Post overview: going over the best speakeasies in New York City
I’m usually a goody two-shoes, but there is something invigorating about drinking in a speakeasy in New York City. It’s like a rebellious spirit infiltrates my body and I turn into a mysterious man, oozing confidence.
I’m only half-kidding, speakeasies in New York City have a way of making conversation flow easier and create memorable experiences. Maybe it’s the dim-lighting, the craft cocktails or the rush I get from taking my date somewhere new and intimate.
If you’re looking for the best speakeasies in New York City, I’m here to help. I want to share the spots I can never seem to get enough so you can join in on the fun too.
There is a lot of ground to cover, so what do you say we get right into it?
The (brief) history of speakeasies in New York City
Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 to 1933, and during those 13 years it was illegal to make, import, transport or sell alcohol. However the law didn’t stop organized crime from filling the void and providing folks with their booze, and gangs started opening speakeasies all over the country.
The name for the bars comes from the need to speak softly, or speak easy to keep the illicit bars a secret. Since they were often tucked behind legitimate stores and restaurants the last thing you need is unwanted attention.
The New York Historical Society estimates there were anywhere from 200,000 to 100,000 speakeasies in New York City. After the end of prohibition most of them closed shop, but over the last two decades there’s been a resurgence in their popularity.
Speakeasies in New York City have become some of the most popular bars, and although you can now legally get tipsy it’s still fun to visit bars off the beaten path. Not every speakeasy in New York City is built the same, some are hidden behind fake doors, while others are just in nondescript buildings with no advertising.
In this post we’ll cover speakeasies in New York City that uphold the secretive tradition, although not all of them are hidden. In the present day speakeasies fit under a broad umbrella, and we’re going to cover them all.
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#20. Keys & Heels
Behind a shoe-repair/locksmith storefront you’ll find one of the best speakeasies in New York City, appropriately named Keys & Heels. I mean, those are the two essentials you need before heading out the door, right?
Once inside you’ll find the New York City speakeasy is dim-lit and intimate, albeit a little small. The petite size of the bar only helps add an air of exclusivity, like you’re a member of a secret-society.
The NYC speakeasy has a strict dress-code and doesn’t allow baseball caps, beanies, hoodies, sports jerseys, running shoes or flip-flops. For some folks the dress-code can be a turn-off, but if you’re looking for a spot to break out your fancy outfits Keys & Heels is one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
I would recommend grabbing dinner before visiting the NYC speakeasy for drinks. The bar only offers small bites (house nuts, olives, etc.) but has an extensive drink menu full of cocktails, beer and wine.
Address: 1488 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
Named after the owner’s rescue dog, LOULOU is a French restaurant that’s just as adorable as a puppy. Colorful flowers adorn the outside of the restaurant, stopping folks in their tracks to take pictures.
What makes this restaurant stand out (aside from the amazing food) is that the lower level of the bistro is home to one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
The drinks are not only innovative and clever, but they’re presented in some of the cutest glasses I’ve ever seen. Just take a look at the menu for a glimpse of the New York City speakeasy’s unforgettable drinks.
I can’t say enough good things about the “world is yours” cocktail (gin, sake, creme de peach & edible flowers). The wide assortment of original drinks helps make LOULOU one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Address: 176 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011
#18. PS at Pine and Polk
When you first walk into Pine & Polk you might think it’s a beautiful, small, local grocery store. More than half the products come from women and minority owned businesses, and they put an emphasis on healthy options.
What you may not know is that the chocolate bars lead to a different kind of bar – one of the best speakeasies in New York City! PS at Pine & Polk boasts a modern and elegant look so it’s no surprise it’s one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Wine, cocktails, beer and spirits are aplenty and there is even a small food menu. Although I wouldn’t recommend visiting for dinner, there are shareable options that can hold you over while you sip on your drinks.
True to the NYC speakeasy aesthetic, PS at Pine & Polk is dim-lit and intimate. The space is shockingly big considering how the small the grocery store front is, and the lounge-style seating makes it easy to want to stay a while.
Since this is one of the newer speakeasies in New York City there’s a lot of hype surrounding the bar. I strongly encourage reservations to be sure you’ll get a table and not have to settle for a to-go beer from the grocery store.
Address: 300 Spring St, New York, NY 10013
#17. Paper Planes
Paper Planes is one of the newest speakeasies in New York City and boy is it a great addition. When you arrive you’ll follow paper planes strung from the ceiling to a hidden bar in the back of the building.
There are both original and classic cocktails to choose from, so rest assured you’ll find something to suit your fancy. There are so many innovative drinks to choose from I’d argue Paper Planes is one of the best speakeasies in New York City for cocktail-connoisseurs.
