NYC’s Speakeasy Guide
“After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors is hereby prohibited” THE 18TH AMENDMENT, ratified January 16, 1919. The Prohibition Era in the United States stemmed out of the Temperance movement, which perceived that alcohol was the cause of many of society’s tribulations. Prohibition lasted thirteen years from 1920-1933, following the ratification of the 18th amendment. The Prohibition Era saw the rise of organized crime as the black market demand for bootleg liquor increased with the popularity of the speakeasy. As saloons were forced to close, a hidden, underground society for drinking developed. Hidden behind secret doors, in basements and attics, and disguised under the names of legitimate businesses, the patrons who knew the secret knock, password or had the right connections could gain access to one of these forbidden drinking dens. Prohibition and the 18th amendment were repealed on December 5, 1933, but the essence and culture of the Prohibition Era speakeasy can still be found around modern day New York City.
The Back Room: The entrance is only marked by a small sign reading ‘East Side Toy Company’ that will lead guests through a narrow alley bar. Beer comes in brown paper bags while liquor is served in tea cups. The bar infuses its own flavored vodkas and has an additional private room hidden behind a false door disguised as a bookcase at the back of the bar.
102 Norfolk Street between Delancey & Rivington
Death & Co.: Identifiable by the carving of the bar’s name into the sidewalk in front of an imposing wooden door, Death & Co. opens up into an elegantly lit, wood-paneled room lined with elegant suede banquettes to one side and a long, back-lit bar to the other. The cocktail list is conveniently broken up by alcohol and offers a diverse selection of drink choices regardless of what your alcohol of preference may be.
433 East 6th Street between 1st Avenue & Avenue A
Employees Only: Employees Only is hidden behind the windowed room of a fortune teller, the inside of the bar blocked by curtains from people passing on the street. This bar meticulously crafts classic cocktails and offers a full menu throughout the day as well as an exceptional late nite menu. Some of the creative cocktail creations include the Fraise Sauvage, gin shaken with wild strawberries and Tahitian vanilla, topped off with prosecco or the Amelia, vodka and St. Germain elderflower liqueur shaken with pureed blackberries and fresh lemon juice.
510 Hudson Street between Christopher Street & West 10th
Little Branch: Once through the entrance, descend down the steep staircase to access this drinking den. Attempt to grab one of the few coveted tables or elbow up to the tiny bar. The integrity and quality of your cocktail is the main focus here. Only the freshest ingredients are used in each drink and single over-sized ice chunks have taken the place of tradition cubes to ensure your drink is cold and never diluted by melting ice. If you can’t choose from the many drinks offered on the cocktail list, you can’t go wrong by testing the Bartender’s Choice, an impromptu concoction of your chosen ingredients.
20 7th Avenue at Leroy Street
PDT at Crif Dogs: Entrance is gained through a wooden phone booth with a false wall that will open to reveal the hidden speakeasy within the unassuming hot dog shop. The hostess will take your name and offer you a chance to wait for a spot at the bar or one of the few coveted tables, but those lucky enough to have the secret number can call ahead and make reservations. A limited Crif Dogs menu is available inside the bar.
113 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A
The cocktails may be inspired by the 1900’s but the prices certainly are not reflective of the times. Expect cocktails to range from $12 -$20 at any modern day speakeasy.