Whilst bars in Bangkok remain shut at the time of writing, there’s nothing like a bit of armchair travel to some of the most famous (shh!) secret bars around the world.
The term “speakeasy” was coined to refer to an illicit retro bar or establishment that popped up in the US during the Prohibition era (1920 to 1933). The idea behind the word ‘speakeasy’ was for the customers to talk softly about such places to avoid unwanted attention from the authorities. While these secret bars were a way to get alcohol in the 1920s US, today speakeasies are places reliving that era with a modern touch. The new-age speakeasies are smart enough to carry this tradition and still maintain the allure of secrecy.
[Hero and Featured Image Credit: The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, London]
Akin to Prohibition-style, many of these bars are camouflaged behind the most unassuming doors or underground basements with an added disguise of secret passwords. They often rely on digital buzz to get the word out and draw in the crowds while balancing the need for awareness and incognito theme. Password is the key to these hidden entrances which are usually shared post reservation.
So if you are looking for an adventure with some delicious cocktails, here are some secret bars around the world where you will need a password for entry. Get ready to go on a quick adventure tour and enter the elusive world of secret bars with nondescript entrances and unexpected menus.
Secret bars around the world:
Room 13 at Old Chicago Inn, Chicago
You have to be either a guest (of the Old Chicago Inn) or a member of this Prohibition era-inspired speakeasy to get entry. It is the go-to bar for classic Jazz Age cocktails made with the finest ingredients and served with cultural anecdotes by the bartenders. Prior reservations, proper dress code and password make up for an authentic speakeasy experience here.
Backdoor43 claims to be the world’s smallest secret bar and it might just be as it is spread across just 13 square feet. Entry here requires a prior reservation with a key and a password. But, if you are unable to get one, knock on the door and a bartender wearing a V for Vendetta mask will make you a takeaway cocktail.
The Butcher, Albert Cuyp, Amsterdam
Embodying the true speakeasy spirit, The Butcher is a famous burger joint by the day and a bar by the night. The guests can enter through a secret door with an exclusive password made available upon reservation. With the line-up of curated cocktails and exquisite ambience, The Butcher tops the list of one of the most exclusive spots in Amsterdam.
Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco
This iconic bar is housed in an old speakeasy and the entrance is through an unmarked door. You enter via a trapdoor which has a secret bookcase accessed by a password. It has about five hidden bars and you will most likely be emailed a list of rules upon making a reservation. The selling point is its vintage decor, unpretentious old-world charm and crafted cocktails.
Named after a fictional character from the 1950s Goa, Remo’s is a covert bar tucked in a dark alleyway in Todi Mills of the Lower Parel area. Accessed through a secret door at the end of a flight of stairs and a password, the place screams quiet and private with blacked-out walls. Think noir interiors, extravagant decor, dim lights and shelves decorated with pre-readied cocktail mixers. The entry is by invitation and the bar sends out a password that changes periodically. Keep an eye out for the neon sign, that’s your cue for entrance.
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, London
It is one of those blink-and-you-will-miss-it bars located beneath the Breakfast Club of Spitalfields. Hidden behind a fake fridge door in a true speakeasy demeanour, a password will let you in The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. It has a succinct cocktail menu with exotic infusions such as Pigelin (that includes lemon, pear, custard, etc.) to impress even the most discerning drinkers.
XX, Hong Kong
Inspired by chromosome XX, this female-only speakeasy is far from the formal bar experience. Hidden inside the remarkable Rosewood Hong Kong, this eclectic bar is a hot venue for a ladies night. The bar serves experimental drinks inspired by the in-house botanical garden. Just one password lies between you and your drinks, ladies!
Sneaky Tony’s, Perth
As the name goes, this rum bar is cleverly hidden behind an elusive unmarked door. On Fridays and Saturdays, the guests need a password to enter which is shared via Facebook or Instagram and updated regularly.
Open Sesame, Rome
This members-only private club takes its bar rules very seriously and requires a password for entry, even if you have a reservation. But here’s the twist, you won’t get a password that easy. You will need to answer a question hidden on the club’s homepage to gain entry to this boozy haven. Look out for the door with a small gold plaque revealing the Jerry Thomas name and enjoy the most artistic cocktails once are inside.
Cocktails and Dreams – Speakeasy, Gurugram, India
Behind a replica of prison gate lies this lively speakeasy with a corner dedicated to one of the most influential figures in jazz, Louis Armstrong. To gain entry, guests have to knock three times and need a password which is subject to change. Enjoy the old-fashioned vibe with the bar’s spectacular multi-cuisine menu and theatrical show of cocktails made by bartenders dressed in vintage style.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.