Where To Find Five Of New York’s Legendary Speakeasies
Please don't tell.
New Yorkers are exceptionally good at hiding some of their best watering holes from view. But, behind bookshelves, phone booths and secret codes, it’s the element of mystery and exclusivity that makes them some of the most sought-after spots in The City That Never Sleeps.
Here’s where to find the best of many New York speakeasies – and what to order when you get to the bar.
For a genuinely unique experience, it’s hard to look past Attaboy. Tucked away in a little nook on Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side, the only indicator you’re in the right place is a small “AB” on the door. It’s a tiny venue, and there’s normally a wait, so wear something you’re prepared to stand in for a while.
Inside, Attaboy doesn’t bother with menus. Rather, it relies on its bartenders’ encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of good drinks and good vibes to ensure you’re served the exact cocktail you had in mind. Drinks are a flat rate of AU$23 (US$17).
Where: 134 Eldridge Street, New York
#2 Please Don’t Tell
One of the most storied bars in New York City and a key player in the resurgence of the cocktail industry, Please Don’t Tell is reached through a phone booth inside Crif Dogs in the East Village. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the crowd, and hear the Crif Dogs staff telling people waiting for the bar to stand to the left.
In the phone booth, punters call through and hope they won’t be told it’ll be a two-hour wait. Head bartender Jeff Bell was awarded American Bartender of the Year in the 2017 Spirited Awards, so you know you’re in good hands. If you’re not sure where to start, try one of owner Jim Meehan’s favourites, the Mezcal Mule. Drinks are around the US$16 (AU$21.50) mark, which… well, it’s New York.
Where: 113 St Marks Place, New York
#3 The Back Room
The Back Room is a slice of Lower East Side history. One of only two genuine Prohibition-era bars still serving drinks today, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The entrance used is the same one that was used 85 years ago, and there’s even a back room in The Back Room – though you’ll need to know someone if you want to get in there to see the copper ceilings.
Still, the main room is plenty nice. The huge fireplace, the massive mirror behind the bar, the chandeliers; it’s all period-perfect. The cocktails cost around US$14 (AU$19) and arrive in teacups. There’s also a modest selection of beers on tap.
If you’re struggling to find it, look for the Lower East Side Toys sign.
Where: 102 Norfolk Street, New York
#4 Le Boudoir
Over the Brooklyn Bridge, Le Boudoir is a gilded den styled after Marie Antoinette’s living quarters. The details are immaculate – one of the doorknobs, for example, is an original, from the Queen’s hand to yours. To get there, you have to go through Chez Moi; the chic little bistro upstairs. The entrance is hidden behind a bookcase and down the stairs.
Starting at around US$13 (AU$17.50) the cocktail list is French-inspired, and delivered by the outstanding hand of Franky Marshall. His signature drink is appropriately named “the Guillotine”. Made from Mezcal, Scotch and banana liquor, it’ll take your head off if you aren’t paying attention.
Where: 135 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn
#5 Angel’s Share
The thing about Angel’s Share, a speakeasy that’s been pumping out world-class cocktails for decades, is that the first secret location isn’t the only one. In 2016 they opened up a little annex – which is only open Thursday through Saturday – to catch the overflow, creating a quieter, more exclusive atmosphere.
The first location can be found upstairs from Village Yokocho, a small restaurant in the heart of East Village, while the second requires you to head up the staircase at Sharaku. Both venues are great, just make sure you know which one you’re talking about if you’re planning on meeting someone.
The menus focus on classic cocktails, a move made, in part, to allow the bartenders to showcase their traditional Japanese cocktail-making techniques. Drinks will set you back around US$15 (AU$20) and it’s worth every penny.
Where: 8 Stuyvesant Street, New York
(Main image: Le Boudoir)