If you’re in need of a suggestion I recommend the Molotov Cocktail, which is made with jalapeño liquor and has the perfect amount of kick to start the night. Don’t settle for just one drink though, I encourage you to try as many as you (responsibly) can.
The easy going atmosphere makes it easy to lose track of time at Paper Planes. Pair the ambience with the top-notch drink menu and you have one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Address: 154 Orchard St Ground Floor, New York, NY 10002
#16. The Garrett East
It seems like Mexican food and alcoholic drinks is a universal craving, regardless of ethnicity. But instead of heading to your usual restaurant, why not spice things up at one of the best speakeasies in New York City?
El Borrachito seems like a typical taco joint, small and to the point. However if you find yourself putting quarters into the vending machine in the back don’t be mad when you don’t get your soda, it’s actually a hidden door.
Slide the door and you’ll find one of the best speakeasies in New York City. You can order food from the pint-sized joint in the back too, so you can satisfy that craving of Mexican food no problem.
There are plenty of tacos to choose from, as well as burritos and quesadillas. The restaurant has vegan options available and there are small appetizer plates to share with the table.
As one of the best speakeasies in New York City you’ll also find a wide array of ingenious cocktails. A lot of the drinks have spices and peppers, which may not be to everyone’s liking but I always suggest you try at least one!
Address: 206 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
#15. Sunshine Laundromat
Laundromats and pinball machines are a match made in heaven. Bring your quarters and dirty laundry and run a load while you kill time trying to beat your high score. The only way to make the experience even better? Booze.
In the back of the laundromat you’ll find an door that’s made to look like stacked washing machines, step through the door and you’re in one of the best speakeasies in New York City!
The joint is laid-back and easy going, so don’t expect any fancy cocktails. The name of the game (besides pinball) is good ol’ fashioned beer. Sunshine Laundromat has both cans and bottles as well as beer on draft from local breweries.
The best part is that Sunshine Laundromat isn’t simply one of the best speakeasies in New York City, it’s a real, functioning laundromat. My wife has been impressed with my initiative with the laundry lately, but she’s not fully aware I’m actually enjoying a few drinks too.
Address: 860 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222
#14. Raines Law Room
This New York City speakeasy is named after Raines Law, which was a New York State liquor tax meant to curb alcohol consumption. The law also made it illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays, unless you’re a hotel.
Saloons began expanding, adding rooms to qualify for hotel status and take advantage of the loophole. These became known as Raines Law rooms, and paved the way for one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Low lights and good drinks are just about all you need for a great date, and Raines Law Room is looking to host. The intimate vibe sets the tone for an alluring date spot, the only thing missing is you!
If you’re looking for an engaging date night, consider taking a cocktail-making class. You’ll get to learn the history and technique necessary to make flavorsome drinks at one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Address: 48 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011
Speakeasies in New York City are not all made equal. Some emphasize their cocktails, others are romantic date-night spots, and Basement in Chinatown is where you go for entertaining games.
The NYC speakeasy has beer pong, darts, card games and more! It’s the perfect spot to bring new friends, because the games relieve some of the pressure of having to make constant conversation.
To get to the speakeasy you’ll have to walk though a front door that is made to look like a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine. Once inside it’s one of the coziest speakeasies in New York City, full of TVs and friendly staff.
Drinks like the Chinatown old fashioned and toki highball are made with Asian spirits and provide a unique flavor to time-tested classics. There isn’t any food at the moment, since the kitchen is being renovated, but you should make an effort to swing by for a drink at one of the best speakeasies in New York City
Address: 45 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
#12. The Back Room
The Back Room is one of only two speakeasies in New York City still open today that have been around since the prohibition era. The entrance is the same as it was 100 years ago, a gate that reads “Lower East Side Toy Company.”
Since the bar dates back to prohibition, it’s said that mobsters like Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lanksy also visited The Back Room (I wonder if they considered it one of the best speakeasies in New York City?).
After visiting myself I can attest that it even feels authentic. The 1920’s decor and cocktails served in teacups (to “trick” the police) can make you forget you’re in the 21st century.
Whenever I have friends visiting this is one of my favorite speakeasies in New York City to bring them to. They walk away with a unique experience and I leave satisfied knowing I showed them a real hidden gem.
Something to note: The Back Room only accepts guests 25 years and older on Fridays and Saturdays. Also – The Back Room does not allow real fur. If your clothing has it, you’ll be turned away.
Address: 102 Norfolk St, New York, NY 10002
#11. Nothing Really Matters
The last thing you’d expect to find in a subway station is a bar, but New York City is a special place. Nothing Really Matters is one of the best speakeasies in New York City and depending on where you’re coming from, the subway practically drops you off at the door.
