The Best Hidden Bars In NYCCocktails taste better after you spend 10 minutes looking for an entrance.
Technically, there are no speakeasies in NYC. Those went out the door when Prohibition ended in 1933. But we do have a bunch of hidden bars, some of which are trying to recreate the whole hide-from-the-cops-and-drink-bootleg-whiskey thing. Are they cheesy? Kind of. Are they fun? As long as it doesn’t take two hours to find the entrance, then yes. If you want to drink at a place that feels like a secret, and maybe even dance to some ‘90s hip hop, here’s where to go. We promise, not all of these spots are 1920s-themed.
photo credit: The Infatuation
The oldest bar on this list, Little Branch remains one of the best places to grab a cocktail in the West Village. It’s not as hectic as nearby competitor Employees Only, and, somehow, it still kind of feels like a secret. Down a set of stairs behind a plain brown door on 7th Ave, you’ll find a cave-like room with a subtle Prohibition-era theme. The bartenders wear ties and are knowledgeable enough to teach cocktail history at NYU, but this isn’t a formal place, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bring a date, and get here early if you don’t want to wait in line outside.
photo credit: Bathtub Gin
Bathtub Gin shamelessly commits to the speakeasy theme. Hidden behind Stone Street Coffee in Chelsea, the room is covered in black-and white-photos and antique wallpaper, and it’s full of couches and upholstered booths where people on dates tend to forget they’re in public. All of the servers wear suspenders, flickering candles provide most of the lighting, and the soundtrack consists of authentic Prohibition-era songs such as Boys II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You.” It’s all a little corny, but it works. Bring some out-of-towners or someone you’re romantically involved with, and try the ‘Smores Old Fashioned.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Some of these bars are hard to find. Attaboy is not, because there are always people outside trying to get their name on the waitlist. A New York City classic with a nerdy cocktail pedigree, this place is tiny, popular, and annoyingly difficult to get into. You can’t make a reservation, but after you talk to a host, you’ll get a text when some seats open up. Once you make it inside of the narrow room that looks at least 100 years old, a bartender will ask you what you like to drink. There’s no official cocktail list, but they’ll help you pick something based on your preferences, and that something will be perfect and delicious.
photo credit: Jeff Bell
When people talk about PDT, they tend to call it “that one bar behind the phone booth in the hot dog place on St. Marks.” So even if you aren’t familiar with the name, you’ve probably heard of this place. Along with Little Branch and Attaboy, it was one of those early-2000s cocktail bars that helped normalize the word “mixologist,” and nowadays, it mostly just feels like a laid-back cocktail bar that just happens to be hidden. The drinks are inventive and excellent, and there are a few big booths for groups.
If you want to check out an East Village speakeasy, but don’t necessarily want to sit in a booth and behave yourself at PDT, head to Sincerely Ophelia. This place isn’t trying to convince anyone that liquor is outlawed and Calvin Coolidge is still the president. It’s just a loud, spacious bar located next to a spot that sells fried chicken sandwiches (which you can order here as well). There’s neon lighting and Basquiat-inspired art, with TVs for sports-watching and DJs for weekend dance parties.
La Noxe is a cocktail lounge the size of a studio apartment located in the subway station at 28th Street and 7th Ave. You enter on the street, then walk down a little flight of stairs, and, once inside, you can’t really tell that you’re drinking a few feet from the uptown 1 train. The room has a retro feel, with glitzy touches like velvet furniture and a zebra print carpet, and it’s a pleasant, low-key place to sit with a date and listen to good music. Stop by after 11pm, and you may find some people dancing.
In this city, we have multiples of everything, including subway speakeasies. Unlike La Noxe, Nothing Really Matters—which is located in the downtown 1 train station at 50th street—leans into its grimy, underground setting, with neon lighting and exposed pipes on the ceiling. The next time you’re in Midtown and need a spot that feels a little edgier than the bar at the Hilton Garden Inn, stop by and enjoy a ‘90s hip hop playlist while you drink a Disco Inferno with mezcal and yellow Chartreuse.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
From the people behind Bandits and Rocco’s Sports & Recreation, The Garret is a casual, lively cocktail bar hidden up a staircase in the back of Five Guys in the West Village. It’s always pretty crowded, but if you need an easy way to impress someone who just arrived from JFK and insists on hanging out in the West Village, it’ll get the job done. Getting a seat will be tough, but just linger next to a small table or the couch in the back until some Abercrombie-wearing folks decide to go put their name in at Via Carota.
photo credit: Art Gray
Apotheke has two locations, the first of which opened in Chinatown in 2008. Both serve elaborate cocktails, but we prefer the newer one in Nomad because fewer people seem to know about it. The entrance on 26th Street is unmarked, although it isn’t hard to locate, because there’s usually a host out there who will say something like “Yes, this is Apotheke.” Located in a dark basement, the bar looks like a 19th-century apothecary populated by people who work in marketing, with some big booths and an elevator that leads to a penthouse with a serene, underrated terrace.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
If you give a slight push to the nondescript door at the back of Walter’s in Fort Greene, you’ll find a mellow place decorated with vinyl and sake bottles called Karasu. At this Japanese bar and restaurant, you can sit on a stool and sip a Toki highball, or hang out at a little table and eat some tuna tataki. There’s a small food menu with a few snacks and some larger items like ikura don and a $95 ribeye for two, although you don’t necessarily have to eat a full meal here. Make a reservation, and stop by for Happy Hour if you don’t enjoy paying full price for oysters and sake.
photo credit: Melissa Hom
There are plenty of great bars on the Upper East Side, but there’s only one hidden behind a fake storefront posing as a locksmith and shoe repair shop. You can’t see the fake facade once you’re inside, but still, it’s a fun detail. If you want to have a lively night out without having to drag yourself downtown to stand in line with the class of 2024 at Wiggle Room, come by and grab a small bistro table. The room has a disco ball and some comfy couches, and there are occasionally events like live magic.
photo credit: Moonhee Kim
One of the newer bars on this list, George Bang Bang in Koreatown is so committed to its Prohibition saloon theme that they actually light oil lamps on either side of the long bar, never mind all the wood and flammable bottles. Despite the flickering lamplight, it’s dark enough to tell ghost stories in this high-ceilinged spot, with a record player spinning big band jazz, and vintage trunks for tables. The cocktails are pricey and perfume-like, tending towards sweet and botanical. This bar is accessed through Korean soup specialist Okdongsik, and it’s a good spot to wait for a counter seat there, or to get a dessert-like drink after dinner.
At least one of your friends thinks The Back Room is really cool. And maybe they’re right. Another old-timey, 1920s-style spot, this LES bar is located down an alley on Norfolk Street, and it’s surprisingly casual for a place with couches, armchairs, oil paintings, and chandeliers. The cocktails here are served in teacups, and, while this does seem impractical, it’s a fun gimmick. If you want a rowdier experience and don’t mind being surrounded by people who just graduated from Oberlin and now spend every weekend drinking their way through the Lower East Side, this place is a good choice.