The Best Speakeasy Bars In The US You Need To Visit At Least Once

Those of us who love to try out new cocktail bars in our free time are usually easily swayed by a speakeasy. The concept helms from the Prohibition era when folks had to get extremely creative with concealing public drinking establishments when the consumption of alcohol was prohibited. Speakeasies became havens for drinkers to socialize and unwind with a classic cocktail, and the rich history behind the establishments still resonates with many people today. 

Even though Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the culture of speakeasies has lived on in the modern era. It's common to find modern-day cocktail bars that pay homage to speakeasies, upholding the culture of hidden entrances, members-only reservations, and secret passwords. Today, many bars like to keep the outlaw spirit of speakeasies alive, despite having totally legit licenses to sell liquor. 

The U.S. is full of speakeasies worth visiting in the 2020s, more than a century after their prime era. We decided to make a travel bucket list for barflies to visit the best speakeasies in the U.S. While none of the bars are exactly the same, the 15 establishments we've selected share a common theme of sticking true to tradition, and offering an experience that feels like traveling back in time. 

Apotheke - New York, New York

Apotheke in New York City's Chinatown district is legendary as far as speakeasies come. For one, the bar is hidden in a building that was formerly an opium den and is tucked away behind a 200-year-old door complete with a peephole. Apotheke opened its flagship in Chinatown in 2008, and has gone on to open other locations in New York City and Los Angeles. 

Apotheke is a sophisticated cocktail bar that takes the art of spirits seriously. The cocktail menu is based on evoking feelings, with drinks classified in categories like "aphrodisiacs" or "pain killers."  The illustrious absinthe menu is also not to be missed. The first-come, first-served bar expects its patrons to match its upscale decor with sophisticated attire, which only adds to the overall experience of sipping on a drink in the moody space. Apotheke also offers some must-try cocktail academy classes to learn about different facets of spirits and mixed drinks. 

La Descarga - Los Angeles, California

La Descarga in Los Angeles is one of the city's must-visit bars. It's a Cuban rum bar in Hollywood that is all about tiki drinks, nice cigars, and live salsa and jazz music. The upscale bar requires patrons to make a reservation online, which is more than worth the added step once you get to step inside. The entrance to La Descarga is a fake closet that opens to reveal a two-level bar filled with lively vibes. The drinks are expertly crafted, especially those made with exclusive pours of rum and hand-carved ice.

La Descarga is a bar made for celebrations, whether it be indulging in bottle service, or a boozy punch bowl meant for sharing. It's the kind of bar where you can sit back and sip on a stiff drink with a cigar, before dancing the night away among burlesque performers and fellow partiers. 

Midnight Cowboy - Austin, Texas

Midnight Cowboy in Austin, Texas, is a speakeasy with a story. The 6th Street bar is located in a former brothel that was concealed as a massage parlor marked with a sign reading "Midnight Cowboy Modeling Oriental Massage," lending to the bar's abbreviated name. It's another reservations-only spot that feels like stepping back into the 1920s, even though it opened in 2012. The bar is cozy with a very limited capacity, which adds to the atmosphere of the upscale lounge, and leads to the need for reservations. 

Midnight Cowboy has the usual hidden door and decoy doorbell required for access, but those who make it through are rewarded with old-school cocktails that are carefully crafted by seasoned bartenders. The drink menu is full of staff-created cocktails that are always changing, but the folks behind the bar are more than capable of whipping up any classic you can think of. 

Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company might not sound like a bar because it isn't supposed to. The Philadelphia speakeasy is hidden inside the Franklin on Rittenhouse boutique hotel after relocating following the COVID-19 pandemic. The reservations-only bar is named after the largest alcohol ring in the U.S. during the Prohibition era, so it's a bar that is well-acquainted with the history of the speakeasy. 

Franklin Mortgage's entrance takes visitors downstairs through an unassuming door into a bar that's dark, discrete, and comfortable. The decor channels an Art Deco vibe. Meanwhile, the cocktail menu has no distinct theme aside from featuring well-crafted drinks. It's a bar where you can get something as simple as a gin and tonic, or an inventive twist on a tiki cocktail, and both will be equally as delicious because the bartenders know precisely what they're doing. The Franklin also serves up small plates that are best paired with the speakeasy's house drink recipes. 

