Speakeasies: In with the in crowd

Speakeasy bars, those bastions of 1930s cool, are making waves across the globe.

By Glen Mutel
Published 18 Nov 2016, 08:00 GMT, Updated 19 Jul 2021, 15:15 BST
Foxglove, Hong Kong.

Foxglove, Hong Kong.

Photograph by Dennis Lo

There was a time when new drinking establishments would announce themselves in a blaze of neon and publicity. Not anymore. These days, they're far more likely to be hidden behind unassuming doors, their exact whereabouts known only to select members of the in-crowd. The speakeasy trend shows no signs of abating, as bar-owners across the globe continue to draw inspiration from the Prohibition era of the '20s and '30s.

Modes of entry grow ever more ingenious: The Mayor of Scaredy-cat Town in London is accessed through a fridge; New York's PDT is entered through a phone box in a hot dog joint.

A month-long trip with VeryFirstTo.com takes in 10 of the best hidden boozers across the globe, at an eye-watering price of £75,000 per couple. Post-tour, participants are treated to a stylish bar for their own home courtesy of furniture and interiors company Timothy Oulton. It's then up to them where they hide it.

Secret entrances

Blind Barber, New York
This bar is housed in an actual working barbershop — just ask the staff for a drink and they'll show you the way.

Flask & the Press, Shanghai
The retro-looking Coca-Cola machine at the back of a Shanghai cafe is actually the door to a dimly lit speakeasy.

Foxglove, Hong Kong
A bar designed to look like a first-class airplane cabin is accessed through an antique umbrella shop.

Follow @GlenMutel

Published in the December 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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