Throughout history, the concept of the speakeasy has been passed across cultures as a haven for the thirsty wanderers and thrifty adventurers of the world. These “underground” cellars are like secret societies where you can throw caution to the wind and live on the wild side. Today, the term speakeasy has become much more commonplace, encompassing trendy taverns and hipster hangouts of all kinds.
But if you’re looking for an after-hours escape outside the every day and an experience beyond the ordinary, you’ll have to dig a little deeper than your average alehouse. From covert cantinas in Berlin to hip hideouts in Hong Kong, here are 10 of the world’s best speakeasies and where to find them!
If you like to have your cocktail with a side of weird, then the creepy Croft Institute in Melbourne, Australia will definitely hit the spot. Hidden in a grungy graffiti-covered street alley in Chinatown, this multi-level speakeasy has a serious case of split personality! The downstairs is a pseudo-science lab complete with old decommissioned hospital equipment and a bar full of curious glassware for experimental tonics and intoxicating “tinctures”.
But once you climb the stairs to the second floor, you’ll step into the real turf “gymnasium” where you can find a second bar and international DJ’s on the weekends. The enticing cocktail menu at this bizarre institute is comprised of custom designed drinks that are made to fit your mood, as well as a small selection of boutique wines and local beers. So take a seat at the medicine counter, grab a beaker and pick your poison!
Sunshine Laundromat and Pinball
Tucked in a perfectly normal neighborhood in Brooklyn is the adorably unassuming Sunshine Laundromat. Locals who take their laundry to this little business love that they get to play on the old-school pinball machines that line the wall while they’re there.
But this is no ordinary laundromat...the washing machine all the way at the back of the business is actually a decoy that hides the entrance to Sunshine’s awesome speakeasy. So instead of sitting like a bump on a log while you wait for the spin cycle to finish, you can get off your caboose and pass the time playing 1980’s pinball games, drinking ice cold craft beers on tap and grubbing on New York style pizza from Roberta’s.
Milwaukee is a gigantic city filled with rich history, fantastic breweries and good ol’ all American baseball! But this Great Lakes City is also home to an “undercover” speakeasy that you’ll have to bust out your spy skills to find. Hidden in an unmarked location within the city, the Safe House is truly fitting for a Bond Villain or secret agent.
If you’re clever enough to spot the inconspicuous buzzer and recite the correct password, then they’ll let you right in. If not, you’ll have to pass their puzzling series of clearance tests. But once you’re inside you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into another world! The interior is divided into different “nations”, with spy-themed paraphernalia and actual crime mementos like a cell door from the KGB lining the walls! The only thing missing at this diabolical dive bar are the “bad guys”.
Rome is an ancient treasure trove of romance, culture and delectable cuisine. But if you’re looking for a break from all the monuments and museums of the city, there’s a not-so-well-kept secret located in the Premiata Panieria al Pigneto sandwich shop. Step through the unmarked door and you’ll discover an underground casino known as Spirito. Don’t worry, everything’s on the up and up, but there’s an irresistible sense of “wrong” inside this speakeasy that just feels right!
This “dicey” bar serves inventive craft cocktails made with unconventional ingredients off of roulette and poker tables. Try your hand - and your luck - at a game or two of blackjack then cash in your earnings on a savory bacon-infused cocktail. At this boozy makeshift casino, everyone’s a winner!
Located right off the illustrious Sunset strip in Hollywood, Adults Only is a posh nightclub hidden behind the facade of a typical adult video store. The entrance to the bar is disguised with popular movie posters and shelves of porn. Follow the neon pink sign and walk through the seedy doors to find an irreverent Hollywood hangout adorned with cathedral lamps and reupholstered church pews.
Perfect for the cinephiles and movie buffs of L.A, this risqué rathskeller is like peeking behind the curtain of a peep show and seeing something you’re not supposed to see. But Adults Only is actually a super stylish speakeasy in the true Hollywood fashion. There are saucy mixed cocktails made with fresh fruits and spices, a reel of movies projected right on the walls and DJ’s and dancing late into the night.
