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The Rise of the Speakeasy: Where to Find the Coolest Secret Bars

The most popular bars these days are hidden in plain sight. Here's where you'll find a few of the nation's best speakeasies — and, most importantly, how to get in.

By Emily Handy on February 21, 2023

Marble Ring Speakeasy Birmingham
The Marble Ring

The popularity of hidden bars, or speakeasies, is no longer a secret. While alcohol is legal today, and we don’t need to hide underground to sip a carefully crafted sidecar, speakeasy-style bars create the exclusivity many crave.

Some have secret passwords, some have secret doors and some you have to knock gently to be let in by a bartender passing by after a few awkward moments standing outside. These secret doors and passcodes hark back to an age of grade school secret forts and clubs and make us feel part of something others may not even know about.

Most of the time, these bars don’t even have signs out front or directions on how to enter. They are cool because it’s all about word of mouth. This adds to the feeling that you’re in on a big secret, making the experience that much more fun.

Speakeasies are popping up in every major city, but they’re becoming so popular that some smaller cities have also picked up on the trend. Here are four of our favorite speakeasies around the country right now.

1. The SafeHouse 

Milwaukee, WI
Opened in 1966 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this awesome spot hopped on the hidden bar train early. Despite its age, The SafeHouse has been called the “Hippest Place on the Planet” by Wired magazine, and we totally understand why. To enter this spy-themed bar, you must know the password. If you don’t, you will be asked to do a task that can be seen by other patrons in the bar via closed-circuit TV. Secret doors and spy-themed memorabilia adorn the walls, and there’s even a roaming magician. What’s better than that?!

2. Townhouse

Venice, CA
As the oldest bar in Venice and one of the oldest in the Los Angeles areaTownhouse and the Del Monte Speakeasy was once an authentic, full-blown speakeasy. The spot opened in 1915 and was originally known as Menotti’s Buffet located in the basement of a grocery store. Getting to the actual bar was a feat in itself. First, you had to know about the bar and know the bartender. Then enter through a small trap door and, finally, be lowered down on a rope dumbwaiter. Now, it’s a lot easier to get into, but the speakeasy still maintains its original charm. Drink-wise, it emphasizes the classics, like Old Fashioneds, being a crowd favorite.

3. Backbar

Somerville, MA
This bar is super hard to find, but once you do, you’re in for a treat. Backbar is tucked away in Union Square, down an alleyway and then down another hallway only marked by a metal sign. The bar has a “Genius Hour” from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weeknights, encouraging folks to duck out of work early and finish up with a handcrafted cocktail or a bowl of steaming ramen. Even more? You can sign up for cocktail classes and tastings, too.

4. The Marble Ring

Birmingham, AL
Tucked away behind a “Doctor Who”-esque blue Police Phone Call Box in Birmingham is The Marble Ring — an intimate and glamorous speakeasy. The bar is named after the curious Zelda Fitzgerald quote, “I hope you die in the marble ring.” No need for a password! Simply pick up the phone inside the phone box and a hostess will either seat you or put you on the list.

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