To get there you’ll have to head to the 50th Street subway station for the 1 train headed downtown. Go down the stairs into the subway station until you see a black, glass door and voila, you’re there! (It’s before the turnstiles, you don’t have to pay to enter the subway station.)
Since the subway speakeasy is new, everything is modern an trendy. It’s hard not to feel like you’re part of a secret club, especially knowing folks are walking by in the subway station unaware of what lies beyond the walls.
I’d make dinner plans before visiting the New York City speakeasy, because as of right now they’re just offering drinks and snacks. Since this is one of the newest speakeasies in New York City it’s safe to say they’re still settling in, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they added more to the menu.
Address: 50th St. Subway Station, 210 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019
#10. Bathtub Gin
There’s no need for a time machine when you visit Bathtub Gin, one of the best speakeasies in New York City. The 1920’s themed bar is hidden inside a coffee shop and is an intimate place to enjoy a fancy cocktail.
The name is a reference to a popular nickname for booze during the prohibition era. Gin was the most popular alcohol at the time, and since it was being brewed (illegally) at home, folks referred to it as bathtub gin.
Although the name is usually associated with low-quality, amateur-made alcohol, the drinks at the Bathtub Gin are anything but. Mixologists have made Bathtub Gin one of the best speakeasies in New York City thanks to expertly crafted cocktails, using more spirits than just gin.
As one of the best speakeasies in New York City, the Bathtub Gin offers a wide array of drinks, both classic and innovative. If you’re in need of a recommendation I suggest the s’mores old fashioned, which adds a sweet twist to the timeless favorite.
Bathtub gin is also one of the most entertaining speakeasies in NYC, thanks a full schedule of performers ready to impress. The schedule is as follows:
- Sunday: Live burlesque
- Monday: Live Jazz
- Tuesday: Live burlesque
- Wednesday: Live music
- Thursday: Disco night
- Friday: Live DJ
- Saturday: Live DJ
Reservations are strongly encouraged since this is one of the best speakeasies in New York City, especially during live entertainment. Walk-ins are welcome, but only as capacity allows.
Address: 132 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
One of the best speakeasies in New York City has to be Garfunkel’s, a bar accessible via a vault door inside a restaurant called The Burgary.
Let me fill you in on a little bit of history, this bar is named after Garfunkel & Tauster. They were two felons who ran a fraudulent bank in the same building the speakeasy is in.
In the present, Garfunkel’s still has a similar 1920’s vibe. The bartenders are dressed in waistcoats and there’s often a live jazz trio, which create a Gatsby-esque aura.
And this isn’t just a fun or a pretty bar, the drinks are among the best you’ll find at any speakeasy in New York City. I’m partial to Upmann the Banker, which uses a base of of cigar infused scotch that I can’t replicate at home no matter how many times I try.
Fun fact: If you’re a New York Times subscriber you can read the article from 1924, when Tauster was sentenced 2 to 4 years in jail for the crimes he committed with Garfunkel.
Address: 67 Clinton St, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10002
After Attaboy was named the #1 best bar in North America, I knew I had to make a pit-stop. I have been back many, many times since and verified it’s one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Getting in isn’t easy, since there are no reservations, but I’ll gladly pitch my tent in hopes I get a sip of Ross’ Penicillin (scotch, lemon juice, ginger-honey syrup). The drink has become my favorite in all of New York City.
If you choose to make the pilgrimage pay extra attention to the address since there’s no signage. Luxury doesn’t advertise and neither do the best speakeasies in New York City, their reputation precedes them.
What’s more, once inside, you won’t even find a menu! You have to have a conversation with the bartender about what you like. The bartender then makes a drink special for you, and in my experience they never miss their mark.
Address: 134 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002
#7. Thyme Bar
Thyme Bar is one of the fanciest speakeasies in New York City, sparing no expense in decor, presentation or service. Every single drink is not only delicious, it’s gorgeous to look at! Half the time I don’t even want to drink my cocktail because I don’t want to ruin it!
Hidden inside the cellar of Patisserie Chanson in the Flatiron District, the speakeasy is a literal “underground” gem. You can expect to find elegant decor and a high-end vibe perfect for a date night where you’re trying to impress.
There is even a tasting menu. To partake in the experience you’ll have to make a reservation ahead of time, and for $95 you’ll get to enjoy five courses (appetizer, two cocktails, a food item and dessert).
You don’t have to commit to five courses to enjoy the New York City speakeasy, walk-ins are also welcome. You’ll get to order a la carte from a wide variety of cocktails with immaculate presentation as well as a full menu of flavorsome food.
