The roaring ‘20’s — a time of flappers, prohibition, and the iconic vibes of the speakeasy. These hush-hush bars became popular in the US during prohibition when liquor became illegal to sell, but Americans didn’t want to give up the fun-loving liquor. The term speak-easy came from the idea that these places had to be discussed quietly and kept on the down-low during these times so as not to alert the police of their presence.
Many times these speakeasies were located in basements of other businesses, creating a dark, intimate atmosphere that is still represented in the modern day speakeasies found in many countries around the world today. While today’s speakeasies are certainly not illegal, many of them have kept that cool-cat atmosphere and swanky style. Don’t miss these eight speakeasy-inspired bars that found their way across the pond in the UK.
The Washhouse, Manchester
A launderette is not the type of place you’d expect to enjoy cocktails and appetizers with friends. But, find the old phone on the wall of this washhouse, press the button and await your admittance. When someone speaks to you, tell them you’re there to wash some dirty clothes. The open sesame of this modern-day speakeasy, you’ll feel like you’re in Narnia as you watch the laundry machine wall swing open to reveal a refined, leather-cladded, table service speakeasy bar. With cocktails ranging from a classic gin and tonic to their tiki-style Beachcomber, you’ll quickly forget that you’re in the back room of a laundromat.
Located in the heart of London’s Chinatown lies an unmarked door with a swanky secret. The Experimental Cocktail Club is exactly as it sounds, a crafty joint with dazzling, innovative drinks. A piano player pounds the keys to classic tunes, adding to the cozy, intimate atmosphere of this two-story townhouse. The opulence of the speakeasy is reminiscent of the elegance that this London flat once embodied. The ECC is a global operation with two sister locations in NYC, and the original in beautiful Paris. So, take a trip back in time to a bar that truly is the bee’s knees.
Berry and Rye, Liverpool
Don’t let the plain black door and blacked-out window turn you away from this hidden gem on Berry Street. No, the building isn’t abandoned, and no they are not closed. They say not to judge a book by its cover, and just one peek at what’s behind that undisclosed door will prove the saying to be true. Berry and Rye is a very well-hidden speakeasy close to Chinatown in Liverpool. Boasting potent cocktails and even more dangerously delicious whiskeys, this cozy bar is the perfect date-night escape. And if you’re looking for a bite to eat, you just may want to flip through the pages of the vintage books lying around -- that is if you want to see the menu.
Suds and Duds, Birmingham
Another speakeasy bar moonlighting as a mom-and-pop laundrette, Suds and Duds is anything but a wash. Pass the signage and laundry machines and up a staircase in the back to a quirky little room of industrial lighting against dark walls, cozy booths featuring vibrant, patterned wallpaper, and vintage furniture straight from the Prohibition era. Enjoy black and white movies on the television while sipping on innovative cocktails such as the Netflix and Chill (ironic, we know), or go for a classic vodka martini - shaken, not stirred.
The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, London
To find this whimsical speakeasy entrance, you first have to find The Breakfast Club Diner of Spitalfields. Walk through the vintage diner to the back room where an old-school Smeg refrigerator stands. But you won’t find any bacon or eggs in this cold-box. Just tell a member of the staff that you’re “here to see the mayor,” and voilà — they’ll open the door for you to step inside a hunting lodge styled cocktail bar with craft cocktails and an array of upgraded bar snacks.
What’s better than all-you-can-drink cocktails? Well, not much really. Try and find the unmarked black door of BYOC in Brighton, but make sure you bring along a spirit of your choice. Then, for a flat £25 fee, you’ll have a tailor-made cocktail experience with your fave liquor created by professional mixologists. The setting is cozy and intimate with exposed brick walls and dark mahogany wood, and you’ll quickly forget that you’re enjoying this innovative experience in a building basement.
The Flying Duck, Glasgow
Venture down a hidden staircase along Glasgow’s bustling Sauchiehall Street to find the city's quirkiest bar. The eclectic decor of The Flying Duck features Boom Boxes, metallic mannequins, and neon signs, taking this modern-day speakeasy to the next level. You won’t find swanky jazz music or nifty antique furniture in this late-night diner-bar. But, you will find live music, board games, pub quizzes and plenty of dancing with vegan-inspired pub food to fill your belly late into the night. Enjoy the milkshake cocktails and lose track of time in Glasgow’s most unpretentious hideout.
Red Light, Bristol
Find the graffiti-covered payphone illuminated by a red light on Union Street, and you’ll find yourself at the entrance to Bristol’s best-kept secret bar. The entrance itself gives most modern-day speakeasies a run for their money, with the single button on the payphone being your key to get in. The button alerts the bar manager downstairs via an old-school CCTV of your presence, letting you in and leading you down a black staircase to the surprisingly spacious bar. Staying true to a sensual 1950’s panache, the decor features snazzy leather chairs, retro radios, and plenty of Elvis-inspired sex appeal. Even the menu is divided into ‘foreplay’, ‘sex’, and ‘cigarette’, with cocktails of every variety to tickle your fancy.