During the Prohibition era, speakeasies were the secret bars where people could get their hands on some booze. Many of them were underground, hidden in the back rooms of laundromats, or hidden away behind unmarked doors. Since it was illegal to sell alcohol during this time, it was important to keep these operations as discreet as possible.
It’s been a long time since the prohibition days, however, speakeasy-style bars are becoming one of the most popular places to drink. They’re popping up all over the U.S and typically serve old-fashioned cocktails with egg whites, floral syrups, and classic garnishes. You can find these types of bars behind bookshelves, guarded by secret passwords, and decorated like they’re from the 1920s. They tend to be kitschy, romantic, and the place to bring the friends you want to impress.
In fact, speakeasy-style bars are becoming so popular that nearly every U.S city has one (or two.) These types of bars are on par with craft breweries, coffee shops with a passion for the beans, and vintage clothing stores. Dare we lump speakeasies in with these other hipster favorites? Yes. Yes, we do. Guests in search of a speakeasy are often looking for something unique, a dash of culture, and extremely tasteful drinks. If you want an experience rather than a night on the town, these bars are worth finding. Once you try one speakeasy, you may never be able to step foot in an Irish pub again. So, where can you find the best speakeasy bars in the U.S? Here are our top picks.
20 The Marble Ring, Birmingham
Visitors must enter through a phone box where you are told to call the bar with the number in your party. The wall then opens up, allowing you to enter the dimly lit, 1920s-themed bar. There’s a giant chandelier, leather sofas, and marble finishings. It’s small, intimate, and often has jazz music or a burlesque show going on. Your bartender will most likely be wearing suspenders and a bow tie as they shake you up a frothy cocktail made with Absinthe. The bar only seats 80 people, so make sure to get there early if you want an exclusive seat.
19 Melinda’s Alley, Phoenix
This speakeasy can be found down the alley between Monroe and Adams street. It’s located inside the basement of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel and is marked only with a red bulb. When it’s on, you know the bar is open for business. It used to be the center of Arizona’s busy district, but the venue is now a secluded and exclusive spot for a craft cocktail. Lounge on one of the tufted leather couches or spend some time staring at the black and white mugshot wall. This bar never serves the same cocktail twice, so you can expect a unique cocktail with each visit.
18 109&Co., Little Rock
Lounge chairs, the aroma of cigars, and an extensive cocktail list are what awaits at this speakeasy-style bar. The walls are lined with liquor bottles, and there are over 90 different whiskeys on offer. They’re known to have live jazz every now and then, and the atmosphere is great for a romantic date over a candlelit cocktail. Hungry? This is the kind of speakeasy that does food just as well as their cocktails. You’ll have a pretty nice selection, including a meat and cheese board, salads, paninis, and dessert. Make sure to try a classic drink as well as one of their crafty creations.
17 The Blind Rabbit, Anaheim
This speakeasy is hidden inside of the Packing House restaurant. Guests can find it by looking for the black rabbit handle. Once you locate this door handle, you’ll enter this secret bar through the sake barrels. After 90 minutes inside, you’ll need to leave (through the bookcase) to make room for the next guest. There’s a strict dress code and the bar only seats 35 people so make sure to reserve a seat. They are known to make a mean Moscow Mule so make sure to try one. This spot is great for dinner too. Try the New York steak, lemon-thyme scallops, or the seared-Atlantic salmon.
16 Williams & Graham, Denver
Made to look like a bookstore from the 1920s, this speakeasy is truly authentic. Once you enter the ‘bookstore’ a secretary will ask how many are in your party. If there’s enough room, they will let you in by opening up the bookcase and revealing a hidden door. The small bar is dimly lit and offers both food and drink. You can find drinks on the menu made with herbal syrups, Kombucha, cucumber, and flower water. Their food menu is quite impressive too. Try the poutine, roasted bone marrow, or the seared pork loin.
