The Secret Bar Scene
Hidden among back alleys or guarded by passwords – the secret bar scene is no longer a trend, but an institution shared by locals and travelers alike. Here are our top picks of the most elusive (and wildly popular) secret bars around the world:
Shanghai: Speak Low
This Japanese-style speakeasy is hidden behind a sliding bookshelf inside a bartending equipment shop called Ocho Bar Tools.
A tunnel will lead you to the first bar, an up-tempo New York-esque lounge with a choice of New York staple cocktails and inventive house signatures. Here you can enjoy a classic Benton’s Old Fashioned or an experimental Sawadee-Cup – a delicious blend between buttered Rum, Thai iced tea and tapioca.
The second secret bar (yes, there’s more) is just up the stairs, where you’ll need to search the wall for a map (the door is pretty hard to find without it). Trace the map until you find the city of Shanghai and press down. Open sesame. Bartender extraordinaire and owner, Shingo, mans the bar himself in this cozy, 20-seater nook. Watch cocktail wizardry in the making as Shingo shakes up the iconic Speak Low; made from Bacardi, Bacardi 8, Pedro zimenez sherry, matcha tea and Kinako. We’ll stop there, because in true secret-bar spirit, we can’t reveal all.
Stay at: Grand Millennium Shanghai HongQiao
New York: The Campbell
The Campbell Bar is a historic drinking spot found in the southwest corner of Grand Central Terminal, New York. What’s more, is that the interior of the bar has been granted landmark protection rights, which technically makes Campbell an institution of New York. Know what that means? Enjoying cocktails and sandwiches are your official civic duty.
The space is made up of three bars, the Campbell Bar – former office of millionaire John William Campbell – the Campbell Palm Court and the Campbell Terrace. The Campbell is famed for its affluent aesthetic and exclusive nature, with brass, mohair and leather adornments – because only the best will do. With a selection of classic cocktails such as a Negroni or an Old Fashioned – this tucked away terminal bar is anything but a pit stop.
Now under new ownership, it seems this elusive bar is to become more accessible to the public. You can now make reservations for large parties and although it may not be as secretive as its former days, The Campbell is still an unmissable experience – besides, it’s too beautiful and historic to be hiding away anymore.
Stay at: Millennium Broadway New York Times Square
London: Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlor
In the oriental heart of China Town, hidden behind an unassuming jade door, Opium has three different bars spread along three floors, the Apothecary, Academy or Peony lounges.
The Apothecary is where you can sip on delicious potions, delectable teas and flavorful spirits from a wall of medicinal bottles. Look out for a red curtain, because that’s where Peony, known to be the most romantic bar in Opium, is hidden. This intimate space is big enough for about 30 people and brags with a cocktail menu that you can only dream of. The third bar is found on the top floor where you can sit in a Chinese family lounge and order Flaming Dragons straight to your seat, or indulge in sesame & lobster prawn toast. Without a doubt, this is an evening and experience worth searching for.
Stay at: Millennium Hotel London Knightsbridge
Nowadays, when it comes to a bar, the harder it is to find, the more popular it becomes. Instead of just offering salty peanuts and draught beer, these modern bars offer delicate dim sum parcels and even alcoholic snow cones. So now that the secret’s out, what’s stopping you?