In a world where underground parties are a thing of the past and privacy is almost unheard of, city-dwellers with an affinity for exclusivity and evenings of low-key enjoyment seek refuge within the confines of the hush-hush speakeasy scene. While you may be familiar with the existence of this reticent nightlife circuit, many may fail to notice that some of the most elite hotspots are hiding in plain sight. In pursuit of emulating the speakeasy style of the New York's infamous Prohibition days, these hotspots don't rely on neon signs or flashing arrows but rather by word of mouth, from one in-the-know friend to another.
132 9th St, NYC
If you stayed awake in history class, you make recall that the Prohibition era drove the drinkers out of the city streets and into more "discreet" (ahem, illegal) venues which came to be called "speakeasies", hedonistic dens for showgirls, big gamblers, smuggled booze and risky debauchery. The illegal booze and gambling might be gone from these daring hideways, but the sultry, secretive and hedonistic ambiance is the concept driving one of the most tried-and-true speakeasy in the city, Bathtub Gin. Featuring a Twenties-inspired ambiance, burlesque beauties and even an antique copper bathtub in the middle of the venue, Bathtub Gin provides top-notch thematic decadence and, let's be real, irresistible photo ops. As with any speakeasy worth taking seriously, this low-key hub can't be spotted from the street so don't be fooled by the casual Stone Street Coffee Company storefront. Indulge in a dry martini, lobster-stuffed mushrooms and time-traveling vibes because the atmosphere, like the alcohol, is served carefully preserved and exquisitely curated.
9 Doyers St, NYC
A dark spin on the underground scene, Apotheke sets itself apart from other speakeasies with its inspiration from the experimental and oftentimes dangerous world of 19th century Europe's apothecary dens. The dramatic cinematic experience begins as you make the haunting stroll down "Murder Alley" - the old, almost hidden Doyer Street in the heart of Chinatown - and continues with accents like antique vials and old-school medicine bottles. Strangely enough, the Penny Dreadful tones are lifted by a chic ambiance and vibrant cocktails contrived from organic produce and herbs. In fact, most of which are grown in within the venue's very own rooftop garden. Boasting Victorian-cool vibes and colorfully chilled cocktails, the excitement available at Apotheke is endless and certainly worth checking out.
433 E 6th St
The term "speakeasy" should suggest discreet passageways or even a password-guarded entrance, but Death & Co. is one venue where being secretive is no longer essential. Although attention was never this venue's intent, fame simply found it's way to this popular would-be speakeasy. With a spirited menu and servers in suspenders and bow-ties, this darkly lit restaurant and bar is the most well-known of it's kind in the city and thus, an imperative addition to this list.
While venues of the speakeasy persuasion should pride themselves on their under-the-radar vibes and unattainable discretion, the only thing unattainable about Death & Co is getting a table in under an hour. Despite its diversion from thematic exclusivity, they match and may even exceed expectations by means of quality cocktails, excellent cuisine, and the seductively dark speakeasy atmosphere.
131 1/2 Chrystie St, NYC
You think you've found yourself outside of the usual NYC art gallery, but a doorman’s ID request suggests that an entirely different experience lies beyond the double-paned glass. Upon entering, many newcomers find themselves perplexed by the after-hours ghost town of a gallery which stands eerily before them. Almost vacant with the exception of whatever exhibition is currently on display, the still of silence is ever so slightly intruded upon by the faint presence of muffled house music. Follow the whispers of a far-off soundtrack through the gallery to an nondescript door and tumble down the rabbit hole enter the ultimate speakeasy experience.
While the drinks are brilliantly concocted and muddled to perfection, in true speakeasy style, the dazzle of this exclusive venue is in the dimly lit décor. Cascading chandeliers and classic champagne saucers are enchantingly juxtaposed by sage candlelit surroundings and taxidermies, among other eclectic motifs, creating an ambiance as bewitching as it is beautiful. For a unique take on the speakeasy experience with coven-like charm, Fig. 19 is a bar unlike anything else that this city has to offer.
339 E 10th St
If you've got a craving for whiskey and a fresh cut, be sure to check out the Blind Barber. In a time well before Instagram or instant messaging, barber shops and, of course, speakeasies, doubled as social hubs where you went to catch up on the latest happenings. And the Blind Barber is true to its name (minus the first part): a full-service barber shop in front and an cool bar and lounge in back, this locale has nothing if not an intriguing gimmick. Although we like to imaging the vibe as one of old-Hollywood glamour, this bar's vintage aesthetic and dingy infusions provide the most accurate glimpse into what one might expect from a true speakeasy. This hotspot is essentially a salon, bar, dancehall and museum under one impeccably curated roof. Whether it be for the historic intrigue, a trim or the pursuit of a good time, those that find themselves in the chair or bar stool at Blind Barber are guaranteed good service and a great time.