The Best Hidden Speakeasies In New York City (And How To Find Them)
A local’s guide to the finest examples of New York City’s speakeasy bar scene.
New York is one of the world’s most celebrated cities when it comes to secret watering holes. From exclusive haunts tucked behind fast food restaurants to bars hidden in plain sight, it’s hard to know which ones to invest your time in.
Here are five of our favourite New York City speakeasies:
To find this bar, look for Stone Street Coffee in Chelsea. Next door to it is an unassuming white door with a print of a woman in a bathtub above. Therein lies your entrance.
The bar is a nod to the Prohibition era trend of brewing ‘bathtub gin’. This technique was a response to the poor quality of the alcohol making the rounds at that time. And yes, there really is a bathtub inside.
Bathtub Gin stays true to the time that inspired it, offering a menu made up of classic 1920s cocktails. Among them is a mean East Side suitable for even the most discerning of gin enthusiasts.
Never fear if you’re not a gin lover either – there’s no shortage of options here. If you’re looking for a little extra excitement, visit on Monday night for live jazz or Tuesday and Sunday for an in-house burlesque show.
132 9th Avenue, New York
PDT (Please Don’t Tell)
Chances are you’ve been told about this bar by anyone who’s ever visited New York. PDT is a cocktail bar hidden inside a hotdog restaurant and is probably the worst-kept secret in New York.
While that does slightly tarnish its exclusivity, it doesn’t make a visit here any less memorable. There’s a reason people rave about it, after all.
Make your way into Crif Dogs on St Marks, and you’ll find a telephone booth to your left. Head inside and dial ‘one’. The back of the box will eventually open, and you’ll discover a very different, dimly-lit world behind it.
113 St Marks Pl, New York
Want to impress a cocktail lover? Take them to Attaboy.
This tiny spot in the Lower East Side is famous for having no menu, and coming in at number eight on 2017’s list of The World’s Best Bars.
To find Attaboy, look for an inconspicuous door with the letters ‘a’ and ‘b’ on it. There’s a good chance you’ll walk right past it at least once. Ring the doorbell, and you’ll be guided inside – usually after a wait.
The bar is tiny, with only a handful of seats available, but a communal vibe mixed with late ’70s and ’80s tunes make what could feel pretentious, inviting instead. Grab a stool or perch up against the wall and have a chat with your friendly neighbourhood bartender. It’s incredibly impressive to see them fashion the perfect drink when all they’ve been given is your vague brief.
134 Eldridge Street, New York
Located in a dark alleyway in Chinatown, Apothéke looks like something out of a film noir production.
When hunting for this bar, keep an eye out for a sign that reads ‘chemist’ and pictures of an apothecary bottle.
The theme here is 19th Century Parisian absinthe den meets old European apothecary tradition, and it’s been executed meticulously. Visitors can pick their poison from a ‘prescription list’ of treatments. Think ‘Stress Relievers’ and “Pain Killers’ and you’ve got the right idea.
Apotheke offers a theatrical experience. Cocktails are brightly-coloured and served with quirky garnishes like oyster shells and fake pearls. Although the bar is fairly upscale, the old-school RnB music makes it an ideal spot for a Saturday night with friends.
9 Doyers St, New York
The Office NYC
To get to The Office NYC, make your way through The Aviary NYC in The Mandarin Oriental, New York, past their kitchen and through an unmarked door.
Inside, you’ll find a cocktail bar that resembles a classic cigar lounge with lots of brown leather and deep shades of green.
The service is flawless, the bar is stocked with rare and expensive spirits, and the walls have been adorned with collectors’ art. If you’re after a lavish experience, this is the place for you.
Opt for one of the pre-Prohibition style cocktails listed on the menu – the “Sweet Potato” is delicious – or go with ‘dealer’s choice’ and have the bartender craft something based on the flavour profile and style of your description.
80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street, New York
(Lead image: The Office / supplied)
Published 25 February, 2019