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Best of NYC

Hidden Bars in NYC

Covert Cocktails
March 17, 2013
By , NYC Contributor

Speakeasies used to be an illicit necessity. These days, they’re an illicit choice. The Prohibition may have turned out to be one big failed experiment, but it did reveal just how resourceful Americans are at quenching their thirst. Speakeasies (sometimes called Blind Pig or Blind Tiger) proliferated during the Prohibition and now, 80 years later, these secret bars are going through a rebirth. We hunted down the best NYC shh-peakeasies for covert cocktails.

Splish Splash in Bathtub Gin

Like all good speakeasies, Bathtub Gin is hard to find. Look for the unassuming facade of the Stone Street Coffee Company. Then walk through the secret door and enter a swanky, intimate bar crowned with chandeliers, with a giant copper bathtub in the center of the room. With its vintage decor, dim lighting, and plenty of fedoras, you may forget what decade it is. Especially after a couple of their gin cocktails.

The buzz: Not a fan of gin? Try one of the special whiskey, brandy, or champagne cocktails. Our favorite is the fruity Fiori e Uva made with prosecco, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit juice, and fresh sage, served in a champagne flute. Cheers.

132 Ninth Ave., bathtubginnyc.com

Please Don’t Tell (PDT)

Make like Superman and step into PDT’s phonebooth entrance, which leads to an alternate universe via the cult hotdog joint Crif Dogs. Stuffed animal heads protruding from the walls keep you company as creative drinks are shaken, rattled, and rolled by the master mixologists. Same-day reservations are suggested to snag one of the limited seats at the bar. Otherwise, you’ll have to leave your digits and wait for a callback. Patience is a virtue. Make the wait worth it and order a dog with a schmear of cream cheese and everything bagel seasoning to tide you over (don't knock it til you've tried it).

The buzz: Dive headfirst into the blue-tinted Shark, and feel the sharp bite of the Cana Silver rum, Blue Curacao, and pineapple juice, topped off with an umbrella. Or suck slow on the C-Cup made of gin, Cocchi Americano, apple cider, lemon juice, and cilantro. It’ll give you a nice buzz – and your vitamin C quota for the day.

113 Saint Marks Pl., pdtnyc.com

Go Underground at Little Branch

Planning a midnight rendezvous? Meet up at this dimly lit cellar spot, which is built for mischief. An incognito door in a small corner brick building gives way to snug booths and a chill bar, where mixologists customize drinks for each customer. It’s cash only, which adds to the illicit appeal. Bring plenty of it; the vibe may be 1920s, but the prices are up to date.

The buzz: Little Branch is famous for its mojitos. Wet your whistle and then catch a late-night jazz performance Sundays to Thursdays.

22 Seventh Ave., between Leroy and Carmine St., 212-929-4360

Take it to the Back Room

Sip cocktails out of teacups at this throwback Victorian joint, surrounded by velvety wallpaper and old paintings. If you really want to get into the speakeasy spirit, order a bottle of beer – it arrives wrapped in a brown paper bag.

The buzz: Divided into two floors, the upper level has a corner bookshelf that is rumored to lead to another secret back area – the Candy Room – which is inaccessible to the “public.” Become a regular, though, and you’ll eventually make it to the back room of the Back Room.

102 Norfolk St., at Delancey St., 212-228-5098

Breaking Bad at Raines Law Room

With naughty secrets hanging in the air, this speakeasy is reminiscent of a classy English townhouse à la Eyes Wide Shut. Ring the bell under an inconspicuous black awning, and entry is then granted per the doorman’s discretion. Once inside, there are lots of places to curl up, from the velvet couches to in front of the wood-burning fireplace. Or, disappear behind chiffon curtains for your own Kidman-Cruise reenactments.

The buzz: Service is straight out of a James Bond flick. Press a discreet bell to sample specialty drinks like Madame George or Hanky Panky. Indeed.

48 West 17th St., raineslawroom.com

(Photos courtesy of Bathtub Gin, PDT, and Raines Law Room)