The Big Apple offers countless attractions and activities, although if you’re looking for something a bit different, check out a New York City speakeasy.
Back during the Prohibition era in the 1920s and 1930s, speakeasies were secret, underground establishments that illegally sold alcohol. They were usually difficult to find since their locations had to be concealed from authorities. These days, some authentic NYC speakeasies remain, as well as a new wave of underground bars.
Of course, this is one of the best things to do in NYC at night, so you can do all the touristy things during the day before slipping away to a clandestine saloon.
We’ve visited some of these venues, and it’s always so much fun sipping experimental cocktails in a one-of-a-kind bar tucked away from the rest of the city (after finding it, that is!) In this guide, I’ll share the 10 best speakeasies in NYC so you can have your own adventure discovering these hidden gems.
1. Little Branch, one of the best speakeasies in NYC
Little Branch easily stands out as one of the best NYC speakeasies, thanks to its incredible cocktails and live music. Not only that, but Sasha Petraske, the founder of NYC’s first speakeasy, Milk and Honey, helped with Little Branch’s creation. As a result, it has an authentic flair that some more modern bars can’t match.
This dimly lit bar is intimate and pretty quiet, with charming retro aspects like low ceilings and bartenders in suspenders. They’ll whip up some of the most delicious cocktails in the city with fresh juices, chilled glasses, and every kind of liqueur you can imagine.
Little Branch serves classics like mojitos and Moscow mules, as well as innovative drinks like the ‘Pan American Clipper’ (Applejack, grenadine, absinthe, lime juice) and the ‘Gold Rush’ (bourbon, lemon juice, honey).
People come here for the cocktails and stay for the live jazz piano and music. That said, you must know how to get there first. Find the steel door at the corner of Leroy Street and 7th Avenue, then descend a flight of stairs to the underground bar.
Along with being one of the best speakeasies in Greenwich Village, Little Branch is close to Washington Square Park, one of the best parks in NYC.
2. Attaboy, a trendy speakeasy in New York City
Attaboy is a small and cozy establishment on the Lower East Side, which is known as one of the best neighborhoods in Manhattan. The bar replaced Milk and Honey, one of the first speakeasies in New York City, and was founded by two apprentices of Milk and Honey’s founder, Sasha Petraske.
While it’s a more modern speakeasy on the Lower East Side, Attaboy retains elements from the secret bars of the past. Passersby will walk right past its entrance, but those in the know will head to this hidden gem at 134 Eldridge Street. Don’t be intimidated by Attaboy’s distinguished reputation, as the bartenders are super welcoming, and the venue attracts people of all backgrounds.
As one of the top speakeasies in NYC, you can expect amazing cocktails here, like ‘Penicillin’, which contains scotch, lemon juice, and ginger-honey syrup. Other popular drinks include ‘Paper Plane’ (bourbon, lemon, amaro juice, orange bitters) and ‘The Greenpoint’ (rye, vermouth, green herbal liqueur).
Moreover, the bartenders are open to suggestions, so if you want a concoction that’s not on the menu, they’ll whip it up for you.
3. The Back Room, a unique speakeasy in New York City
The Back Room is another speakeasy in Lower Manhattan, just a few blocks from Attaboy. To get there, walk north on Norfolk Street from Delancey Street and look on the right-hand side for a “Lower East Side Toy Company” sign. Walk through the gate, go down the alley, and climb the stairs, where you’ll find the bar.
It’s worth the effort, as this is one of the authentic Prohibition bars in NYC that was in operation in the 1920s. It has a distinct charm and elegance to it, not only because of the vintage decor, but also the cozy elements like wood paneling, chandeliers, and velvet armchairs and sofas.
When I visited The Back Room, I was enchanted by the attention to detail. Here, the bartenders pour your cocktail into a teacup and conceal beer cans in brown paper bags. It felt like stepping back in time!
4. Bathtub Gin, one of the coziest NYC speakeasies
Bathtub Gin is another New York City speakeasy bar that transports you to another era. It features vintage designs and decorations that evoke the spirit of the 1920s. And yes, there is an actual bathtub that’s used as a prop.