The Laundry Room - Las Vegas, Nevada

The Laundry Room on Fremont Street might be one of the most intimate spaces in the city of Las Vegas. The 22-person speakeasy is a coveted seat that's worth the reservation. The bar gets its name as it's located in an old building that housed the laundry room for the famous El Cortez Hotel across the street. The Laundry Room proudly boasts that the likes of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra had their clothes washed in the very building that now serves as an exclusive lounge hidden inside the Commonwealth bar. It's marked with a red laundry pin for those who know, while still keeping the speakeasy a well-hidden secret. 

The Laundry Room has an Old Hollywood feeling in its decor and drinks. Each cocktail is made with care, and likely uses some Prohibition-era ingredients you may have never heard of before. The bar also features live piano music that feels like a personalized concert, thanks to the bar's intimate setting. 

Room 13 - Chicago, Illinois

Room 13 is an exclusive speakeasy that's been open since 2011 and is hidden in the basement of the Old Chicago Inn. It's a difficult bar seat to land — the speakeasy is only open to reservations from guests of the Chicago hotel or members of the bar's club. It's another bar that expects its guests to dress the part to match the sultry drinks and classy live performances from jazz music to cabaret. Room 13 has a very limited capacity in its underground swanky lounge dwelling, so it's another setting that feels confidential and cozy. 

Room 13's drink menu is like a love letter to classic cocktail culture. It features all of the staples — Clover Club, Daquiri, Side Car, Sazercac, Last Word, and the list goes on. Hotel guests also get the option of a four-drink cocktail flight tasting that is a hands-on (or rather, lips-on) way to learn about the history of some of the most famous classic cocktails

Red Phone Booth - Nashville, Tennessee

Red Phone Booth in Nashville is located right off of bustling Broadway Street, and the lounge is a stark contrast from the crowded clubs. Red Phone Booth gets its name from its concept as the bar is concealed behind an unassuming London red phone booth. Customers need to obtain a phone number from a member, concierge, or friend to gain access to the speakeasy that pays homage to the Prohibition era. 

Red Phone Booth in Nashville not only serves amazing cocktails, but also sells cigars and Neopolitan-style pizzas to its guests as well. The decor is masculine, with a lot of leather and exposed features, but it's also a functional space. For example, an air purifier helps to clear out the cigar smoke from the air to amp up the customer's lounging experience. It's the kind of place to cozy up with a cocktail while enjoying the black-and-white TVs and old-school atmosphere, and pretending like you were born in an entirely different era. 

Williams & Graham - Denver, Colorado

Williams & Graham is one of the must-visit bars in all of Denver for good reason, that is, if you're able to find it. The legendary speakeasy, which recommends patrons make reservations ahead of time, is hidden inside a diminutive corner bookstore. Customers get to enter the secret bar through a bookcase as if they were transported into a fairy tale. Williams & Graham may look small and ordinary on the outside, but the bar is serving up more than 500 different bottles of spirits from around the world in its signature cocktails. 

Aside from a house cocktail menu, Williams & Graham also has a list of about 60 classic cocktails that can be made at a moment's notice. The bartenders' skills are fun to observe and best tested through tasting. The speakeasy also has a food menu with entrees and shared plates to help keep you satiated in between rounds of cocktails. 

SafeHouse - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

SafeHouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has taken the idea of a secret bar seriously since it opened its doors in 1966. The establishment is a spy-themed bar and restaurant that might be hard to find at first. SafeHouse is hidden behind a red door marked "International Exports, LTD" so as to not spoil the secret. The bar takes the spy theme seriously by allowing guests to embrace their inner secret agent. 

SafeHouse is full of rooms worth exploring, filled with real intelligence artifacts from the Cold War and pop culture references that all point back to the spy theme. It's also a family-friendly restaurant during the day, although SafeHouse still sells its signature spy-themed cocktails all day and night. SafeHouse is a bar that feels exclusive while still being fun, and the drinks are some of the best in the city. The chain opened a second spy-themed speakeasy location in Chicago in 2017. 

Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency - San Francisco, California

Another popular speakeasy aimed at aspiring secret agents and private detectives is the legendary Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency in San Francisco, California. It's a speakeasy within another lowkey bar, Bourbon & Branch, with a limited amount of seats, and patrons needing to know the password to get in. The Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency feels like a saloon plucked straight from the Prohibition era. Customers might feel like they're drinking inside a real-life version of the Clue board game with a detective theme that feels authentic. 

