Although the days of the Prohibition are long behind us, there’s still something irresistible about uncovering a great hidden bar. Whether it’s the thrill of an illicit nightcap, the cooler-than-thou feeling of exclusivity or simply the pure exhilaration that comes from finding that special secret door, we’re officially obsessed with hunting down any given city’s finest speakeasies – and here are eight of our favourites in Asia.
Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour
This quirky gin bar, tucked away in the basement of The Landmark shopping mall, is just what the doctor ordered. Push open the frosted glass “Consulting Room” door to discover an intimate drinking den that’s stocked with over 250 types of gin, where the mythical Dr Fern (or more likely, his white-coat attired staff) will help prescribe you a beverage that will cure any “stress-related ailments”. Ornate floral wallpaper, plush armchairs and bell jars of dried botanicals give Dr Fern’s a charming English sitting room vibe, making this the perfect place to unwind with a tipple or two… all on medical advice, of course.
Shop B31A, B/F, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2111 9449
From the same people behind Dr Fern’s, this sleek speakeasy has fooled many with its unassuming exterior on Central’s Ice House Street; designed to look like a bespoke umbrella shop, this secret entrance feels like something straight out of a spy movie. Once you’re inside, it’s full steam ahead with old-fashioned glamour, with blue leather banquettes, marble tables and curved ceilings that are reminiscent of a vintage first-class train cabin (plus two ultra-plush VIP private rooms if you want your drinks to be even more discreet); there’s live jazz performances in the evenings too. The cocktail list is suitably sophisticated, with rare whiskies and cognacs catching the eye; Foxglove also serves both lunch and dinner, if you fancy something more substantial than purely liquid libations.
G/F, 18 Ice House Street (or 6 Duddell Street), Central, Hong Kong, +852 2116 8949
There are secret entrances… and then there are secret entrances. Havana Social’s might just be one of the coolest we’ve found yet – you’ll need to call the bar in advance to get that night’s unique entry code, then venture down a dark alley at the back of Sukhumvit Soi 11 and look for a dingy telephone booth marked “Telefono”. Punch the code into the payphone and the door will swing open to reveal a 1950s-style Havana hangout that captures pre-revolution Cuba in all its glory – complete with crumbling walls, coloured tiles, live music and dancing, and a suitably rum-soaked drinks menu. Head upstairs for Cuban cigars and sandwiches to complete your night in style.
Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok, +66 61 450 3750
You know a place is taking the whole secret bar thing seriously when they won’t let anyone publish their address. Suffice to say that unlocking the mystery of where J. Boroski actually is involves heading down yet another dark alley, this time on the odd number side of Thonglor; once inside, you’ll be rewarded with custom cocktail creations from a team of bartenders recruited by Bangkok’s most esteemed master mixologist, Joseph Boroski. That’s right, there’s no drinks menu here – all the cocktails are handcrafted especially for you, giving you ample reason to revisit and try as many bespoke bevvies as possible. The design, by another renowned Bangkok name Ashley Sutton, is every bit as stunning as the drinks too.
Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand, +66 02 712 6025
Shanghai’s relatively recent crop of innovative speakeasies have their roots in the roaring 1920s, when the “Paris of The East” drew a glamorous and hedonistic crowd. This nostalgia has led to the popularity of drinking dens such as Speak Low in Shanghai’s historic Former French Concession. Helmed by master mixologist Shingo Gokan – who previously headed up operations at New York’s famed Angel’s Share and recently curated a guest stint at the Four Seasons Hong Kong’s Blue Bar – this stylish salon straddles two floors of a cocktail supplies shop, with a hidden “bar within a bar” strictly for those in the know.
579 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near Ruijin Er Lu, Xuhui, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6416 0133
For a more casual tipple, head to Gokan’s latest launch, Sober Company on nearby Yandang Lu. An all-day concept comprising a homely café, buzzing restaurant and chic bar, this street-level spot exudes a chilled-out vibe that will take you from cappuccinos (ideally paired with a slice of their signature olive oil cake) to cocktail hour. “But what’s hidden about that?” we hear you cry. Hunt high and low throughout the three-storey building to uncover Tipsy, yet another of Gokan’s trademark clandestine snugs. Your reward? A celebratory tipple, of course.
99 Yanding Lu near Nanchang Lu, Xuhui, Shanghai, China +86 21 5309 8261
Bar High Five
Having recently relocated to a slightly larger (although still intimate) space, Ginza’s famed Bar High Five continues to draw a discerning crowd with its trademark air of sophistication. Located in an unassuming Ginza back street, this basement bar boasts a library of over 200 Scotch and Japanese whiskies. However, the real draw here are the standout cocktails crafted by a skilled team overseen by legendary mixologist Hidetsugu Ueno. Don’t bother asking for the drinks list – bespoke beverages are always the order of the day at Bar High Five.
Basement, Efflore Ginza5 Building, 5-4-15 Ginza Chuo-ward, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan, +81 3 3571 5815
Meanwhile, fashion-forward minimalists will love Wall, a stark and contemporary space hidden behind what, on first glance, looks like a plain white wall panel on the first floor of the Costume National Complex in Aoyama. Serving up a soupçon of contemporary art alongside your tipple, soak up works by leading Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto along with French artist and botanist Patrick Blanc, whose statement vertical garden installation covers the entire wall behind the polished concrete bar. Come for the cool décor, stay for the chilled champagne, tailor-made cocktails and curated wine list.
1/F, Costume National Aoyama Complex, 5-4-30, Minamiaoyama, Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan, +81 3 5774 1311