The Ultimate Guide to Seattle’s Secret Bars

Keeping a bar “secret” in Seattle is surprisingly difficult — many of the best secret bars are well-known through hearsay and word-of-mouth. With some of the city’s best bartenders and amazing cocktails, it’s not hard to figure out why everyone’s always talking about these bars. Here’s the ultimate guide to how to find, get into, and enjoy Seattle’s secret bars; it’s organized in order from “easiest to get into” to “bookmark this guide so you can remember how to get in when you decide to go.”

The Backdoor at Roxy’s

While they have a website, The Backdoor is adamant that they are a speakeasy: at the heart, the bar is a community of those who will have a good drink, no matter the cost (breaking prohibition laws, or nowadays just $10-14 for a cocktail).

How to get in: Grab parking near Roxy’s and head along the east side of the building. You can’t miss the entrance.

The Upstairs

Despite the A-frame sign on the sidewalk, it’s not hard to pass right by The Upstairs on your way into delicious tapas spot Pinxto next door. Instead, climb the precarious old stairs and tuck into a cozy table or bar stool for a drink or two. There’s a set menu, or you can leave it to the bartender to mix you something on the spot.

How to get in: See the sign on the 2nd? Turn and go into the building right there. It’s that easy; how have you always just walked right by?

Bathtub Gin & Co.

Virtually unmarked and hidden in an otherwise avoidable alley, Bathtub Gin & Co. is quietly revolutionizing the kind of nightlife everyone assumes is the reason to go out in Belltown. With only a few dozen seats, it’s often full but worth the wait; if you can snag a seat at the beautiful, comprehensive bar, you’ll sip your own cocktail while watching wondrous concoctions made before your eyes.

How to get in: Head for the brass plaque; if there’s no bouncer try the door — usually one will open and let you know how long the wait will be. Then, patience.

E. Smith Mercantile

E. Smith Mercantile is exactly what it sounds like upfront: a small, curated shop featuring a variety of high-quality goods. In the Back Bar, they offer a limited seating cocktail experience that focuses on equally high-quality spirits and ingredients. Opt for the bartender’s choice if you’re feeling adventurous; it will all be good.

How to get in: Inquire on arrival, or get a reservation. Pioneer Square is becoming a happenin’ place, so weekend nights might well be full.

Knee-High Stocking Company

It’s almost too easy to walk right by Knee High Stocking Company in Capitol Hill — until you know how good their cocktails are, and then you won’t be able to pass without stopping for a quick nightcap (any time of day!). They also do amazing food, in case you decide to have more than one and need something of greater substance.

How to get in: Summon your courage to ring the doorbell of their unmarked door.

The Back Room at Liberty

The Back Room at Liberty is technically not a separate establishment — it’s simply an extension of Liberty that isn’t always open or easy to find. Grab a drink at the bar in Liberty then head back to grab a seat at one of the squishy couches with plenty of breathing room. They also offer house-made sushi if you need a bite.

How to get in: It’s best to inquire when you arrive: sometimes private parties rent the room. Otherwise, it’s hidden behind the very large mirror near the bathrooms.

Needle & Thread

Now we’re getting somewhere: Needle & Thread is so hidden, they don’t have a website, and you’ll have to scour the internet to figure out how to find and get in. Luckily this guide can help. There is no published menu and the drink and food options change regularly (the perfect reason to stop by frequently and become a regular).

How to get in: First, you’ll need a reservation, as most walk-ins get turned away due to availability. Next, when you arrive at “neighboring” Tavern Law, find the phone by the vault, pick it up, and give your reservation name or password (if you have one). Voila! You now have access to one of the cities best — and truly hidden — secret bars.

Aston Manor & Maison Tavern

If your budget has room to spare, line up to take advantage of the double-hitter one weekend night at Aston Manor and Maison Tavern. Technically, they’re separate establishments: Aston Manor is the nightclub, and Maison Tavern is the small-plates bar. But, as the weekend nights wear on, a secret bookcase wall between the two separates VIPs from the rest of us wishing we were able to afford the private bar experience.

How to get in: Call for a reservation. Be ready to spend big.

The 9 Greatest Bars in the World

Narrowing down the greatest bars in the world is a tough feat, considering so many of them have managed to fly under the radar, guarding their locations and managing to keep them a secret. From hidden doors with doormen who usher you in quickly to dive bars that have retained their 1930’s charm to some of the most talented barkeeps and mixologists, these nine bars are considered some of the very best. Whether you dabble in cocktails, drool over in-house-made infusions or simply want a place to meet with friends, make sure to check out some of the greatest bars in the world.

9. Milk Tiger Lounge, Calgary

While many don’t associate amazing cocktails bars with the city of Calgary, there is one hidden gem here called the Milk Tiger Lounge. This classic cocktail bar employs mixologists and bartenders with levels of expertise and dedication to the craft you won’t find anywhere else in the province. It’s a throwback to the days when people would slide into a seat at the bar, take off their fedora and chat with the bartender.

The drink list is littered with cocktails you only have heard of in black and white movies and even features the first cocktail to ever be invented in America- the Sazerac. A well-chosen wine menu, delicious appetizers and a passion for cocktails set this bar among the best in the world.

