Everyone Loves the Idea of a Speakeasy Bar.

Hidden nightspots that make you work just a little bit to get in, have carefully considered low-lit interiors, and serve drinks that speak to the rebel in all of us.

Yet ever since Prohibition ended, the term “speakeasy” has become a generic name for a “cool” bar with fancy (and expensive) cocktails, low lighting, and vintage decor. However, there are still some genuine underground “blind tigers” and hard to get-in gin-joints that still maintain the secretive vibe of the illicit watering holes of old.

With the right landmarks and lingo, you might just find yourself getting in the door at one of these establishments.

The inside of PDT in New York
PDT stands for “Please Don’t Tell” but this NY bar was too cool to keep secret.

The Mixmaster’s Speakeasy: PDT

New York, New York 

speakeasy entrance through phone booth
Phone booth, or portal into one of the best bars in NYC?

This one’s so good everyone in the city already knows about it, but it’s still worth a visit. Founded by Jim Meehan, a guy so versed in mixology, he literally wrote the book on it, this bar features exotic seasonal drinks as well as everyday winners like the “Paddington” (orange-marmalade flavored rum and absinthe anyone?).

   Getting In

Head to Crif Dogs in the East Village and after a tasty meal of dogs and cheese fries, walk into the wooden phone booth, pick up the red phone and dial “1”. That will put you in touch with the hostess behind the hidden wall. Oh, and if you get hungry later, you can still order from Crif’s kitchen once inside the speakeasy. Bacon lovers should try Crif’s “Chihuahua” dog while sipping one of Meehan’s famous bacon-infused cocktails.

The Music-lover’s Speakeasy: Bardot

Miami Wynwood Art District 

If you’re looking for an intimate setting that frequently features emerging MC’s and the hottest DJ’s, then head to this joint. The red walls, risque portraits, antiques, cozy couches, and ornate moldings give this smoky room an artful Parisian chic.

speakeasy Bardot entrance
Bardot’s unmarked entrance behind the building.
Inside Bardot Speakeasy Miami
Bardot interior

The fact that musicians perform on rugs inches away from patrons makes this the liveliest speakeasy on our list. No photography allowed.

   Getting in

Located between Saccaro and Gigi’s Midtown Barbecue on N. Miami Ave. Enter under the red awning in the parking lot.

 

The Clever Speakeasy: Le Syndicat

Paris, France

Le Syndicat bartender pouring a drink
A Le Syndicat bartender pours a smoky concoction.

Everything about this speakeasy feels like you are in on a hip joke. There’s a pun-heavy menu to go with the hip-hop soundtrack. The decor is all fancy glassware and gaudy yellow curtains, yet the back of the bar looks like the wall in your grandfather’s toolshed. The drinks are a wild mix of the forgotten past and the playful present. Its old school style meets new attitude in a way that only Paris can provide. We’re pretty sure Wes Anderson drops by whenever he’s around. Go with a group of friends and order the tea punch that’s made to share, or try the raspberry negroni–a drink that comes garnished with an alcoholic lollipop.

Le Syndicat speakeasy entrance
Le Syndicat speakeasy hides on the other side of this wall.

   Getting in

Look for the most grossly graffitied and filthy poster-covered wall on Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, then open the only door. A bouncer will greet you on the other side.

 

The Euphemism Speakeasy: Ladies and Gents

The name of this bar is a nod to its Victorian past–it used to be a public bathroom. However, since 2015 it is the establishment of one of the world’s finest spirit makers, William Borrell.

world's best speakeasy bars Ladies and Gents
This “loo” is actually one of the world’s best speakeasy bars.

This speakeasy’s simple interior allows your focus to fall on the real star of this show–the crafted cocktails. Try the highwayman gin, one of many spirits made on site from the bar’s copper still–capable of making 12 bottles of bespoke liquor daily.

   Getting in

Head to 2 Highgate Rd, London NW5 1NR and look for the bathroom entrance.

The Speakeasy with the Literary Entrance

Denver, Colorado

Walk into a bookstore, head to the section with books about cocktail culture, next to a picture of Tom Moore and a rotating bookshelf puts you in a hallway that leads to the winner of Best American cocktail bar in 2015. Owner/bartender Sean Kenyon knows how to mix an exotic cocktail. For a truly unique libation, try the “Caught In The Rain” an artful mix of Coconut Infused Bols Genever, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Demerara, Orange Flower Water, and Egg White!

the world's best speakeasy bars Williams & Graham
The speakeasy hidden bookshelf entrance to William & Graham

Getting in

Williams & Graham bookstore 3160 Tejon St. Denver’s LoHi neighborhood. If they are on a wait (and they almost always are these days) an attendant will take your name and file it in a drawer. The wait will eventually lead to that magically revolving bookshelf.

Inspired by the look of the world’s best speakeasy bars? You can create your own speakeasy-like room at home with this amazing book: 

Secret Society: Modern Speakeasy Style and Design