I love to visit Speakeasies.
It’s probably a slightly strange hobby, but because I dine at restaurants a bit more often than the average person, I like to mix it up and treat myself to cool experiences when I’m visiting a bar.
Anyone can go to a bar.
Exceptional people visit a speakeasy.
Because really, doesn’t it take a little effort to research, discover and explore a secret, often historic bar?
For me, it’s a fun way to experience the food culture of a city and interact with great bartenders.
As I began to research speakeasies in New York, I stumbled across an organized tour.
While I am not typically a fan of organized tours, I am a big fan of Viator’s tours and am an affiliate for them. I decided to take a chance on the potential coolness of the tour and purchased tickets for Beth, my brother and his friend figuring with 3 friends in tow, it would be ready-made fun.
The tour, which bills itself as a “Speakeasy bar crawl in New York City” advertises that tourists will visit six or seven of the city’s best-hidden bars.
Viator offers several different tours, each organized by geography. I decided we should explore one of the oldest areas of the city, the Lower East Side (LES).
The tour offered to share “unmarked entrances that even locals have trouble finding” so, I figured it would be worth exposing my jaded New Yorker brother to the tour, just to see if even a local would be impressed.
He was not disappointed.
We met our guide in a park at the appointed time. Because the LES is home to many small, exclusive New York spaces, only 6 people are allowed on the tour. The limited size gave us the feeling of a private tour as we explored the bars together with Alex, our guide, and one other couple.
Our guide, Alex, was awesome. A student of history, he offered perspective on Prohibition as we navigated the streets of the neighborhood and breezed past lines to our reserved tables.
Although we were in a group, our small size afforded us the opportunity to engage in informative conversation and drink handcrafted craft cocktails inspired by vintage recipes. The bartenders knew (and liked Alex) and stopped by our table to craft drinks based on our preferences.
We went to 4-5 bars–and had a great time. Visiting 5 bars made for a lot of walking, drinking, and learning. It was fun–even our jaded New Yorkers thought so. And they are not easily impressed.
I highly recommend the tour and would participate in another speakeasy tour in a different neighborhood on a future visit.
While we visited several bars, two were standouts.
I’ve been to New York many times but had never made time to visit Please Don’t Tell, the city’s most famous, not-so-secret speakeasy. I was pleased that this was one of the stops on our tour because it isn’t always on the route.
Hidden in plain sight beside the very yummy, also famous Crif Dogs, Please Don’t Tell (PDT) is a speakeasy well known for its cocktails and recipe book.
Patrons pick up the phone in the Crif Dogs phone booth and dial “1” once to “call” the hostess of PDT. If there’s space, she’ll seat you.
You enter through the phone booth’s false back and enjoy wonderful handcrafted cocktails in an intimate space.
Surrounded by taxidermy (see the very creepy owl over my shoulder), we squished into a leather booth and sampled divine drinks.
The others exercised more restraint, but I ordered a Crif Dog.
It’s one of the perks of the bar’s proximity to Crif–and it’s a delish compliment to the handcrafted cocktails.
As a general patrón, to make reservations to PDT, you need to call the bar at 3:00 p.m., when its phone lines open (☎️ 212-614-0386).
As noted, it’s limited seating.
The photography is kind of crummy in this post. Speakeasies don’t have great lighting.
Super sorry about that.
But, in summary, the drinks at PDT were incredible.
In fact, they were so good, I purchased mixologist Jim Meehan’s recipe book--which features 300 or so recipes (!) so that I could make them at home.
Meehan is a mixology legend, having won the James Beard Foundation’s first-ever award for Outstanding Bar Program in 2012. The PDT recipe book is awesome and I have.gif"https://www.nowthisis40.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/img_0435-1-1.jpg" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-2018" height="771" width="1028" >My second favorite bar (though the others were great too), was The Blind Barber.
An efficient two-chair barbershop by day, secret backroom speakeasy by night, this bar had lots going for it.
I enjoyed cocktails at the Blind Barber, but its space was great for a group too. We sat in a small living room style vignette, which was perfect for moving around, chatting and mingling.
Its name, the “Blind” Barber is a nod to the names of many speakeasies from Prohibition who were pointedly named to let law enforcers know they were expected to turn a blind eye to their existence.
The “wall” behind the barber chairs is actually a large rolling door that opens to an expansive bar.
Click here for more information on making a reservation.
In addition to a large comfortable space (perfect for snapping silly Instagrams) and fantastic cocktails, the Blind Barber also has a pretty awesome DJ, which, in my opinion, is the perfect recipe for an awesome evening with friends.
Three cheers for both bars!
To book a tour on Viator, you can use this link. Please note, I am an affiliate and may receive a commission if you click the link provided, however, opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.