Address: 20 W 23rd St, Cellar, New York, NY 10010
#6. Amor Y Amargo
In 2022 Amor Y Amargo was ranked the 23rd best bar in North America which is sure to boost their already booming following. At its entrance you’ll find a storefront selling bitters and mixology tools, but in the back you’ll find one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
It’s an intimate, standing-only space manned by knowledgeable and talented mixologists. Since the space is so small it’s not uncommon for strangers to jump into each other’s small talk, which can make for a memorable experience.
I have a friend who is a bartender and he considers Amor Y Amargo one of the best speakeasies in New York City. Since the emphasis is truly in their expertly made cocktails, folks within the industry have come to appreciate the no-frills attention to detail.
Address: 95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
#5. The Lab at Patent Pending
Patent Pending is a popular New York City speakeasy, but what some folks don’t realize it that there’s now a second bar tucked behind it called The Lab. Opened in 2021 and seating only 30, the space is tiny but memorable.
This newly-opened Manhattan bar is housed in the building where Nikola Tesla lived. This is the very building where he performed various experiments on radio waves.
Today you can experience the world he surmised a century ago whenever you pull out your phone and connect to WiFi. This bar is located in the heart of innovation and action and is one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Serving some of the most exciting cocktails in Manhattan, the Lab is all about creativity. 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).
Address: 49 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001
Ask locals about the best speakeasies in New York City and the honest ones will mention Apotheke, the dishonest ones still want to keep it a secret.
The appeal at this Manhattan bar is the overall vibe, mixologists in lab coats create inspired cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t lack imagination or romance.
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 New York City, one thing is certain, you can’t be disappointed. Using organic produce and house-made ingredients, everything tastes refreshing and satisfying.
Address: 9 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013
#3. Little Branch (LB)
At first glance Little Branch looks to be in an abandoned building in the West Village. I wouldn’t blame you if you second guessed going down the stairs into the basement, I know I did when I first visited.
Once inside you’ll be glad you braved the creepy building, you’re in one of the best speakeasies in New York City! There is usually live music (jazz and the like) that adds an extra level of warmth to the snug bar.
Just because the place looks and feels old-school doesn’t mean the drinks are boring. My suggestion is to chat with the bartenders and tell them what you like – you’ll be impressed with what they can make you.
The low ceilings and warm lighting make Little Branch cozy and comfy, which to me is what the best speakeasies in New York City are supposed to be. Braving the mysterious building is well worth the buzz you’re sure to leave with.
Address: 20 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014
#2. Please Don’t Tell (PDT)
One of my personal favorite things to do is to bring out-of-town guests to Please Don’t Tell. Thanks to a hidden pathway it’s one of the best speakeasies in New York City, and home to some of the tastiest cocktails I’ve ever had.
What seems to be a typical hotdog shop called Crif Dogs, secretly turns out to be on the best speakeasies in New York City.
As soon as you step foot into the shop there is a phone booth to the left of the entrance. You step into the phone booth and dial the number written on a sign. The phone triggers a doorbell and a door will open up for you to enter.
You’ll walk into a small and intimate set up where you can spend the night ordering cocktails, hotdogs, or both. The atmosphere is dark and moody making it a fun way to end the night with friends at one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
Address: 113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009
#1. Employees Only
We’ve established that speakeasies in New York City are popular, but the most popular is Employees Only. Located in the Greenwich Village, you’ll have to walk passed a tarot card reader in the foyer before you get into the hidden bar.
In fact, Employees Only has recently been voted the 30th best bar in North America and 47th best in the world. The recognition is well deserved, every time I visit I wish I had more room in my belly for drinks.
Whether you’re after classic manhattans or negronis, or a specialty cocktail like the Strangers Punch (Havana Club Rum with Clarified Milk, Torres 15 Brandy, Tibetan Tiger tea, cinnamon syrup & a twist of orange) Employees Only is one of the best speakeasies in New York City.
The food menu is nothing to scoff at either. There are steaks and lamb chops that have my mouth watering just thinking about them. Even if you don’t visit for dinner, be sure to order an appetizer for the table.
Since this is one of the most popular speakeasies in New York City I strongly recommend you make reservations ahead of time. Also – Employee’s Only doesn’t allow baseball caps, flip flops, athletic jerseys, gym sneakers or workout attire.
Address: 510 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
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
- Nothing Really Matters
- The Back Room
- Raines Law Room
- Angel’s Share
- The Garrett
- Paper Planes
- PS at Pine & Polk
- Keys & Heels
Best Speakeasies NYC (Map)
And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best speakeasies in NYC. I hope you enjoyed the post!
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.