12 May, 2019
New York City is one of the food and drink capitals of the world. It’s prime territory to explore niche fare and libations, whether devised by theme, culture, dietary preference, and so much more. After all, as a cosmopolis with such a highly concentrated (and discerning) population, NYC has something for everyone, and there’s always a market for bespoke offerings.
Speakeasies in New York City have been flourishing over the past decade. Inspired by the original Prohibition-era underground bars, speakeasies are most often marked by obscured entry points, old-fashioned decor, and highly stylized cocktails. They’re great spots if you want to socialize in a setting with a bit of flair, sophistication, and old-world charm.
Without further ado, here’s a roundup of the top 10 speakeasies in NYC:
Short for Please Don’t Tell, PDT’s name clearly invokes the hushed, underground vibes of the speakeasy tradition. It’s among the better-known speakeasies in the Big Apple and is credited for kickstarting the trend. To enter, you have to go through Crif Dogs, a craft hot dog joint also worth trying out. Walk back to the phone booth, dial 1, and see if you can enter straight away (though most likely, you’ll be given a wait time). PDT is conveniently located on the eclectic St. Marks Place in the East Village, so you can kill time by browsing the shops and eateries or simply people watching.
Attaboy is one of the more bare-bones bars of the bunch. This popular Lower East Side speakeasy is without clear signage, happy hours, reservations, or even a printed menu. To enter, knock on the nondescript metal door to put your name on a list; a decent wait time is inevitable since the venue is small and provides only three booths and bar stools. Once you do gain entry, discuss your cocktail preferences with your bartender so he/she can craft a libation just right for you. Its most popular drink is owner Sam Ross’s Penicillin, made with Laphroaig 10 Year, honey, ginger, and lemon.
Located on the Upper West Side, the Manhattan Cricket Club is the only NYC speakeasy of note located uptown. MCC opened in 2013 and is situated in a second-story townhouse beside Australian bistro Burke & Wills. It’s modeled after British gentlemen’s clubs of yore, decorated with plush leather seating, gold brocade, and velvet accents. There’s definitely a waft of refinement—though some might say stuffiness—about the place, especially given its dress code and established rules of etiquette. It’s perhaps best suited for more mature patrons, in terms of both age and attitude.
Nestled in the ever-trendy Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the 18th Room is one of the newer speakeasies in town. It opened in spring 2018 under the helm of Dave Oz, a co-owner of Bathtub Gin, a well-known, gin-themed speakeasy nearby. Its name is a nod to the 18th Amendment, which began Prohibition and thus gave birth to the original speakeasy. The Art Deco-inspired bar is situated behind a fake coffee-supply storefront. Patrons can order both food and drinks off the menu or opt to speak to a bartender to craft a bespoke cocktail.
Angel’s Share is only a short stroll away from PDT in the East Village, and has actually been around for decades longer than its competition. You must first enter izakaya restaurant Village Yokocho and ascend the staircase to find Angel’s Share, whose decor was inspired by Tokyo cocktail temples and whose drinks center around prime Japanese whiskies. We recommend this speakeasy especially for dates, given its romantic vibes and scenic view of Stuyvesant Square.
La Milagrosa is our sole speakeasy selection across the East River in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. La Milagrosa requires a reservation and is intimate with only 25 seats. To enter this speakeasy-cum-mezcaleria, walk through the storefront deli and open what appears to be a freezer door. La Milagrosa is perhaps one of the more modern-minded speakeasies in NYC, given its Mexican roots and current music spun by a rotating lineup of DJs.
Employees Only is an award-winning, quintessential NYC speakeasy celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Nestled behind a fortune teller’s lair in the West Village, Employees Only raises the bar—pun intended—on elevated cocktails and New American fare in a polished yet unpretentious setting. It has exacting standards for quality in terms of both the menu and hospitality, which undoubtedly factors into its staying power and worldwide recognition.
Located in Chinatown, Apotheke was equally inspired by 19th-century Parisian absinthe dens and European apothecaries. You have to navigate your way through a winding alley to find the entrance, but you’re sure to be pleased once you arrive. The bar is luxe and lavish, which perfectly complements the drink offerings. Apotheke prides itself on using local and organic ingredients in their cocktail “prescriptions,” which are whipped up by mixologists decked out in pharmaceutical garb.
Blue Quarter in the East Village is another newcomer on the NYC speakeasy scene, having opened in summer 2018. This “clandestine cocktail den” is tucked away behind Middle Eastern restaurant Local 92, and evokes Mediterranean vibes with warm blue features and arabesque accents. Blue Quarter sets itself apart from other speakeasies in New York City by offering nine bespoke cocktails that are all based on tea.
Little Branch is another veteran of the NYC speakeasy tradition, nestled underground in the West Village (yet not as secretly hidden from view as the others on this list). Access is first come, first served, and the intimate vibes are great for date nights or small groups. Little Branch sometimes has live jazz to enjoy while imbibing top-quality cocktails. You can choose a drink from the menu or collaborate with the bartender for a bespoke beverage perfectly tailored for your taste buds.