There is something satisfying about finding your new favourite haunt – somewhere that is a bit unexpected, that makes it feel like you’ve been let into a well-kept secret. Perhaps this is why the appeal of the speakeasy is so relentless.
Whether you have to present a secret password, memorise a code, or find a hidden door at the back of an ordinary-looking laundrette, there’s something about the challenge of finding a speakeasy that makes the drinks at the end taste even more satisfying.
To celebrate World Cocktail Day, we’re taking a trip back to the 1920s prohibition era, and a tour around the UK to discover the very best speakeasies out there. Some of these bars may prove a challenge to find, but when you get there and you’re enjoying your first sip of a delicious cocktail, it will most definitely be worth it!
Cahoots – London
If you’re looking for a watering hole with an air of eccentricity, then you’re sure to love Cahoots. If you manage to find it that is! This strictly “out-of-bounds” speakeasy is located in a disused underground station. It incorporates a Ticket Hall and Control Room – all in-fitting with the higgledy-piggledy post-war London Underground theme. The quirky maximalist interior includes a wealth of antique-themed decorations, from vintage railway signs to decorative teapots. At Cahoots, you can expect live music, unusual cocktails, and even an immersive hybrid cocktail making/escape room experience called “The Bootleggers Breakout.”
Bryant & Mack Private Detectives – Edinburgh
Tucked away on Rose Street, Bryant & Mack Private Detectives bar is extremely easy to miss. The only giveaway of this speakeasy’s whereabouts is a subtle name sign on one of the frosted windows. When you do manage to locate Bryant & Mack, you’ll see how cosy and intimate the bar is – it can only fit around 20 people into the dimmed, brick and panelled room. While the interior may not be spacious, it’s certainly unique. As its name suggests, it is styled as a private detective agency, taking inspiration from the exclusive speakeasy bars of New York.
The Washhouse – Manchester
The Washhouse, located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, is another bar that you couldn’t be blamed for walking right past. Disguised as an uninviting laundrette, most passers-by wouldn’t even bat an eyelid, let alone go in and explore. If they were to, however, they might be invited into a secret backroom where they can sip on extravagant cocktails and become part of the best-kept secret in Manchester.
The Blind Pig & The Little Pig – Dublin
The interiors of these two sister bars in Dublin are each set out like an authentic 1920s prohibition bar. The name “the blind pig” is also a reference to this era. “Blind pig” was how people would refer to the police who turned a blind eye to the illegal liquor rooms that flourished during this time. Of course, in classic speakeasy-style, it’s not all that straightforward to enter either of these Dublin haunts – you’ll need to book in advance to find out the secret password. Once you do get let into the secret, you can expect quality food and cocktails, along with live jazz and blues.
The Dead Canary – Cardiff
Last but not least, we have The Dead Canary – an unassuming speakeasy tucked away down Barrack Lane, in the heart of Cardiff. Again, this bar is easy to miss – the entrance is concealed behind a door that reads “Fire exit: Keep clear”, naturally deterring passers-by. However, if you find the doorbell to the right of the door, a waiter will greet you and escort you down to the underground bar. Inside, you’ll be engulfed by a world of jazz music, extravagant cocktails, antique photographs, and candlelight.