Undercover Drinking
Apotheke (Photo: Courtesy of Apotheke)

10 New York City Bars with a Speakeasy Vibe

Knock on these (mostly) unmarked doors for excellent cocktails in stylish surroundings

Prohibition may be long gone, but the decadent and secretive spirit of the 1920s is still alive and well in bars across New York City. A special absinthe cocktail, an unmarked entrance, concoctions served in teacups — all nod to the glamour of a bygone era. Other signs you’ve discovered a speakeasy: jazz music, a lone piano, a doorbell to ring or an acronym to decipher. No matter the affect, all of these bars have one thing in common; they serve excellent drinks in dimly-lit style.

The Dead Rabbit (Photo: Courtesy of The Dead Rabbit)

The Dead Rabbit (Photo: Courtesy of The Dead Rabbit)

The Dead Rabbit
This Financial District bar in a historic townhouse on Water Street operates under a dual identity, with an often raucous taproom downstairs and a quieter, more secluded cocktail parlor upstairs that can feel like your own little secret. There’s no historic posing here — what with its offering of 72 meticulously researched drinks such as punches, sours, fizzes and slings. If you want to chase the green fairy on a budget, indulge in specially priced absinthe cocktails ($12) at the upstairs parlor during the weekday L’Heure Verte (Green Hour) from 5 to 7pm. The live piano music certainly makes the whole experience that much sweeter. 30 Water St., 646-422-7906, deadrabbitnyc.com

Attaboy (Photo: Karen B./Yelp)

Attaboy (Photo: Karen B./Yelp)

Attaboy
Sasha Petraske’s Milk and Honey was at the forefront of New York’s speakeasy scene when it opened on the Lower East Side in 2000 with a private phone number and well-concealed entrance. It closed in 2012, but two longtime Milk and Honey bartenders opened the bespoke cocktail bar Attaboy in its place, complete with flickering candles and no drink menu. Look for the steel door with “AB” on it and a neon “A” in the window; then ring the buzzer to be let in to this no-reservations drinking den. Once seated, you’ll answer questions about your spirit of choice and other drink preferences that will help the bartender create a customized cocktail ($16) that will knock your socks off. 134 Eldridge St., no phone, no website

Apotheke (Photo: Courtesy of Apotheke)

Apotheke (Photo: Courtesy of Apotheke)

Apotheke
When you think Chinatown, upscale cocktails might not jump to mind, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Apotheke, a watering hole hidden down a windy, tucked-away street. There’s live jazz on Monday, Tuesday and Sunday nights, or opt for Wednesday’s Prohibition sessions when early American jazz standards are provided by Avalon Jazz Band and there’s a password requirement for entry. Contact the bar to secure the magic word and then pass the night sipping on a Hemingway Daiquiri ($15), an indulgence of a drink made with white rum, fresh lime juice, fresh grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and a maraschino cherry. 9 Doyers St.,#1, 212-406-0400, apothekenyc.com

PDT (Photo: Courtesy of PDT)

PDT (Photo: Courtesy of PDT)

PDT
The award for “ultimate secret entrance” should go to the cleverly hidden PDT, shorthand for Please Don’t Tell, where you’ll need a reservation. Once secured, walk into the delicious but otherwise unremarkable hot dog shop, Crif Dogs, on St. Marks Place. Enter the vintage phone booth and pick up the receiver. The wall within the booth will open, revealing the window-less cocktail bar within. This snug, speakeasy-inspired bar serves some of the city’s best cocktails (from $15), including a version of a Sazerac called a “Staggerac” made with high-proof bourbon and absinthe. Sober up with a hot dog on the way out. 113 St. Marks Pl., 212-614-0386, pdtnyc.com

Raines Law Room (Photo: Courtesy of Raines Law Room)

Raines Law Room (Photo: Courtesy of Raines Law Room)