Wilson and Wilson is the kind of place to make a reservation and immerse yourself in your stay. The cocktail menu is meant to look like a case file. Then, it's like a show to watch the skilled bartenders crafting whatever drink you've selected in the hidden gem in the heart of San Francisco.

The Gibson - Washington D.C.

The Gibson is a secret cocktail bar in Washington D.C. that doesn't necessarily bill itself as a typical speakeasy, but the unmarked black door that's been the entryway to the bar since it opened in 2009 insinuates otherwise. The Gibson is a cocktail lounge that executes every aspect of its business exactly right, which is why it was such a pioneering establishment for the Washington D.C. craft cocktail scene. The space is comfortable, the jazz playlist is relaxing, and the bartenders are always serving up cocktails like you've never had them before. 

The Gibson operates on a seasonal menu to keep its drink options fresh and interesting, especially for the bar regulars. Fans of the bar on U Street can not only visit to enjoy pre-Prohibition era cocktails, but the Gibson also offers cocktail classes for patrons to learn how to make their favorite libations themselves. 

Ciro's - Tampa, Florida

Ciro's is a staple bar in Tampa, Florida, but it actually was created in homage to a former bar in Hollywood of the same name. Ciro's focuses on one thing — drinking. The entire establishment is centered around the idea of craft cocktails. The food menu, while incredibly solid and prime for sharing, was created to complement the drinks. The seating is optimal for customers to watch the live entertainment — bartenders mixing up drinks with little-known techniques and craft ingredients. 

Ciro's is located in the historic Bayshore Royal Building, which adds to the elegance of the bar. Customers will need to call ahead to get the daily password in order to gain entry into the hidden bar. Once they've entered the sophisticated space for a cocktail hour, it's easy to see why many people consider Ciro's to be the best place to drink in all of Tampa. 

Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet - Seattle, Washington

Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet sounds more like an eclectic boutique than a tiki bar, but that's part of the allure of this Seattle-based speakeasy. Little Tin is a slice of Hawaii in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to both its cozy atmosphere and over-the-top tiki drinks. Little Tin keeps its drink menu limited, but it's far from boring. In fact, many of the cocktails have the equivalent of two or three drinks worth of ingredients apiece. 

Little Tin, which first opened in 2016, is a peaceful gem amidst a sea of rowdy bars on the block that is also proudly dog-friendly. The bar also serves up shared plates of Hawaiian food to nibble on during your stay that pairs perfectly with its list of inventive tiki drinks. Little Tin is a no-reservations joint that is the exact kind of place that exemplifies the phrase, "If you know, you know." 

Melinda's Alley - Phoenix, Arizona

Behind the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel lies an underground bar that is far from easy to find, but is more than worth the scavenger hunt. Located in the hotel's basement is Melinda's Alley, a renowned speakeasy that feels like a mix between a lounge and a dive bar with optimal vibes for kicking back with a drink. Customers need to locate a giant mural lit up by red neon in an alley. Through a door beneath the mural, guests are welcomed to an underground speakeasy with the best drinks in town. 

Melinda's has everything you'd need from a speakeasy — live music, stiff drinks, and great company. The bartenders forgo a typical cocktail menu to instead make drinks that they feel like whipping up on any given weekend. It's why Melinda's has so many regulars — people are always interested to see what the expert bartenders are mixing up underneath the city surface. 

The Oakland - Ferndale, Michigan

The Oakland in Ferndale, Michigan, is another speakeasy that doesn't dub itself as such, despite its secretive location and feel. The full name of the bar is the Oakland Art Novelty Company, a decoy for the discreet neighborhood bar. The Oakland first opened in 2011 and has been a destination in the Detroit metro area, especially for folks looking for exclusive pours of whiskey and mezcal. Even those who aren't enthusiasts of those particular spirits won't have a hard time finding something they like to sip on at the Oakland, thanks to its extensive bar offerings.

The Oakland is another bar that feels like stepping back in time. The atmosphere is sophisticatedly casual, with drinks to match. It offers an ever-rotating cocktail menu that is subject to change daily, depending on what ingredients the bartenders can get their hands on. It's a prime spot for spending a night out with friends over a few too many cocktails and even better conversation.