Many of us love a good cocktail in an appealing space, but there’s something about a speakeasy bar that makes everything a little more exciting. Whether we have to head down a darkened alley, push on a wall to reveal a concealed door, ring a hidden bell, or cough up a password, you are up for a little prohibition-style secrecy.
The trend is now leaning favourably towards these hard to find establishments that are often so cleverly camouflaged that only the adventurous can stumble upon them. You are not going to find neon-lit signboards or doors gracing the entrance of these hangouts. The only way you get to experience an authentic speakeasy is when it is only known through word of mouth and not publicised openly.
Originating back in the 1920s where selling alcoholic beverages was illegal in the US, the word ‘speakeasy’ is derived from the act of speaking softly as to avoid persecution of the authorities. Needless to say, speakeasies are perfect if you are in the mood for unique cocktails and single malt whiskeys in a more private and exclusive setting. Having said that, our horizon over the last few years has also expanded, welcoming the addition of speakeasies specialising in gin, vodka and sake.
28 Hong Kong Street, Singapore
This popular establishment offers a taste of classic speakeasy culture in the middle of Singapore, with a drink programme by internationally renowned bartender Logan Demmy.
Behind a nondescript white door on a street hardly minutes away from the city-state’s parliament house, it delivers a truly Western speakeasy feel with its soft lighting and deliciously complicated cocktails.
It forgoes the traditional trappings of ‘hidden bars’ with complex mixology you actually want to experience as the bartenders are legendary for their cordiality as well as their mixing skills.
Foxglove, Hong Kong
This addition to the city’s burgeoning bar scene is disguised behind an elegant antique umbrella shop facade. Once you walk through the passageway and press down on a certain umbrella, of which there are many to choose from, you are whisked to a scene straight out of a movie set.
Foxglove has a surprisingly large bar interior, beautifully finished in blue leather and gray marble, designed to resemble first-class airplane cabins and vintage cars.
The Eastern promise melds exotic ingredients including pepper-infused gin, yuzu marmalade, guava and star anise and a splash of absinthe.
Bank Bar, Philippines
This Manila novelty is located in the super-trendy Fort district area that is accessed through a 7-Eleven. The interior is decked out in velvet and marble, giving off a decadent vibe, but the crowd and ambiance are surprisingly relaxed.
On some nights there’s an in-house DJ, and there’s a cigar bar in the back. And yes, like many of the speakeasy bars, it’s known for being rather expensive. Mariang Binastos cocktail, made with local Don Papa rum, is one of the best regional drinks that you won’t get anywhere else.
Another standout is the delightfully named Nutter Club, featuring London dry gin, Angostura, a meringue made from a lemon-pistachio base, topped off with a pistachio salt rim. Everything from the entrance to the bar design and the drinks is elaborate and fun, yet totally accessible.
Suzie Wong, Malaysia
In a world where east and west collides in grandeur and seductive pleasure, patrons are enriched by perfumes of steamy savoury braised soups while entering Suzie Wong. Located in the heart of the city centre tucked ingeniously amongst the buildings in Jalan Raja Chulan, getting in is through a vintage ‘won ton noodle’ signage in a Hong Kong style stall complete with wooden bench & tables.
Behind the wooden door, you are invited to a timeless archetypal English décor lounge, spaced perfectly with large Cheshire couches, wooded tables and statues where you experience the selections of liquor and beers from the bar.
Elusive Black Card holders and their guests, enter Suzie Wong via a private access way and are seated at the raised up pavilion, separated from the crowd by string curtains for privacy.
Rabbit Hole, Thailand
Step inside the three-story shop-house in Bangkok and you’ll find a charming, dimly-lit, narrow bar interior with a huge rose gold booze rack behind a marble bar. With its plentiful bar seating, the first floor has all the atmosphere of a serious drinking establishment, while upstairs sees more quiet corners for group gatherings and an extra bar, so you won’t be kept waiting too long. The bar interior design incorporates slowly-changing lighting to add to the intimate mood.
Lose yourself in the hole and indulge your palette with one of a kind cocktail. Here, the drinks are an art form, meant to capture any given moment and ignite the soul. Have it the way you want, from a heavy spirit base to a light refreshing glass. Let your mood and mind guide the way, as you’ll never know how the night will go when you enter the Rabbit Hole.
The Butcher, Netherlands
It is a little hard for a speakeasy to stand out among the myriad local attractions in Amsterdam, but The Butcher is special for a few reasons. The city’s world-famous Albert Cuyp market is the home to a sleek burger shop that actually serves some of the city’s best burgers.
Way in the back is a discreet buzzer, and on the other side is a sexy modern cocktail bar with dim lights, high-end cocktails, and an uber-exclusive crowd.
The exclusivity definitely plays into the appeal here and you simply cannot go inside without a confirmed reservation, which is easier said than done.
Le Syndicat, France
This speakeasy is hidden behind a street wall covered in graffiti and tattered posters in Paris. You’ll find the door by locating the only clear spot on the filthy, covered wall. With a cozy room decorated with spotlights and low ceilings, the whole affair makes you feel like you are a part of an underground splinter group planning a government coup.
Le Syndicat serves some fancy cocktails that are incredibly layered meant to confound your palate. A popular tipple is Goldenight, a mixture of cognac, Liqueur de Tabac, and absinthe, more like an underground plot to scintillate your taste buds.
Ladies and gentlemen, UK
The first thing you’ll notice about Ladies and Gentlemen is that it appears to be located inside a public lavatory in London. Don’t be alarmed, as the speakeasy is the brainchild of William Borrell, one of the most well-known spirit makers in the world.
Guests enter through a re-purposed Victorian public toilet to knock back some of London’s finest cocktails made with liquor from the bar’s own 16-litre copper still, including the famous highway gin, and a changing roster of specialty boilermakers (shot of whiskey and a beer). Despite the humble setup, the interior bar design actually contains all the standard speakeasy pleasantries like moody ambiance, mixologists who seemingly never stop moving. Normally if you are drinking in public restrooms, it’s a problem. Here, you’re just another customer.