As the name suggests, this speakeasy in Chelsea, NY serves all kinds of gin & tonic varieties, but it also has a list of intriguing cocktails inspired by the city. ‘Banananana Manhattan’ is a delightful drink with rum, banana, amaro juice, and chocolate bitters, while ‘Harlem Sunset’ is the perfect evening cocktail with rum, spiced coconut water, demerara, lime, clementine juice, and pineapple syrup.
Along with the drinks, Bathtub Gin hosts live performances. Depending on the day, you can listen to live jazz music, watch a burlesque show, or even boogie to disco. This speakeasy also serves bar snacks, although it’s down the street from Chelsea Market, one of NYC’s top attractions where you can find all kinds of food.
To get to Bathtub Gin, enter through Stone Street Coffee at 132 9th Avenue. There is a dummy wall with a red light that you can push open, but if you need help, ask the doorman.
5. The Garret, a hidden speakeasy in New York City
A non-descript Five Guys sits at the corner of Barrow Street and 7th Avenue, but if you go upstairs, you’ll find The Garret, a secret NYC speakeasy. Located in an old attic, this hidden bar is a chill hangout spot where you can enjoy a hand-crafted cocktail in an unpretentious setting.
The Garret has a welcoming vibe, so you won’t have to deal with snooty patrons or bartenders here. The bar serves beer, wine, and creative cocktails, but no food, so grab a burger on your way up! Or first stop at John’s of Bleecker Street a block over, whose NY-style pizza is some of the best food in New York City.
In addition to its Beatles-inspired drinks, The Garret has classics like ‘The First Lady,’ with gin, triple sec, matcha, lemon, egg white, and basil. The more innovative cocktails are also worth sipping, like the aptly named ‘The Bar Above Five Guys,’ which has mezcal, vermouth, aquavit, Aperol, passion fruit, hibiscus, and lime.
To top it off, this Greenwich Village speakeasy has a beautiful atmosphere with a skylight and a cozy fireplace. It’s a lovely place to huddle at a candle-topped wooden table and spend a couple of hours conversing over drinks.
6. PDT (Please Don’t Tell), another one of the best speakeasies in NYC
Dark and moody, Please Don’t Tell (PDT) is one of the most unique speakeasies in New York City. I’ve visited PDT in the past, and its creative touches like taxidermy animals are an odd contrast to the super-friendly bartenders.
To get here, enter through the phone booth in Crif Dogs, then pick up the phone and dial 1 to be connected to the staff, who will let you in. I recommend booking a reservation on the website; otherwise, it may be difficult to get a seat.
This hidden NYC speakeasy was one of the first modern speakeasies to pop up in the city. In addition to its solid reputation, it has great cocktails that make finding the entrance to the bar well worth the effort. Try ‘The Shark’ (Bacardi and overproof rum, Frangelico liqueur, blue curacao, lemon and pineapple juice, bitters, cream) or ‘The Cascade’ (vodka, champagne, grapefruit, lemon, and pineapple).
You’ll also find a selection of beers and wines here, so if you’re looking for things to do as a couple in NYC’s East Village, don’t miss it.
7. Apotheke, an NYC speakeasy with amazing cocktails
Apotheke is a speakeasy in NYC’s Chinatown, in a former opium den, so it has tons of character. As you walk through the 200-year-old door, you’ll be greeted by a bar that looks like an old European apothecary. The bartenders even dress in pharmacist jackets.
The attention to detail here is admirable, from the interior design to the menu layout. The walls are covered in fabric, murals, and light sconces, while the custom marble bar is backlit and accented with gold leaf. Take a seat on a plush loveseat or ottoman and peruse the cocktail list, which is organized by pharmaceutical categories like “pain killers,” “health & beauty,” and “stress relievers.”