You may not think that an old newspaper business would make for a good cocktail bar. But that’s exactly what the mixology experts at Local Edition are known for! Set up inside the old printing room of The Examiner in San Francisco’s historic Hearst building, Local Edition is perfect for the historians and culture buffs of San Francisco who want to learn more about the city’s intriguing history.
The interior is decorated in a distinct mid-century style with red velvet booths and dim lighting. Lining the walls are hundreds of past clippings from The Examiner that highlight the city’s many trials and triumphs. Peruse the old-school printing presses and antique typewriters inside the space while you sip on mixed drinks inspired by 1950’s icons and concepts such as the U.S.S.R, the Ava Gardner and The Eagle - which used to be the name of The Examiner.
Berlin has always been a fashionably forward-thinking city. Here, folks aren’t afraid to embrace the unusual and let their freak flag fly. There are literally hundreds of bars and taverns in Berlin where you can find a hearty Pilsner and a young, cool crowd. But if you want to see what this eclectic city is really all about, check out their artsy underground tavern, The Tausend. This superfly speakeasy is concealed underneath the bustling Friedrichstrasse train station in an abandoned tunnel. Venture down the train underpass until you reach an unmarked iron door. Knock a couple times and you’ll be greeted by a “Lurch” looking doorman who will usher you inside.
This is not your typical twenty-something nightclub. Once you’re on the other side you’ll find a delicious array of creative mixed drinks, fresh Asian fusion cuisine, great live music and captivating 3D art installations all around. The crowd here is a little more sophisticated than most Euro dives, so don’t be intimidated by all the designer shoes and diamonds.
Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co
Home to the historic Liberty Bell and the Continental Congress, Philadelphia holds the key to America’s rich past. Here is where this incredible country got its humble beginnings. And camouflaged on a regular street in the heart of Philadelphia is a true piece of American history. The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. is one of the oldest standing speakeasies in the U.S!
Originally opened in the 1920’s by infamous gangster Max “Boo Boo” Hoff during Prohibition, The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. was a front for the largest alcohol running ring in the country. Seriously, this place even gave the nefarious Al Capone a good run for his money! Today, you can still catch Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. serving up 1920’s inspired classic cocktails on the sly to east coast explorers who happen upon this little gem.
Soviet chic Moscow is full of fantastic food, fascinating culture and, of course, vodka! And if you find yourself in the renowned Lucky Noodle shop in Moscow, you’ve discovered the location of one of the best-kept secrets in the city. An inconspicuous curtain inside the noodle shop masks the entrance to this sexy Siberian speakeasy.
The interior of the bar is delectably dark and bordello-esque, with brick vaulted ceilings and shadowy corners for close conversations. But what really stands out about this macabre bar are the devilishly good mixed drinks. The master mixologists at Mendeleev definitely have a flair for the dramatic, serving bold and delicious cocktails out of treasure chests with dry ice and other exotic embellishments.
For a tasty trip down the rabbit hole head to Callooh Callay in London. This whimsical speakeasy is an homage to Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Caroll, with old portraits lining the walls, plush seating and a dizzying selection of drinks that will dazzle your taste buds. Settled off Rivington street near the Old Street tube, the main entrance to Callooh Callay is fairly easy to locate. But the real magic can be found through a second wardrobe door within the bar that hides a quaint Victorian lounge. On the menu, there’s a slew of scrumptious bites that range from divine Dorset Crab Toast to sweet potato Croquettes.
The colorful collection of craft cocktails at Callooh Callay includes unique concoctions like the Wise Guy with Ketel One vodka and lingonberry and the Orchid House with Havana 3 Rum and spiced mango. On the second floor is the uber intimate “Upstairs at Callooh Callay”, where mixologists take their time creating specialty cocktails that scream “Drink me”. So take a sip and taste what it’s like on the other side of the looking glass.