Raines Law Room
Find the unmarked stairwell at 48 W. 17th Street in the Flatiron District and ring the doorbell to enter this underground cocktail den where cozy velvet couches provide an intimate, upscale living room-like atmosphere for a date. Expertly mixed concoctions fall under categories such as tall and fizzy or stirred and potent. Try the “Chet Baker” a mix of Flor de Cana 7-year rum, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, honey and angostura bitters on a rock of ice ($14). 48 W. 17th St., no phone, raineslawroom.com

Bathtub Gin (Photo: The Jedi Foodi E./Yelp)

Bathtub Gin (Photo: The Jedi Foodi E./Yelp)

Bathtub Gin
Take a closer look at the back wall of Chelsea‘s Stone Street Coffee Company, which opens to reveal a low-lit speakeasy, Bathtub Gin. A copper bathtub takes center stage in the space and leaves no question as to the source of this bar’s inspiration. Yes, the 1920s, when gin was the drink of choice and low-quality alcohol forced drink enthusiasts to take things into their own hands (and bathtubs), are front-and-center here. To get into the spirit, try the Barbara West ($15), a cocktail with Tanqueray gin, sherry, lemon juice, grapefruit bitters, cane syrups and grapefruit oils. 132 Ninth Ave., 646-559-1671, bathtubginnyc.com

Dutch Kills (Photo: Courtesy of Dutch Kills)

Dutch Kills (Photo: Courtesy of Dutch Kills)

Dutch Kills
It would be easy to walk past Dutch Kills in Long Island City without even noticing it. The dark wood-filled watering hole is marked only by a “BAR” sign outside. Inside there’s live jazz, a saloon vibe and superior cocktails from industry leader and owner Sasha Petraske. Your reward for drinking in Queens? The cocktails — such as the Bloody Knuckle ($11) with rye whiskey, Aperol, gin, and orange bitters — are also a good few dollars less than at other hard-to-find Manhattan counterparts. 27-24 Jackson Ave., 718-383-2724, dutchkillsbar.com

Hotel Delmano (Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Delmano)

Hotel Delmano (Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Delmano)

Hotel Delmano
You won’t find any rooms for rent in Williamsburg‘s Hotel Delmano, but you will find a picture-perfect Prohibition-era saloon with smoky mirrors and suspender-wearing bartenders. The stools along a lengthy bar and separate rooms with chandeliers and cozy banquettes make this spot is a good match for a date or for a group of thirsty friends. Despite the serious attention paid to decor, the cocktails show off a fun side. Try your hand at the Rattlesnake ($13), made with rye, absinthe and egg whites. 82 Berry St., 718-387-1945, hoteldelmano.com

Lantern's Keep (Photo: Courtesy of Lantern's Keep)

Lantern’s Keep (Photo: Courtesy of Lantern’s Keep)

Lantern’s Keep
This secret bar tucked away in the back of the historic Iroquois Hotel in Midtown is a civilized spot to sip on a cocktail. Make a reservation in advance for the small space, a better match for those seeking quiet conversation than those looking for meet-and-greet bar. Choose from a long list of cocktails, including the Iroquois #2 ($15), a mix of cognac, pineapple, yellow chartreuse, lemon and angostura bitters — or go the bespoke route and simply tell your server what you’re craving. 49 West 44th St., 212-453-4287, thelanternskeep.com

The secret bookcase door leads to The Back Room (Photo: The Jedi Foodi E./Yelp)

The secret bookcase door leads to The Back Room (Photo: The Jedi Foodi E./Yelp)

The Back Room
Get into the speakeasy spirit by venturing down an alley to reach this hidden Lower East Side bar. First look for the sign that says “Lower East Side Toy Company.” Enter through the gate, head down the stairs, across the alley, and up a flight of stairs to reach the Back Room. Cocktails ($8-$12) are served in teacups, just like during the clandestine Prohibition era. For a real challenge, try to get yourself into the real “Back Room,” a VIP lounge accessed through a trick bookcase. 102 Norfolk St., 212-228-5098, no website

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