15 Ordinary, New Haven
This building has been around since the 1600s when it was a residence and a tavern. It’s seen a lot of history and interesting people over the years and now functions as a speakeasy-style bar. While it’s certainly not hidden, the decor makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Relax in one of the red, leather booths and enjoy one of their giant punch bowls of craft cocktails. Not into spirits? This bar has a lineup of beer too. Their menu features an eclectic list of burgers, and appetizers like beer cheese, meats and cheese, and Spanish olives.
14 Hummingbird to Mars, Wilmington
Located on top of Catherine Rooney’s, visitors must walk to the back of the restaurant and press the intercom to get in. It’s dimly lit, has plenty of wood finishings, and offers a solid whiskey list. They often have live jazz music, or a pianist creating the background music. They have a fantastic lineup of seasonal cocktails, as well as beer and wine. Make sure to try their Zombie cocktail as its one of the best. If you’re into live music, this is the place to be. The bar is always putting on special events that revolve around live shows.
13 Hanson’s Shoe Repair, Orlando
Considered to be the oldest building in downtown Orlando, this bar really did function as a shoe repair shop. Now, it’s a speakeasy-style watering hole that requires a password for entry. Every part of the architecture and decor screams, the 1920s, and a live jazz band can often be seen playing from the terrace. Only 30 people are allowed inside at one time, so you may want to get there early to secure a spot. They have an outdoor patio with a balcony, so you can sip a craft cocktail while getting some fresh air. Check their Twitter page if you want to find out the password.
12 Mata Hari’s, Savannah
You won’t find any street signs indicating that this speakeasy exists. Instead, there is a door with one light bulb above it. There’s a slot so that the guard can see who’s trying to gain entry and make sure they have the password. This one isn’t so easy to get in as you’ll need a special key that is only had by members. However, there are rumors that you can obtain one from your hotel or Bed and Breakfast staff. Once inside, expect live jazz, burlesque shows, 1920’s-style singers and waitresses wearing cigarette boxes.
11 Gaslamp, Kailua
The secret entrance can be found inside a local Irish bar. You’ll need a reservation and a code to even get in. However, once you know the secret code, a flapper girl will escort you in through a phone booth. The bartenders are serious about their drinks, and each cocktail is made with extreme care. The drink list may be filled with ingredients you’ve never heard of. But, make sure to take a chance on these mysterious drinks-it’s worth it. They often have jazz nights, and along with crafty cocktails, they have top-notch appetizers. It’s well under the radar so you’ll have to just go and experience it for yourself.
10 Press & Pony, Boise
Connected to two other venues, this tiny bar can be easily missed if you don’t know it’s there. There isn’t much room to sit, but the ambiance is worth the squeeze. Try one of their intriguing cocktails like the Hot Buttered Rum, which has Plantation 5 Star Rum, Hot Buttered Rum mix, and Nutmeg whip. If you’re adventurous, sophisticated, and a little outlandish, this bar is the place to be. They refer to their bartenders as craftsmen, which gives you an idea of the care they put into each drink. And, by the looks of their website, the staff encourages each guest to stay late, and try as many cocktails as possible.
9 Bordel, Chicago
This gem can be found by opening the door to the right of the Black Bull entrance. Go up the flight of stairs and then enter the door on your left. You’ll step into a 1920s-themed bar that has Flamenco and burlesque shows weekly. The scene is set with plush, velvet couches, wood paneling, and tables made out of wine barrels. The menu is filled with classic cocktails, many of which are served delicately in a tea set. Pair an expertly made cocktail with a few small bites from the chef. Some favorites include the Empanadas, stuffed tortillas, and breaded pork loin. Order a platter of meats and cheeses, or choose something delicious from the extensive tapas list.
