The speakeasy bar concept is no secret to Los Angeles nightlife, but it can be hard to keep track of all the hidden entrances, secret passwords and changing menu themes. While there are plenty of bars to visit, each space is a worthwhile venue to crack the code - whether it’s to drink, dance and much more. Visit them all to collect each of their unique perspectives on imbibing in L.A., because not only does each place regularly rotate their cocktail menu, they all have their own unexpected twist. Whether it's karaoke, cigars, a glowing dance floor, or simply a hard-to-find entrance, these bars have surprises waiting for you.
Death & Co.
The long-awaited Los Angeles location of acclaimed New York bar, Death & Co. is celebrating its Grand Opening on New Year's Eve. Located below 3rd Street across from Hauser & Wirth, Death & Co. offers two bar experiences in a setting inspired by the original D&C in the East Village. Upon entering the building, guests head down a flight of stairs to the basement level and enter a moody, windowless refuge from the bustling streets above. Standing Room is a sleek walk-up bar with a focused menu of eight cocktails. Operating on a first come, first served basis, Standing Room accommodates just 30 people at a time and is partially designed to be the pre-Death & Co experience.
Down a corridor, the main bar features cascading liquor steps, a 15-seat bar, and banquettes, tables, and nooks. The cocktail menu features an original list of 25 cocktails that rotate seasonally and are presented in a colorful, imaginative volume organized by drink profile. There's also draft, bottled, and canned beer along with a curated list of wines. Alongside the cocktail program, the food menu ranges from small snacks and amuse style dishes to larger, shareable plates.
The Varnish is widely known as one of the original craft cocktail speakeasies in Los Angeles. You'll have the tough task of bypassing the delicious scent of Cole's French Dip to enter through the door in the back - though you're free to order sandwiches to enjoy while you’re inside The Varnish. Once you're through, you'll be treated to some of the best cocktails in the city in one of its most elegant settings. Specials vary daily, which is fitting since Dealer's Choice is the way to go here. If you visit Sunday through Tuesday, you'll also be privy to live jazz as your sonic backdrop for the ultimate in sophistication.
Crane’s Bar Downtown
Relocated from its Hollywood location, Crane's Bar Downtown is an intimate, downstairs saloon in Downtown L.A. that’s fashioned from an old bank vault, making for a truly unique, casual imbibing experience. It's as much a sports bar as it is a secret drinking destination, so watch the game here; and if you're hungry for Chinese food, you have full access to the adjacent Peking Tavern. Crane’s also celebrates the appropriate holidays with drink specials and hosts trivia nights, so bring your celebration hat and thinking cap for some extra fun.
Enter through an alley in Downtown L.A. and descend the staircase into this stunning, high-volume craft cocktail bar. Located inside an old power plant, The Edison continues to be a stalwart of L.A. nightlife. On Thursdays, you'll be treated to a burlesque extravaganza from within The Edison's industrial, gothic confines. Considering it’s such a big space, they have an extensive cocktail, spirits and food menu for all guests to enjoy. Extra credit goes to guests that arrive in Roaring 20s fashion.
Blind Barber - Highland Park
At Blind Barber, the motto is haircuts in the front, party in the back. Opened in March 2018 on Figueroa, Blind Barber follows the model of its sister location in Culver City - guests walk through an actual barber shop and enter a dimly-lit bar that serves classic cocktails and bar bites. But instead of Prohibition-era decor, the intimate speakeasy features a groovy '70s style decor with a wood-trimmed bar, vintage furniture, and even a fish tank. Cocktails include greatest hits like the Moscow Mule, Penicillin, and White Negroni, along with rotating seasonal libations. The food menu includes nearly a dozen grilled cheese options, plus starters like hummus dip and truffle popcorn. The popular Happy Hour runs daily from 6-8pm.
Good Housekeeping HLP
Enter the back door of Cafe Birdie and up the patio stairs to an intimate cocktail lounge, Good Housekeeping. The drink menu is representative of the cocktails themselves - pared down to three or four essential components, perfectly balanced. This is the next iteration of the speakeasy — all of the know-how with none of the pretension.
Break Room 86
Part of the Houston Hospitality collective, Break Room 86 is an '80s-themed karaoke hotspot hidden inside LINE LA in Koreatown. With cocktail names that will remind you of your favorite teen idol and a soundtrack like your favorite mix tape, it's always a fun time. Book a private room for your group, whether you're there for the karaoke or the Atari.
Lock & Key
Expect your nighttime libations to be on lockdown before you decode the entrance to this Koreatown bar - but not to worry, it's all part of the fun. Once you're inside Lock & Key, you'll be treated to a long bar and lounge with dark hues, riffs on old classics and signature cocktails. Backlit bars and plush seating provide the perfect backdrop to your night, which may feature live music.
To get into R Bar you'll need a password, which doesn’t take much more than some casual research on their social media channels. But once you're aboard this pirate-themed bar, you'll enjoy drink specials and karaoke for the masses. If you're game to dress up, you may be sweetly rewarded - said research also applies to the individually themed nights, so plan accordingly. The place ultimately belongs to the people, because R Bar is our bar!
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
Perhaps the most personal bar from Mark and Johnnie Houston, Good Times At Davey Wayne's is an homage to the twins' father. Secret entrances are a Houston Hospitality specialty - at Good Times, guests enter through a refrigerator in the back of a "garage sale." The design evokes their dad's swinging '70s bachelor days - velvet couches, shag rugs, vintage pinball machine, and a backyard party with hammocks and astroturf. Don't miss the boozy sno-kones served out of a camper.
If you want more of the Houston brothers’ hidden bars, head to La Descarga for a quick trip to Havana or Dirty Laundry for underground imbibing and dancing.
There are many reasons to visit the Maybourne Beverly Hills, but the Macallan Bar known as £10 (aka Ten Pound) ranks at the top for single malt Scotch aficionados everywhere. Ascend the hidden staircase to no-holds-barred luxury, with private lounge spaces furnished with Lalique crystal overlooking the Beverly Canon Gardens. Aged Hook's cheddar and premium bacon serve as the perfect pairing to your whisky, no matter which age you prefer. Note: there’s a $50 minimum per person.
1886 Bar at The Raymond
Located in South Pasadena, 1886 may be a bit hard to find if you weren't already dining at The Raymond. The bar hidden in the back of this Craftsman house is a charming little getaway, whether you sit at a table on the patio, an indoor high top, or at the bar. The regularly rotating cocktail menu is the best in the neighborhood, but you might also be surprised at how fantastic the bar bites are. At 1886, you'll be drinking with those who are in the know, and thanks to a massive repertoire of off-menu, innovative house cocktails, there's always something new every time you return.
The Del Monte
Located beneath the Townhouse near the Venice Beach Pier, the Del Monte is one of L.A.’s most historic music venues. The historic spot operated as an actual speakeasy during Prohibition, with hidden tunnels and levies to transport the then-illegal goods. The entrance to the Del Monte is hidden by Menotti's “grocery store,” but once you find it you'll descend a staircase and into a menagerie of craft cocktails, live music, comedy and burlesque. Check the schedule if you're the kind who wants to know exactly what you're getting into.