Renowned for outstanding nightlife, New York City is home to some of the most intriguing speakeasies in the world. These hidden gems, a delightful throwback to the Prohibition era, are tucked away behind unmarked doors and secret passages, it’s as much about the adventure of finding them as it is about the drinks.
There’s more than 50 speakeasies in New York City, each offering a unique twist. From joints that require passwords, to those hidden behind telephone booths or bookcases. These NYC speakeasies are popular with locals and visitors alike for have the exclusive vibes, cozy interiors and the tantalizing thrill of stepping back into a bygone era. Let’s dive right in!
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The (Brief) History of Speakeasies in New York City
Speakeasies in New York City have a fascinating history that dates back to the Prohibition era in the 1920s. During this time, the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol were illegal across the United States, leading to the rise of these clandestine (secret) bars. Nobody loves the nightlife like New Yorkers, so the city became a hotspot for these illegal establishments, known as speakeasies.
Speakeasies were often hidden in basements or behind unassuming storefronts, with secret passwords required for entry. They became social hubs, offering not just a place to enjoy a forbidden libation, but also sense of rebellious camaraderie. Despite the constant threat of police raids, the speakeasies in New York City flourished — symbols of defiance against the Prohibition laws.
Why is it called a speakeasy? The name is believed to have come from the practice of speaking quietly, or “easily,” about the establishments in public, or when inside, to avoid attracting attention from neighbors or the police.
The Best Speakeasies in New York City
(Table of Contents)
NYC Best Speakeasies (Table of Contents)
- The (Brief) History of Speakeasies in New York City
- The Best Speakeasies in New York City
- List of the Best New York City Speakeasies (Post Summary)
- Coolest Speakeasies in NYC (Map)
#10. Bathtub Gin
Hidden behind a nondescript door in a Chelsea coffee shop, this Prohibition-style bar in NYC is a nod to classic 1920s speakeasies, complete with a bathtub centerpiece reminiscent of the era’s gin-making practices. During prohibition, gin was made in tall bottles that couldn’t be topped off in the sink, so people filled gin bottles in the bathtub, earning the moniker bathtub gin.
Although the name is usually associated with low-quality, amateur-made alcohol, the drinks at the Bathtub Gin are anything but. The expertly-crafted cocktails span the gamut (contrary to what the name implies, gin is not the only spirit on the menu). Offering an intimate ambiance that’s both cozy and chic, the bar’s inventive cocktails and the live music (like jazz nights!) transport visitors back to the Roaring Twenties, ensuring an evening you won’t soon forget.
This blend of authentic speakeasy vibes and electrifying atmosphere has earned Bathtub Gin a coveted place on our list of the the best speakeasy bars in NYC. Reservations are strongly encouraged (walk-ins welcome, but seating is limited).
Garfunkel’s offers a captivating blend of history and modern mixology, making it a must-visit destination for anyone looking for the best speakeasies in New York City. Tucked behind a vintage bank vault entrance at The Burgary restaurant on the Lower East Side, Garfunkel’s has a fascinating history.
This intimate and secret NYC bar was named after a notorious private banker-turned–criminal fugitive, who used this location as his corrupt banking firm in the 1920s. This is one of the most exclusive NYC speakeasies on the list because of its strict reservation-only policy.
The meticulously crafted cocktails are nothing short of excellent. Between the history, chic vibes, meticulously crafted cocktails and exceptional service, Garfunkel’s is high on our list of the best speakeasies in NYC, offering a timeless escape into the city’s intriguing hidden nightlife.
Local’s Tip: If you’re open to trying a unique cocktail, I recommend the Upmann the Banker (Cigar infused scotch, Averna amaro, cane, angostura, Orinoco bitters. Served on the rocks with smoked tobacco.)
Attaboy has a reputation for being one of the hardest NYC speakeasies to get into (no reservations, walk-ins only and the wait is upwards of an hour long!). The bar occupies the former space of the legendary Milk & Honey — the bar credited for being a pioneer of the craft cocktail and speakeasy movement in NYC).
Attaboy is known for offering a unique cocktail experience where drinks are tailored to individual preferences (there’s no menu!), showcasing the mixologists’ exceptional skills. The unmarked entrance adds to its allure, requiring visitors to knock and await entry, heightening the thrilling sense of discovery. The intimate bar, with understated décor and focus on quality over quantity, ensures each visit is a unique and memorable experience.
Blending personalized service and an innovative approach to mixology has solidified Attaboy’s status as one of the best speakeasies in NYC, appealing to both cocktail connoisseurs and anyone looking for fun date night ideas.
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#7. Thyme Bar
Crafting visually stunning and flavor-rich cocktails that look like works of art, Thyme Bar is located inside the cellar of Patisserie Chanson in the Flatiron District — a literal subterranean gem. Each cocktail has a theme, which adds a playful element to the night, like the alcoholic iced tea served in a golden genie lamp Hidden.
Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or simply seeking a unique night out, Thyme Bar offers an immersive experience that beautifully melds the past and the present. This is definitely one of the fanciest speakeasies in New York City, don’t miss it!
