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Sneak a drink at NYC's best speakeasies and hidden bars

Prohibition began 95 years ago this weekend.

The drinks it serves may no longer be illegal, but a great speakeasy’s low-key ambiance is just as thrilling in this crowded city. And with Prohibition having lasted an improbable 14 years after going into effect on Jan. 17, 1920, there are plenty of hidden bars if you’re willing to walk through a few unmarked doors.

An authentic Prohibition-era spot, The Back Room is in a building claiming to be the Lower East Side Toy Co. Enter into an opulent room of massive sofas, chandeliers and cocktails served in teacups, lest you’re actually transported back in time and have to pretend you’re just drinking strong dharjeeling. 102 Norfolk St.

For a place with such a foreboding name, the staff at Dead Drop are helpful and the cocktail menu even guides newbies to sweeter (Lively) and more straightforward (Lethal) selections, all with “Mission: Impossible” names like Fictitious Entry and Potential Threat. Get to this spot through the basement
of North River.166 First Ave.

The best part about the East Village’s Crif Dogs isn’t the food — it’s the old-school rotary phone booth in the back, which you use to dial into Please Don’t Tell, a small bar full of leather seating, taxidermy and strong drinks (go for a Champagne cocktail). Same-day reservations open at 3 p.m., and often fill up in less than 10 minutes. 113 Saint Marks Place

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Hidden behind a nondescript door on the second floor of sushi spot Village Yokocho is the Baroque-styled Angel's Share. The burgundy-and-candles ambiance speaks of a speakeasy from another era entirely (including a massive Renaissance-style mural of cherubs), and a novel-length drink menu that will keep you coming back. 8 Stuyvesant St.

Underdog, behind a wrought-iron door in the basement of The Growler, is not hidden, precisely, unless you count serving a small but eclectic cocktail menu in the shadow of FiDi’s craft beer central. But the soul-soothing milk punches, with San Francisco being the standout, shouldn’t be missed. The rustic room is cozy, so it’s easy to catch the eye of the charming Irishmen working there. 55 Stone St.

Good thing for Larry Lawrence that in Williamsburg, walking through a door simply marked “Bar” and down a dark hallway doesn’t cause anxiety anymore. Smokers, rejoice — there’s an outdoor patio. Bottles are stacked four tiers high, and there might be a pet or two walking around. 295 Grand St.

At Bathtub Gin, get both your fixes in the same place: Caffeinate in the morning at Stone Street Coffee Co., then walk to the back room after you clock out. The gin-focused cocktails won’t kill you like their off-license counterparts in the ’20s, but after enough of them you might end up in the bar’s actual bathtub. 132 Ninth Ave.

The Garret, a hipster speakeasy that’s less Norma Jeanand more jeans and T-shirt, isn’t just located above Five Guys in the West Village but serves off-menu burgers made downstairs. 296 Bleecker St.

The hundreds of vials and jars stacked behind the bar at Apotheke yield all manner of mischief. In fact, you can order from an entire Aphrodisiac column of the menu. Prohibition Wednesdays feature live jazz music and require a password. 9 Doyers St.

Enter Beauty & Essex through a pawn shop of the same name to find a massive, thoroughly modern venue, with several rooms of varying décor for whatever kind of fun, decadent or casual, you feel like that night. 146 Essex St.

Employees Only hasn’t been for a while now, but putting the entrance of your bar in a psychic’s parlor, and actually having a tarot card-reader there, deserves props. So does the food, whether you need a proper dinner or just bar food. 510 Hudson St.

 
 
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