Apotheke has an extensive list of absinthes, as well as imaginative cocktails like Dead Poet (bourbon, rye, espresso, black walnut husk, allspice, agave, smoked clove) and Pink Panther (rum, palo santo, coconut milk, blood orange, guava, lime, agave). Without a doubt, it’s one of the coolest speakeasies in NYC.
8. Dear Irving, one of the best speakeasies in Midtown NYC
Dear Irving is one of the best speakeasies in Midtown NYC, specifically in Gramercy Park. It’s worth multiple visits since it features a seasonal cocktail menu where you can always find something new.
Depending on your mood, you may try one of the classics, a spicy cocktail, or something decadent and sweet. ‘The Gibson’ is a martini variation with Tanqueray gin, vermouth, and pickled onion, while the ‘Nomadic Old Fashioned’ contains rye, aquavit, chai honey, and bitters.
The menu is full of liqueurs, rums, wines, beers, and ciders, and there is also a food list with shareable plates like avocado toast and sesame tuna.
Another thing that stands out about Dear Irving is its time travel theme, as each of its four lounges takes you back to a specific era in time. Along with choosing your drink, you’ll have to choose whether to sit in the F. Scott Fitzgerald, JFK, Queen Victoria, or Marie Antoinette room.
I recommend coming here if you’re looking for a romantic speakeasy in NYC. Here, you can sit back and snuggle up close to your love in a glittery and fanciful lounge or a dimly lit corner.
9. UES, an NYC speakeasy with a sweet twist
UES is named for its location, but many people aren’t aware of this Upper East Side speakeasy since it’s concealed by a fun ice cream shop. While the desserts here are delicious, if you go up to the ice cream bar and say the secret password, “I would like to visit the storage room,” you’ll be taken to this hidden NYC speakeasy.
Juxtaposed behind the colorful façade of sundaes and sprinkles, there is a Prohibition-style bar with historical details referencing the Upper East Side. From the wall murals to the trinkets behind the bar, it’s a fascinating place.
It makes sense that UES has a more youthful vibe, and this is exaggerated by the fact that you can order dessert from downstairs to accompany your cocktail. Of course, some of the drinks already feel like dessert, such as ‘UES is Happy to Serve You,’ which has bourbon, chocolate wine, maraschino liqueur, Campari, and orange bitters topped with coconut crema.
Another decadent drink is ‘El Lado Este Superior,’ which contains spiced rum, lemongrass stems, lime leaves, galangal honey, and turmeric powder, served in a cigar box with a chocolate cigar.
UES also serves appetizers and hosts Sunday movie nights, so it’s one of the liveliest speakeasies in NYC. Plus, it’s near Central Park, so the location is great.
10. La Noxe, a laid-back speakeasy in New York City
Last but not least, La Noxe is a Mediterranean-inspired speakeasy in New York City. It’s influenced by the founder’s experiences living in Barcelona and France, as well as Tokyo, so the menu is quite interesting.
Some standout cocktails include the ‘Secret Garden’ (mezcal, kale, lemon, agave, chili salt) and ‘More Passion More Problems’ (vodka, passion fruit liqueur, lemon juice, orange zest). The espresso martini is a great late-night drink with vodka, cold brew liqueur, cinnamon, and vanilla, topped with espresso beans.
La Noxe also serves non-alcoholic drinks and tapas, like Galician octopus and smoked salmon with cucumber, yuzu mayo, and furikake.
That said, what’s even more intriguing about this Chelsea speakeasy is its location at the 28th Street subway station near the Empire State Building. To get there, go to the station’s southeast corner of 28th Street and 7th Avenue, descend the first flight of stairs, and knock twice on the black door to the right. It’s a tiny space, big enough for only 30 people, so book a reservation in advance.
With that, you have 10 of the best speakeasies in Manhattan to explore the next time you’re in the city. Don’t forget to download the map below, and for even more drinks and fun, check out our guide on the best rooftop bars in NYC.
If you have any other questions about these NYC speakeasies, feel free to leave me a comment below. I’d be happy to help you out. Until then, have fun hunting down these hidden gems!