If you so happen to long for the by gone era of secret handshakes, passwords, and entrances, join the club. While we surely appreciate and take advantage of the legality of alcohol nowadays, there's just something about being in on a well kept secret or relishing in the feeling of the unknown that drives human nature.
To keep that feeling and the prohibition-era legacy alive, watering holes around the country are throwing it back to 81 years ago when spirits were banned and drinking was a hush-hush activity. Be it via the caliber of classic craft cocktails, elusive doorways, and gimmicky yet thought out and amusing facades that make us want to play along, here are five legitimate speakeasies doing the whole illicit thing better than the rest.
New York, NY
A drinking contradiction, PDT (short for "Please Don't Tell") might be the most popular speakeasy in the country and (in the world since it was declared the World's Best Bar in 2011). But whether you're in the know or not, it still plays the part extremely well. Case in point: in order to imbibe on owner and master mixologist Jim Meehan's famed and signature bacon-infused bourbon or buttered rum popcorn you have to first go to Crif Dogs, the hot dog counter kinda-next door. (While you don't have to order one of their notorious franks you might certainly want to). You do, however, need to make reservations for PDT (unless you're lucky and there's a cancellation) and it must be made prior to picking up the receiver in the phone booth at Crif's that acts as the entryway to the covert bar. So how do you get one? Call the number on the website and wait till someone answers. Pro tip: don't waste your time before 3 p.m. Oh and remember, please don't tell.
San Francisco, CA
A tribute to the time when alcoholic beverages were outlawed, Bourbon & Branch was once upon a time (from 1921 to 1933) a true speakeasy in every sense of the word. It's heyday cover up: JJ Russell's Cigar Shop (though few cigars were sold here). While JJ Russell's Cigar Shop is long gone, its history and spirit lives on through Bourbon & Branch's plethora of spirits and house rules, which include no cell phone use or photography, no standing at the bar, no ordering cosmos, and the oldest speakeasy rule in the book: to please speak easy. For access, simply make reservations online or if you want instant liquid gratification you can find it in the library (a bar inside a bar) anytime by ringing the buzzer and saying the magic word. Hint: it's "books."
Probably the most obvious of all the speakeasy cover-ups, Williams and Graham is nestled inside a corner bookstore, which makes your fantasy of pushing through a bookcase only to uncover a hidden room filled with liquor possible. Named best American Cocktail Bar at this year's Tales of the Cocktail and clocking in at number 50 on the World's 50 Best Bars, the Denver hotspot isn't just a fine place to knock a wide variety of old and new school libations, but also nosh on things like fried pork pate over white rice and crowned with pickled fresno peppers and spicy soy bean puree or foie gras with caramelized peaches, brioche, and bourbon beach compote. Might want to wash that down with some more bourbon. Lucky for you they've got plenty.
Nothing quite says speakeasy like an authentic prohibition-era operation and front for the largest alcohol ring in the country. That's exactly what The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. was during the roaring 20's. While today Philly's "it" bar may be fully lawful and operational, cocktails border what one might consider criminal in terms of potency. To get into the underground leather-laden digs bearing no sign, one need be patient as there is usually a waiting period. You know what they say: good drinks come to those who wait.