Among the various nicknames that New York City has, “the city that never sleeps” is one that undoubtedly rings true. With over 8 million people, a nonstop subway system and over 10,000 bars, the city easily lives up to its nickname. A quick walk down memory lane will tell you just how New York got this reputation. Even a pesky nationwide ban that made drinking alcohol illegal couldn’t stop the city from keeping the party going. During the prohibition era the New York City speakeasy was born, birthing the era of indulging in gin cocktails andclassy jazz music in secret, unmarked bars around the city.
Today, speakeasies are trendy spots for people who like to feel like they are in on a secret, even if nearly nothing is a secret nowadays. The illusion of the forbidden is seductive and this a model that many secret bars capitalize on today. The city is filled with tons of bars to drink at that thrive off of just that and we have a list of some of the best ones to visit next time you’re in New York.
5.) Blind Barber — A Classic Choice
A “Blind pig” or a “blind tiger” was another famous moniker for speakeasies during the prohibition era. Blind Barber is, at first glance, a vintage-styled barbershop in the East Village, but after going through a few doors at the back, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a cocktail lounge. The Blind Barber is perfectly modeled after the mysterious lounges of the ‘20s and offers a lineup of delicious cocktails to sip on for $14 each.
East Village — 339 E 10th St
Monday – Saturday: 6 pm – 4 am
Closed on Sundays
While it is a speakeasy-style bar, there is a dance area with music and on the weekends this place is pretty popular. So if you’re looking for a chill place to sip on a gin cocktail, check out some of the other speakeasies on this list.
4.) Trademark Taste + Grind — For an Exclusive Food and Drink Experience
If you’re a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur who frequents the many third-wave coffee shops in the city, then chances are you are particular about your alcohol as well.
Trademark Taste + Grind is a speakeasy restaurant and bar tucked away behind a boutique coffee bar called Trademark Grind. Through the side hallway is Trademark Taste, which doubles as a speakeasy with seasonal cocktails curated by In Good Company Hospitality. Try prohibition-inspired cocktails like the Penicillin Kombucha Highball, a concoction of Scotch, Cucumber, Ginger, Lemon, Fernet Branca, Mint and Kombucha.
Midtown — 38 W 36th Street
Monday–Friday 4 pm – 11 pm
Bar open late
It may be the least-hidden speakeasy on this list, but Trademark offers a lineup of speakeasy-inspired cocktails that will intrigue any cocktail enthusiast. Be sure to ask for the seasonal cocktail menu that is crafted by veteran cocktail curator, Will Benedetto.
3.) UES — Ice Cream Speakeasy
Ice cream shop or stylish New York City speakeasy? At UES, it’s both, and while a delicious scoop of ice cream is always appetizing, enjoying a cocktail in a secret bar sounds a bit more enticing.
Just as its name suggests, UES is an Upper East Side speakeasy that appears to be an ice cream shop with a neon sign and a true ice cream counter. The UES atmosphere is consistent with the style of speakeasies — ambiguous and mysterious. Only after saying the secret password will you find yourself in the middle of a stylish bar and lounge. You’ll definitely feel like you’re channeling Serena Van Der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf while sipping on delicious cocktails and partying at a super exclusive Upper East Side bar.
Upper East Side — 1707 2nd Avenue
Open seven days a week, specific hours aren’t listed.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d order some scoops of ice cream and leave since the bar is well-hidden. To get into the secret bar, tell the attendant at the ice cream counter that you’d like to visitthe storage room and show your ID. You’ll then be led behind a door covered with ice cream cartons and voilá, you’re in.
2.) The Back Room — One of The Last Ones Standing
The Back Room offers a cool peak into the past by being one of the last two original New York city speakeasies standing. If you’re less interested in the trendy secret bars of the city and are more intrigued by the history of the Roaring ‘20s, then you need to make The Back Room one of the top places to visit. On its website, The Back Room boasts being the playground for actors and famous gangsters of the era.
Visiting The Back Room truly feels like you’ve been transported to the 1920s. You enter the bar using the same entrance as they did over 85 years ago. Prohibition may have ended decades years ago, but here the drinks are served in coffee mugs and the beers come covered in paper bags. At The Back Room, the spirit of a true prohibition speakeasy lives on.
Lower East Side — 102 Norfolk Street
Sunday – Thursday: 7:30 pm – 3:00 am
Friday – Saturday: 7:30 pm – 4:00 am
To get in, go down the staircase of the “Lower East Side Toy Company,” then after the alleyway and more stairs, you’ve arrived.
1.) Threesome Tollbooth — The Ultimate Exclusive Cocktail Experience
There are several reasons that a New York City speakeasy could draw you in. Good craft cocktails, a perfect sense of seclusion and exclusivity, not having to scream over loud music — the list keeps going. Speakeasies tend to be small and secluded and there is a thrill in knowing that you’re enjoying something that the general public knows nothing about. One of the latest bars to hit the NYC secret bar scene is Threesome Tollbooth, and while it does not claim to be a speakeasy, it possesses a lot of the traits that a speakeasy does.
Threesome Tollbooth is a truly intimate cocktail experience, so intimate that there is only space for three, including the bar tender. The bar can also only be visited with prepaid tickets (around $100 each) which usually sell out weeks in advance. In true speakeasy fashion, the bar is located in a tiny closet in a closed Italian restaurant in the middle of Brooklyn with no visible signage.
Whether or not you would classify this is as a speakeasy, the extreme seclusion of Threesome Tollbooth earned it its spot on this list. You, along with the talented mixologist, ultimately create your experience at Threesome Tollbooth.
Somewhere in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Address disclosed after ticket purchases.
Varies, Thursday – Saturday evenings
Since tickets go fast, sign up for the bar’s email list to be in the know for when the next batches go on sale.
For more on where to drink in NYC, check out A Local’s Guide to Best Rooftop Bars in NYC.