In NYC, the Speakeasy style lounge trend is alive and well. But to really have a Speakeasy experience, you need more than a regular bar with a secret entrance. You need ambiance, style, and exclusivity, but most of all, a true speakeasy involves outstanding ‘20s-era cocktails.
“When [a Speakeasy] really does embrace that 1920’s style cocktail, the technique and the way it’s served,” said Kim Haasarud, of Liquid Architecture and corporate mixologist for Omni Hotels & Resorts, “It really works.” Here are a few of Kim’s favorite spots for an authentic Speakeasy experience on the lower east side, and an Omni exclusive recipe for her all-time favorite early 20th century cocktail, the Hemingway Daiquiri.
Please Don’t Tell (“PDT”), 113 St. Marks Place: Not so much a secret these days, the PDT has earned a reputation as a spot-on a prohibition-era cocktail lounge. To get in, walk through Crif Dogs and dial into the lounge from a retro phone booth, which reviewers say is like entering another world. Seating is limited, but the cocktails are worth the wait.
Try: The Bacon Infused Old Fashioned
Nitecap, 120 Rivington Street: Rising star mixologist Natasha David is behind Nitecap’s reputation for being a “bartender’s bar,” a gathering spot for people who know a well-crafted cocktail when they taste one. The ambiance doesn’t scream trendy speakeasy but it’s been called sultry, romantic and charmingly subterranean (you can feel the subway rumbling through the walls).
Try: Armed Robbery. Jalapeño Pueblo Viejo Blanco tequila, lime & pineapple juices, Lustau Amontillado sherry, Angostura bitters
Attaboy, 134 Eldridge Street: Where most speakeasy style lounges don’t have an obvious entrance, this place also doesn’t have a menu. Bartenders make custom cocktails based on a quick conversation about what you’re in the mood for. (To get in, look for an unmarked steel door off Eldridge street. Rap loudly and if no one answers after a few knocks, try the buzzer.) A redesign of the old Milk & Honey spot, the vibe is decades old even if the décor isn’t.
Not sure what to ask the Attaboy barkeep to make? Kim recommends her all-time favorite, a Hemingway Daiquiri. Hemingway didn’t like sweet drinks, so as the story goes, sometime in the 1930s he asked the bartender at Havana’s El Floridita to make him something like a daiquiri with “No sugar and double the rum.”
“That cocktail,” Kim said, “it was one of those drinks that I had where I was like, Wow! That is what a real cocktail should taste like!” Here’s her version of the Hemingway.
- 0.75 oz light rum
- 0.75 oz aged rum
- 0.75 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
- 0.75 oz lime juice
- 0.75 oz simple syrup
- 0.75 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
- 2 dashes bitters
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish floating lime wheel.