Over 80 years ago, bartenders and drinkers alike kept the nation’s booze knowledge alive in speakeasies during prohibition.
While the temperance movement is long gone, the hidden bars prevail. From upscale dress codes to passwords, these establishments transport you back to a time when drinking was an experience.
We dug up the hottest and most exclusive speakeasies throughout the US, where you can sip a proper cocktail and lose yourself in the atmosphere.
Melissa Stanger and Melia Robinson contributed to an earlier version of this post.
The Chapter Room
5600 Roswell Rd.
Join the Brewniversity craft beer loyalty club to gain access to this modern-day speakeasy in the basement of the Taco Mac, which puts a large emphasis on craft beer. The Chapter Room maintains no fewer than 18 different kinds on draft at a time, as well as many others in bottles. Cosy up to Bobb, the bar's 'overseer,' and you may also have access to the rare and limited edition beers in his secret stash.
313 E. 6th St.
Midnight Cowboy was formerly a massage parlor, and still sports the original 'Midnight Cowboy Modelling Oriental Massage' sign out front. Reservations are required and parties can't exceed eight people. Ring the buzzer marked 'Harry Craddock' to enjoy creative cocktails, and be sure to leave all your mobile devices behind -- they have no place at this lounge.
The Owl Bar
1 E. Chase St.
The Owl Bar is nestled in the historic Hotel Belvedere, which has been serving fancy mixed drinks, beer, and wine for over 100 years. During prohibition, owl statues around the bar would appear to wink if there was whiskey in the basement. The bar served as the stomping grounds for a number of famous and non-famous Baltimore natives.
Brick & Mortar
569 Massachusetts Ave.
Former home of the now-defunct bar and lounge The Enormous Room, Brick & Mortar took over the space above Central Kitchen. According to its Twitter bio, the bar pours drinks, 'nuff said.' Let your bartender craft you a drink strong enough to cure whatever brought you there in the first place.
Truth & Alibi
2618 Elm St.
The outside may look like a candy shop, but people aren't flocking inside for sugar. The crystal- and velvet-covered interior has the kind of glamorous-verging-on-gaudy décor that screams hot spot. Check the bar's Facebook page for the weekly password and opt for a Moscow Mule when you make it in.
Williams & Graham
3160 Tejon St.
Williams & Graham sits behind a secret door disguised as a bookcase, which makes sense once you see the drinks menu, which looks exactly like novel. Though the bar itself feels simple and unfussy, the fare and cocktails are decadent and inventive. Try the fried pork pâté with picked peppers alongside a blackberry sage smash made with Johnny Drum Private Stock bourbon.
201 W. 9 Mile Rd.
According to Condé Nast Traveller, The Oakland is one of five bars leading the comeback of whiskey in Detroit. The dimly lit bar turns drinking into an experience with its swanky atmosphere ('bordello/harem,' as the website describes) and zero tolerance cell phone policies. You can't make reservations and entrance is on a first come, first serve basis.
109 SW 2nd Ave.
Voted the best new bar by the Broward/Palm Beach New Times in 2014, Stache comes alive with cabaret and burlesque performances, DJ sets, and a Bible-thick list of cocktails, wines, and spirits. Try their margarita-esque White Knuckles, with Casamigos Reposado tequila, lime juice, agave, fresh cilantra, and Fresno pepper for an extra kick.
1159 N. Western Ave.
Enter through a closet and travel back in time to 1950s Havana. Named after the Latin jazz music of Cuba, the bar stays hopping all night long with live entertainment and sultry dancing. An 'upscale' dress code is enforced, so stick to collared and button-down shirts and cocktail dresses.
The Eighteenth Cocktail Bar
2511 Bissonnet St.
You'll know you've found the side-door entrance to The Eighteenth Cocktail Bar when you're greeted by a mugshot of Al Capone on the other side. Dark and timelessly '20s, this Houston bar creates a fun and casual environment that makes you feel like you're getting away with something so good it's illegal.
Commonwealth (The Laundry Room)
525 Fremont St.
A bar within a bar, The Laundry Room is an intimate lounge tucked in the back of Commonwealth. Reservations are made through text, and there's a strict no photography rule once inside. Feel free to stray from the cocktail menu and let the bartender whip up a drink to your liking. It also won't hurt to make a few connections at Commonwealth.