Via Robert Pashuk Architecture

8. The California Clipper, Chicago

The Clipper is an old bar from the 1930’s, complete with red leather, lots of wood and cash only. The old-school jukebox is heavy on Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline which patrons are free to control. It can sometimes be referred to as a dive bar, but the best of dive bars featuring a craft cocktail list that shares menu space with cheap beer in bottles and cans.

Expect to shimmy up on one of the leather bar stools, order a famous Brandy Crusta and watch the live band. Or order a refreshing Amaro Shaved Ice, a drink hard to find anywhere else. Come for one drink and stay for many as the lights are dim enough in here to make you stay all night.


7. Arnaud’s French 75, New Orleans

It is a world-renowned cocktails bar in New Orleans and is not to be missed on any trip here. Interestingly enough it was originally a gentleman only bar during the days of the Cazenave family but today anyone is welcome here. There is an emphasis here on premium spirits, classic cocktails, and fine cigars.

The furnishings in here alone are incredible, both the bar and bar back were custom built in the late 1800’s. The staff is decked out in white tuxedos with black bow ties and the best barkeep in New Orleans, Chris Hannah calls this place home. We recommend going there and ordering an Old Fashioned, trust us.


6. Eastern Standard Kitchen and Bar, Boston

The beautiful lounge is enough to make one want to visit this incredible bar, as it boasts the longest marble bar in the city, where exceptional bartenders make top-notch cocktails. One of the best reasons to visit this bar is their cocktail selection, as the bar team seems to view the drinking process as a conversation.

They craft their beverage selection carefully, and their specialty is creating classic cocktails that utilize in-house made vermouth, infusions, and bitters from around the world. The drink list won’t be the same here if you come in different seasons as it changes at least 4 times a year. As an added bonus the menu happens to be incredible and features such things as seared salmon and delicious burgers.


5. Angel’s Share, New York City

It is one of the classiest joints in the East Village, easily reached by an unmarked side door at the front of the Japanese Restaurant Village Yokocho. Many do not know about this bar and perhaps that is one reason why it is so incredible.

You are not allowed to stand around in this bar, nor bring any more than three of your closest friends, this is indeed one of the best places to bring a date. With a stellar view of Stuyvesant Square, bartenders in tuxedos and arguably the city’s best grasshoppers; this is the place to be. Go now, before everyone else finds out about it.


4. Green Russell, Denver

An amazing cocktail experience awaits visitors to the Green Russell in Denver, located in the underbelly of the most historic block in Denver. Visitors reach this bar by entering through a pie shop and through a swinging door. The bar is actually named for an 1850’s Colorado gold miner William Green Russell.

Inside the bar is styled as a Prohibition-era cocktail joint, featuring exposed brick, opulent chandeliers, plush armchairs and one playful telephone booth. Hand-crafted cocktails are the specialty here using a variety of house bitters, infusions, freshly squeezed juices and small-batch spirits. Appetizers and fresh pie are available to order daily and this is the ultimate bar for quiet conversation and a damn good cocktail.


3. Hop Sing Laundromat, Philadelphia

Located in Philly’s Chinatown, one has to know where to look to find this incredible bar, (hint-look for the metal gated doorway on Race Street) and one has to be dressed to impress in order to gain access. Visitors get taken inside by a doorman to a vestibule where the floor is coated in pennies and sat down in a church pew where you must hand over your identification for inspection.

Once passing that test, you head inside where you will sample some of the city’s best cocktails and hopefully meet the owner who boasts very firm rules: no sneakers, no shorts, and no photos. Le, the owner claims to be from North Korea, although he is, in fact, Vietnamese by birth. Think about stepping into Hogwarts, pulling up a chair and sipping on one of the best cocktails you’ve ever had. Don’t believe us? Try it yourself, just make sure you don’t wear running shoes.


2. Canon, Seattle

It is the pinnacle of Seattle cocktail culture and Jamie Boudreau has made this cocktail bar into something so over the top, it is absolutely incredible. Walking in, the dark upholstery and antique cash register will immediately catch your eye and whether you are in a suit and tie or plaid shirt and jeans, you immediately feel welcomed.

The bar is stained with Angostura bitters, the barrel-aged cocktails served in glass flasks and the drink menu features over 100 different concoctions. The bartenders are superb, managing to balance the hard job of crafting each cocktail to perfection while doing so in a timely manner to serve so many patrons rapidly. There is a beautiful and extensive, almost drool-worthy collection of liquor and if you are a whiskey fan, this bar does not disappoint.

Via The Whiskey Wash

1. 365 Tokyo, Las Vegas

Good luck getting into this member only bar in Las Vegas, a Japanese-inspired bar located on the second floor of Inspire. This bar seats just eight patrons in a tiny room that is walled in on three sides by limo-tinted glass. Guests here are greeted with a bow from the lead barmen and his assistant, along with a warm scented towel, glass of cucumber water and cocktail menu. Much of the experience here is up to the guests, as they can choose which ice they want, the base spirit and even mixing technique.

We aren’t just talking about shaken or stirred here though, these advanced techniques include frozen with liquid nitrogen, siphon-infused with botanicals or even smoked with your choice of wood. Luckily for those who don’t know this much as cocktails, you can leave it up to the bartender to choose for you. Memberships are hard to come by, but we suggest jumping if you ever have the chance to visit this bar

Via Las Vegas Weekly