7 Speakeasies That You Would Never Know Existed … Until Now
Whether you fancy a gin cocktail in a hidden room made to look like a doctor’s consultation room or a bespoke drink in one of Tokyo’s chicest neighborhoods, check out one of these discreet speakeasies.
Bourbon & Branch (San Francisco, CA)
For a charming speakeasy steeped in Prohibition history, head over to Bourbon & Branch, located on Jones Street in San Francisco. During the 1920s, the bar was listed in the telephone book as “The Ipswitch -- a Beverage Parlor.” Though Prohibition is more than 80 years behind us, Bourbon & Branch maintains certain elements of the past, including house rules. No photography or cell phones and a requirement that patrons leave the bar quietly are just some of the rules -- including a password needed to gain entrance -- enforced to help keep this establishment feeling authentic. Visitors will find all manner of spirits and cocktails available, including, as the name suggests, a wide variety of bourbon.
Evans & Peel (London, England)
This quirky bar, masquerading as a detective agency online, is located in London’s Earl’s Court. Upon arrival, guests are greeted through an intercom system before the hidden entrance opens -- just make sure to submit a “case” (book a reservation) online ahead of time. Once inside, visitors are questioned about said case by a “detective” and, if the interview is successful, are then directed through a hidden bookcase and into the bar itself. Try one of the many concoctions -- a “Cold Fashioned” or the floral Tipsy Gardener -- while soaking up the charming 1920s ambiance.
The Cloak Bar (Toronto, Canada)
The Cloak Bar is aptly named -- so discreet that some customers have admitted to walking straight past it. The dimly lit speakeasy is located under the Marben restaurant on Toronto’s Wellington Street. Visitors can access the bar by texting a password to the phone number on the entrance door when the doorman isn’t around (the password is listed next to the number). Grab a seat at one of the high tables or U-shaped booths and indulge in the much-lauded French 75, the Island of the Cross or one of the many wine and beer options.
Grandma’s Bar (Sydney, Australia)
Tucked away under a guitar shop in Sydney’s Central Business District, Grandma’s Bar prides itself on its “cozy” decor (kitsch and all) and its attentive service that will spoil you -- just like grandma does. This laid-back speakeasy features an impressively long list of cocktails, from the basic to the more complex. Rum is this establishment’s roots, and there are plenty of rum-based drinks to choose from. And to keep things fresh, the bar changes up its concoctions on nearly a weekly basis.
Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour (Hong Kong)
For gin lovers, Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour, located in Hong Kong’s Landmark Atrium, is a must. The unassuming speakeasy is tucked away behind two small office doors -- one marked “Waiting Room” and the other marked “Consulting Room” (this is the only door that opens). Inside, visitors will find waiters dressed in white doctor’s coats and a bar stocked with approximately 250 different types of premium gins from around the world. Cocktails -- and there are plenty to try, from martinis to G&Ts -- all use organic and locally sourced ingredients.
Bar High Five (Tokyo, Japan)
Head to Japan’s opulent Ginza district and enjoy a cocktail at the intimate Bar High Five. This speakeasy, once located at a much smaller venue in the Ueno district, is considered one of the best bars not just in Japan but in all of Asia. Patrons can choose from a wide selection of top-shelf whisky and scotch while enjoying the bar’s sleek and low-lit interior. Drinks are ordered not off the menu but rather by telling the bartender your favorite flavors and textures -- from there they’ll concoct a drink tailored specifically for you.
The Franklin Bar (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
This chic underground establishment is located off Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square in what used to be the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., which was a front for a large alcohol-running ring during the Prohibition era. Today, the speakeasy is divvied into two floors: a 1920s-inspired, art deco downstairs area that serves strong craft cocktails and a tiki-themed, more laid-back atmosphere on the top floor. But be warned: Visitors are allowed in only so long as there are seats available, so be prepared for a wait.
Ashley Bess is an editor turned freelancer writer who describes herself as short, opinionated, recently repatriated, lover of gin and travel and with a head full of useless song lyrics and movie quotes.