pop in here with a small group, but the majority of the tables are made for two people, so this is more of a spot to grab a pre- or post-dinner drink. You can make reservations ahead of time, or just walk up to the little red gate on East 7th and give them a buzz—we’ve had pretty good luck walking in relatively early in the night.
Visit Floppy Disk Repair Co’s website, and you’ll be met with an old-school landing page describing how to get your floppy disk repaired. The downtown business is just a cover, obviously (do new computers still come with floppy disk drives?), because once you head to the actual space, you’ll find yourself in a small, lively speakeasy called Red Headed Stepchild. There are chair swings on one side of the bar, exposed brick walls, and a red glow that makes the whole place feel like an exclusive, underground warehouse party. The cocktails lean on the “fun” side here, with things like milk-based punch served with a side of Trix cereal. The password to get in changes monthly—if you make it in, ask to get on their text list where they’ll send it out, or just ask a bartender at one of the neighboring bars.