franklin bar door

Openly enjoying a tipple is now as much a part of American culture as baseball and burgers. Yet the trend for speakeasies has been enjoying something of a revival on the East Coast. Known as blind pigs or blind tigers, the number of illicit drinking dens boomed during the dry years of 1920s and early 30s America. Prohibition may have been abolished in 1933 but this secret network is prospering once again in the city of brotherly love: Philadelphia.

Back in the day, speakeasies were often found to be serving alcohol of the cheapest variety. Today, speakeasies have transformed into chic, retro bars, which serve only the best booze to a cool and discerning clientele.

Yet the concept remains shrouded in secrecy and drinkers in Philly still have a job worming their way in – if they can find the speakeasy first, that is. Access is not always guaranteed, unless you know the codeword, the right barman or have a copy of SUITCASE’s guide to the city’s best covert watering holes.

 

Vesper

With its shadowy past of mob deals, bathtub gin and general debauchery, this former speakeasy was reinvented in 2015. After a major revamp, the Vesper reopened in its original guise and now has a lively and popular bar and dining room. But for those in the know, there’s more fun to be had downstairs. Access to the speakeasy proper is through a hidden staircase, located behind a bookcase, just like in the movies. If they’re feeling generous or simply enjoyed their conversations with you, the bar staff may provide the day’s password. It’s then up to you to phone downstairs with the code of the day, to access this super-cool hangout. The drinks are second to none and there’s also a great food menu.

  • +(267) 930 3813
  • Go to Website
  • 223 Sydenham Street
    Philadelphia
    19102

Ranstead Room

Finding the Ranstead Room is not as simple as just typing the above address (for its sister restaurant) into Google Maps. Think of it instead as something of a treasure hunt. Once in Ranstead Street in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse neighbourhood, visitors in search of a drink must look out for a red-brick façade, a dark door with two adjoining Rs painted on it. Now you’re only part of the way there. There’s another set of doors to pass through, before entering this classy speakeasy with its red leather booths, chandeliers, gold accents, animal print carpet and vintage wallpaper. There’s no standing allowed, as guests are encouraged to sit back and enjoy the experience. Once inside, reward your detection skills with a freshly shaken or stirred cocktail.

The Franklin Bar

Regularly featured on lists of top bars in the city and indeed the country, The Franklin Bar (formerly The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company) takes its name from one of the largest alcohol rings in America during prohibition. The unassuming entrance leads down a flight of stairs to a plain black door – fuelling the illusion that this is a secret hideaway during the twenties. There will always be room to sit at one of the low tables in this cosy space, as staff only allow in as many people as they can comfortably seat. Here, cocktails are king. The hefty drink menu is divided into categories ranging from the traditional to the adventurous and knowledgeable bartenders are always on hand to guide you through it.

1 Tippling Place

Another speakeasy, another unmarked entrance. (Hint: it’s next door to the Spice End shop). You’ll be rewarded with a great night at a cool and laid back drinking establishment. This place makes an impression from the moment you walk in, with its inviting array of eclectic furniture – leather chairs, comfy sofas, low tables – which make it the perfect place to hang out and enjoy a late night drink. Go classic, go seasonal or try something altogether more out-there from the extensive list of cocktails on offer. To soak up the booze there are a few hors d’oeuvres on offer, but best not to turn up too hungry as food is by no means the focus here.

Hop Sing Laundromat

Cleverly tucked away out of sight, this Chinatown destination is touted by many as one of the best bars in the world. Once again, don’t expect this place to be an easy find. There is no sign and just a doorbell on an iron gate. Once you ring it, a doorman will escort you upstairs where you will be seated in a church pew while your ID is inspected. Cameras and mobile phones are not welcome here and don’t expect to gain entry if you’re wearing shorts, hats, flip-flops or trainers either. The enigmatic bar owner called Lê takes great pleasure in turning away those who disobey the strict dress code, so don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Vesper

Ranstead Room

The Franklin Bar

1 Tippling Place

Hop Sing Laundromat

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