Speakeasy-style joints complete with secret entrances and unlisted phone numbers may be old hat, but there’s now a new breed of even-more-intimate establishments opening across the country. The best part? You can find these watering holes inside some of your favorite pre-existing bars.
2nd Floor on Clinton, New York, 212 529 6900:
When you’re tired of swilling beer at Lower East Side dive Barramundi, head through the back door and up the stairs to the cozy 2nd Floor on Clinton for one of mixologist Kenneth Eberle’s tasty creations. You’ll feel like you’ve emerged in the elegant living room of a grand Upper East Side apartment.
The Hideout, San Francisco, 415 252 7740:
The Mission District’s Dalva is famous for its Sangria and jukebox, but in The Hideout, the tiny haven in the rear, the vibe is decidedly swankier. While you savor an original concoction or one of the many Scotches, be grateful that you’re missing out on the karaoke shenanigans up front.
What to Drink: Whiskey in Church, (Ardbeg Ten Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Hidalgo Oloroso Sherry, maple syrup, house-made smoked pear bitters)
The Office, Chicago:
Only those lucky enough to score an invite can get inside The Office, the basement bar at celebrity chef Grant Achatz’s acclaimed The Aviary in Fulton Market. Here you’ll be treated to Craig Schoettler’s unnamed gastronomic tipples that showcase a range of inventive ingredients, plus an array of creative food dishes.
What to Drink: Grappa concoction (grappa, house-made Amarillo hops soda, tangerine juice, Meyer lemon juice, coriander tincture, thyme)
The Varnish, Los Angeles, 213 622 9999:
After devouring a hearty French dip sandwich at Cole’s in downtown LA, walk past the red booths to Eric Alperin’s cocktail den. You’ll most likely have to wait for a seat, but his list of expertly mixed standards is worth it.
What to Drink: Holland Cobbler (genever, Curaçao, raspberry, lemon juice, grated nutmeg)
Velvet Tango Room, Cleveland, 216 241 8869:
Entering the Velvet Tango Room is like stumbling upon a classy party. And on Friday and Saturday nights, you can escape the revelry by making a reservation for the back room. As you enjoy the piano player, try a complex Tango Manhattan that features the owner’s own house-made vermouth and bitters.
What to Drink: Tango Manhattan (Maker’s Mark Bourbon, house-made vermouth, house-made bitters)
The Wilson & Wilson Detective Agency, San Francisco, 415 346 1735:
While a delicious cocktail is always a sure thing at Bourbon & Branch, The Wilson & Wilson Detective Agency (pictured above) provides a truly bespoke experience. Jayson Wilde’s drinks can be sipped a la carte, but you can also order a three-course $30 tasting menu. Punch is a great choice to share with a date as well at a romantic table for two.
What to Drink: Lost Temple Punch (strawberry-infused pisco, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, lemon juice, rosemary syrup, sparkling wine)
Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer and managing editor of Hospitality Design.