8 Libertine, Indianapolis
This bar isn’t exactly hidden, but it does have the atmosphere of a speakeasy. They offer boutique brands of spirits, as well as classic drinks, and craft distillers. The bartenders know their craft and even dress the part in heavy-duty aprons and an array of odd ingredients. The cocktail list is always changing, but you can find concoctions like the Dottier Henchman, which is made with vodka, ginger, passion fruit, and Butterfly Pea tea. Try the Rum Pearadise, which is made with white rum, spiced pear, rosemary, and black pepper. This spot has been called one of the most romantic bars in Indianapolis.
7 Clinton Street Social Club, Iowa City
Located inside a refurbished building from the 1920s, this social club is the place to be for a craft cocktail. They also serve up locally brewed beers and have a food menu that has won awards. Guests can order a selection of artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, homemade soup, and salads. They also have a large selection of classic pub fares like fish and chips, pork tenderloin, and a cheddar burger. The cocktail list is extensive, and ingredients include fresh squeezed juices and tonics, bitters, and tinctures that are made in-house. It definitely has a prohibition vibe and often brings in some live jazz music to please the crowd.
6 Manifesto, Kansas City
This bar is found underground below The Rieger and is purposely themed to emulate a speakeasy. In fact, this location did operate as a speakeasy in the past and was once a watering hole for famous guests like Al Capone. It’s one of the city’s top cocktail bars as it uses fresh ingredients, serves up the classics, and offers one-of-a-kind concoctions. In fact, the Manifesto has been rated one of the top cocktail bars in the nation. You’ll need to make a reservation via text as the small venue books up fast.
5 Down One Bourbon Bar, Louisville
Louisville’s only bourbon bar is located right in the heart of Whiskey Row. Upon entering, you’ll be met with antique chandeliers, repurposed stained glass, and handcrafted wood finishings. It has a speakeasy vibe but offers a much more open atmosphere with a patio. However, they do have a secret phone booth room and over 160 bourbons to add to a craft cocktail. Their food menu has plenty to offer too. Pair a drink with a BBQ brisket sandwich or a smothered brisket biscuit. It’s one of the top places to hang out in the city.
4 My Bar 635, New Orleans
This quirky bar can be found in the historic, French Quarter district of New Orleans. The venue is made up of classic, wood paneling, and the wallpaper gives it a 1920s look. There are comfy chairs scattered around the room and a wood-burning fireplace against the wall. While they don’t necessarily specialize in craft cocktails, you can certainly order up some of the classics. And, it wouldn’t be a New Orleans bar if it didn’t offer live music. So, come for the drinks but stay for the show. They also have a balcony so that you can look out over Bourbon Street while you sip your drink.
3 The Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box, Portland
Drinking here is more like being in someone’s apartment than in an actual bar. It can be found in Portland’s art district and the bartenders here serve up a mean cocktail. The menu is small and to the point but the drinks are packed with flavor. The bar was created by a Portland local who started off by hosting donation-only cocktail nights with his friends. But, as the craft cocktail scene got bigger, he decided to make things a little more official. It’s dark, has great mood lighting, and is a cozy retreat from the frigid Maine winters. It’s classy, mellow, and purposely hard to find.
2 The Ranstead Room, Philadelphia
Located down a back alley, the Randstead Room can be found through a black door painted with two letter Rs. Once inside, the hostess will take your name, asking you to wait until a seat opens up in this tiny venue. When there’s room, you’ll be escorted inside and back to the 1920s. The lighting is dim, with plush booths, a chandelier, and interesting artwork. Bartenders wear suspenders and ties, and the crowd is usually dressed to impress.
1 Midnight Cowboy, Austin
Housed in a former brothel, the Midnight Cowboy is now a thriving speakeasy bar in Austin. Guests must have a reservation to experience this hip, 1920s-style watering hole. Sometimes, you can walk in, however, you won’t know until you show up. There will be a vacancy sign illuminated if there’s room for a few more guests. The cocktail list is extensive, and there are shared punch bowls to be had. Grab a tiki cocktail, lounge in one of the plush, leather sofas, and enjoy an exclusive, Austin experience.