World’s top 10 speakeasiesBy Amy Hopkins
In celebration of Repeal Day this Friday, when the US government lifted its Prohibition act, we round up some of the world’s best speakeasy bars for clandestine sipping.
At the start of the 20th Century in 1919, the US government passed legislation criminalising the creation and sale of alcohol, which went on to last for 13 years.
Bootlegging was rife and the country witnessed a surge in organised crime as a corrupt police force turned a blind eye to the growing mafia mayhem, frequently profiting from the illegal industry themselves.
Speakeasy bars came into prominence during this time and became infamous for their illicit boozy offerings behind unassuming doors.
Today, “blind pigs” or “blind tigers”, as they are also known, have become hugely popular with modern consumers for their historical ties, exclusivity and excellent cocktail offerings.
On December 5 1933, Utah – the last state needed for a 75% majority, ratified the 21st Amendment, resulting in the repeal of Prohibition and the restoration of America’s alcohol manufacturing industry.
To mark the anniversary of Repeal Day this Friday, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 speakeasy bars.
Think we’ve missed any out? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Please Don’t Tell (PDT), New York
One of New York’s most popular modern speakeasy-style bars in Please Don’t Tell, whose very name conjures ideas of illicit activity.
True to its theme, the bar is famously difficult to locate. First, you must walk down a set of steps towards the Crif Dogs and enter. At the back of the shop there’s a phone booth – walk inside, press #1 and wait for a hidden door to open.
Inside you will find a stylish bar with a buzzing atmosphere and even more delicious cocktails.
The Barber Shop, Sydney
Hidden at the back of a working parlour-style vintage barbershop, this speakeasy harks back illicit Prohibition joints hidden behind a functioning “shop front” business.
Specialising in “cocktails and shaves”, punters are encouraged to first book a haircut or shave before being taken through a secret door at the back of the shop where a small European-style cocktail bar can be found.
Lulu White, Paris
Opened just last month by the team behind fellow speakeasy bar Little Red Door is Lulu White is named after a brothel owner in New Orleans, Lousiana, US, during the Storyville era.
Based on Fée Verte absinthe, the cocktail menu aims to revive the “forgotten period” of the 1860s when the practice of drinking absinthe had become so popular in bars, bistros and cafes that 5pm was dubbed “l’heure verte”.
The drinks aim to explore the journey of mixology by offering classic cocktails that have been modernised with “unique flavours”.
Nightjar has quickly gained iconic status on the modern London bar scene. With only a tiny, discreet sign marking its entrance near Old Street, the bar specialises in exquisite, Prohibition cocktails, vintage spirits and live jazz performances.
Described as a “hidden slice of old school glamour”, the bar specialises in extravagant garnishes and innovative ingredients.
The bar’s menu is cleverly divided into pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, post-war and signature sections
Evans & Peel Detective Agency, London
Something of a London institution, Evans & Peel Detective Agency uses its drab outer office appearance to mask what has become one of the most intriguing and exclusive bars in the city.
After making an essential appointment to meet with one of the firm’s “detectives”, head to the softly-lit agency office in Earl’s Court.
If you play your cards right, you will be shown to a door disguised as a bookcase, where once you walk through, you will discover a world of illicit indulgence with drinks covered with brown paper bags and dickie-bow-clad bar staff who stay in character throughout your visit.
Milk and Honey, New York
There are few cocktail lovers who haven’t heard of Milk and Honey. Having relocated in 2013, Milk and Honey has asserted its reputation great drinks with patrons the world over.
The entrance is, as expected, very unassuming through a set of black curtained doors which lead to a dimly lit interior with exposed brick decoration.
Its cocktail menu is extensive but manageable thanks to its division into sections such as Shorts & Sours and Cobblers, Fizzers & Fixes.
From Punches and Sours to Champagne cocktails, there are tipples suited to whet every appetite.
Eau de Vie, Sydney & Melbourne
Eau de Vie first made its mark in Sydney back in 2010 and has since carved a reputation for its quality spirits selection and creative cocktails, so much so it expanded its foothold to open a second speakeasy in Melbourne.
With dimly lit surroundings infused with sultry jazz tones, the expert team of bartenders will do all they can to “transport you back to a much forgotten era where great service, cocktails, tommy guns and good times were king”.
Cocktails include classics such as the Martini in any shape or style you like – there’s a flow chart to help you decide – as well as a selection of specials and forgotten classics hailing from Paris, Milan, Hollywood and the Caribbean.
Bramble really is a hidden gem in Scotland’s capital, but once you’ve found the steps that lead down to the basement bar you’re in for a treat.
Once you’ve taken your seat, expect experimentation at its best from your cocktails.
The bartenders hold no qualms when it comes to incorporating unusual ingredients into their drinks, from the Miss Muffet made from Ketel One vodka, lemon curd, fresh lemon juice and vanilla, to the Butter-Scotch Cocktail, a blend of Monkey Shoulder (fat washed with butter), Aperol, oloroso Sherry, ginger jam, vanilla sugar and Peychaud’s bitters.
This speakeasy boasts one of the longest bars in the city, mixing 1920s chic with a modern day charm.
Hidden behind cast iron doors, you may be forgiven for thinking the bar is closed but ring the door bell and an attendant will invite you to step inside.
Bar staff clad in white shirts, braces and bow ties are happy to help you choose from the menu which include tipples such as the Rum Old Fashioned.
Mr Fogg’s, London
It’s easy to mistake speakeasy Mr Fogg’s as merely another abode in Mayfair, but the big black door opens to one of London’s most eccentric watering holes.
Adorned in an array of antiques and eclectic memorabilia from Mr Phileas J. Fogg’s “travels”, menus are served in dusty old books and offer dozens of cocktails to suit every palate.
Head down on a Saturday to enjoy Mr Fogg’s Tipsy Tea party.