#6. Amor Y Amargo
No seats, no tables — just award-winning cocktails so good every sip feels like an adventure. Billed as a storefront selling bitters, walk toward the back to find one of the best speakeasies in New York City. This intimate, standing-only space is run by knowledgeable bartenders keen to impress.
My friend is a bartender at one of the city’s top bars and he considers Amor Y Amargo to be of the best speakeasies in NYC (which is saying a lot). With an emphasis on expertly-crafted cocktails, this bar is the go-to spot for those that appreciate top-notch libations without fanfare.
#5. The Lab at Patent Pending
Tucked away in the iconic Radio Wave Building in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood, The Lab at Patent Pending takes inspiration from the building’s famous former resident, Nikola Tesla. Tesla lived in the building in 1977, it’s where he performed experiments on radio waves!
Creatively is infused into every aspect of the experience. Accessed through a hidden door in a café, marked only by a sign reading ‘Patent Pending’, the bar transports you into a world that echoes Tesla’s inventions and electrical experiments.
The Lab’s cocktail menu is ingeniously categorized into themes like ‘Energy’, ‘Vibration’, and ‘Frequency’, offering a unique exploration of flavors and mixology techniques. This inventive approach, combined with the speakeasy’s rich historical connection and intimate, dimly lit ambiance, has earned The Lab at Patent Pending a revered spot among the best speakeasies in NYC.
If you’re looking for suggestions, I’m partial to the Suspicions of Espionage (Peruvian Pisco, Single Malt Scotch, wildflower, passion fruit and egg white) and the Radio Waves (Tequila, Mezcal, basil, Thai chile, lime and cucumber). But honestly, everything on the menu is great!
Ask locals about the best speakeasies in New York City and the honest ones will mention Apotheke. The appeal at this Manhattan bar is the overall vibe, mixologists in lab coats create inspired cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere ripe with imagination and romance.
The bar’s specialty lies in the use of fresh, organic ingredients and the array of fascinating herbs and botanicals, reminiscent of a chemist’s laboratory. Each cocktail is crafted with the precision of a pharmacist, aimed at healing and rejuvenation. The menu is broken down into six distinct sections: Health & Beauty, Aphrodisiacs, Pain Killers, Euphorics, Stimulants and Stress Relievers.
Cocktails are referred to as prescriptions, feeding into the whole old-school European apothecary experience. Regardless of the drinks you choose to order at this classy speakeasy in NYC, one thing is certain, you can’t be disappointed. Using organic produce and house-made ingredients, everything tastes refreshing and satisfying.
#3. Little Branch
Opened in 2005, Little Branch is considered an early pioneer of the speakeasy scene in NYC. Exuding seductive old-world charm, the seating capacity is (internationally) limited and reservations are not accepted.
Enter through the nondescript corner door located on an abandoned looking building to be transported to the dimly-lit, jazz-infused basement bar that feels like a step back into a more genteel era. This popular NYC speakeasy is known for for excellent classic cocktails and skilled bartenders who artfully craft drinks tailored to personal taste.
The vibe is relaxed yet sophisticated (perfect for date night), with live jazz on select nights adding to the charming speakeasy ambiance. This unique touch of old New York elegance cements Little Branch’s reputation as one of the best speakeasies in NYC, perfect for anyone on the hunt for a refined yet unpretentious night out.
#2. Please Don’t Tell (PDT)
Please Don’t Tell is hidden behind a phone booth in a beloved hot dog joint, Crif Dogs. This celebrated NYC speakeasy combines the thrill of discovery that dates back to the Prohibition era. To enter, guests must step into the phone booth, pick up the phone, and press the buzzer. It’s an experience reminiscent of the clandestine operations during Prohibition.
Once inside, don’t fight the dark and moody vibes, it’s the perfect backdrop for enjoying expertly crafted cocktails with good friends. Please Don’t Tell is one of the most unique speakeasy bars in NYC because it pairs sophisticated libations with gourmet hot dogs, merging great drinks with playful food.
#1. Employees Only
By this point, we’ve firmly established that speakeasies in New York City are a popular affair, but the most popular joint has to be Employees Only. Located in the Greenwich Village, you’ll need to walk past a tarot card reader before being granted access to one of NYC’s best hidden bars.
Don’t just take my word for it! Employees Only was rated the 30th best bar in North America and 47th best in the world. Whether you’re after classics or find yourself in the mood for a specialty cocktail, this bar is sure to fit the bill. But since this is one of the most popular speakeasies in New York City, I strongly recommend you make reservations ahead of time.
Website: Employees Only
Neighborhood: West Village
Address: 510 Hudson St, New York, NY
Good to Know: Employees Only doesn’t allow baseball caps, flip flops, athletic jerseys, gym sneakers or workout attire.
List of the Best New York City Speakeasies (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the best speakeasies in New York City:
- Employees Only
- Little Branch
- The Lab at Patent Pending
- Amor Y Amargo
- Thyme Bar
- Bathtub Gin
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Coolest Speakeasies in NYC (Map)
And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best speakeasies in NYC. I hope you enjoyed the article, cheers!