Boba 7 (Labobatory)
518 W. 7th St.
Boba 7, AKA Labobatory, holds court in the back of a Thai restaurant. Specialties include alcoholic bubble tea drinks made with Heineken, Baileys Irish Cream, tequila, or rum in different combinations.
El Carajo International Tapas and Wines
2465 SW 17th Ave.
What originated as a gas station convenience store slowly emerged as a reputable wine and tapas bar. El Carajo may not have replaced the 'Food Store & Deli' signage, but it did swap out the packaged snacks for over 2,000 international wines and more than 150 craft beers. Here you'll also find the largest sake selection in the southeastern United States.
International Exports Ltd. ('The Safe House')
779 North Front St.
An inconspicuous placard, labelled International Exports Ltd., marks the entrance to this espionage-themed establishment offering refuge to more than six million visitors since 1966 (if they can guess the password correctly). Founded by a spy aficionado, the bar is furnished to a spy's liking. There's a secret phone booth, weaponry, secret passageways, and a 600-foot tube that runs through the whole building that's used to mix the Safe House's signature martini.
The News Room
990 Nicollet Mall
Featuring an impressive beer list and speakeasy-esque cocktail menu, The News Room is a news-themed bar that pays homage to the heyday of newspapers. Catch a headline from the wallpaper made up of greatest front pages, or glance up at one of the many TV monitors that show local and national broadcasts.
The Patterson House
1711 Division St.
The Patterson House screams pre-Prohibition Era, with its 50-plus-item-long cocktail menu, cosmopolitan vibe, and bartenders dressed in Capone-style getups. The bar gets its name from the former Tennessee Governor Malcolm R. Patterson, who vetoed the return of statewide prohibition in 1909.
8 Stuyvesant St.
An unmarked door inside the Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho leads to one of the East Village's hippest bars, known for its creative bespoke cocktails. You can guarantee the place will never be overcrowded, as a no-standing rule and cap on groups of four are strictly enforced.
The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.
112 S. 18th St.
Al Capone's got nothing on The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. In the late 1920s it served as the front for the largest alcohol ring in the country, running about 10,000 gallons a day by truck. Today the Philly bar pays homage with a too-legit-to-quit cocktail menu, divided into categories such as Required Reading, Easy Going, and Rebellious Spirits -- the menu is void of vodka.
3348 SE Belmont St.
This neighbourhood haunt named for the year 1933, when Prohibition was repealed, manages to make a splash in a city bursting with microbreweries. In addition to its 20th century-inspired cocktails, Circa 33 features more than 100 whiskeys in its library-style bar and a late-night food menu that will make you drool. Pulled pork sliders with whiskey barbecue sauce, anyone?
777 G St.
A stack of kegs inside a downtown restaurant obscures a hidden door, the entrance to the East Village's Noble Experiment. The intimate, dark bar features Rembrandt-style paintings, white booths, and a wall full of skulls. It's as exclusive as it is kitschy; reservations by text are almost always required days in advance.
Tavern Law (Needle and Thread)
1406 12th Ave.
Sophisticated cocktail bar Tavern Lounge houses a secret upstairs lounge called Needle and Thread, which made GQ's 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America list in 2010. Access the jewel box-size 1920s space by picking up a phone in the back of Tavern Law and calling up to the lounge, but make sure you make a reservation beforehand.
Townhouse (Del Monte Speakeasy)
52 Windward Ave.
Opened in 1915 by an Italian immigrant, Townhouse is the oldest bar in Venice. During prohibition, the owner turned the upstairs into a grocery store and moved the bar downstairs and out of sight. Today the bar serves craft cocktails alongside live comedy, music, and burlesque.
212 7th St. SE
A sliding wooden door in a nondescript section of Eastern Market leads up a staircase and down hallways to reveal Harold Black, a true speakeasy with its no flash photography, no cell phones at the bar, and no loud conversations rules. Named for the owner's grandfather, Harold Black doesn't have a true website, and reservations are strongly recommended.
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