Who doesn’t love a good hidden bar? During the prohibition era in the 1920s, when alcohol was banned in America, hidden and underground bars popped up in basements, attics, and disguised as other businesses. Although the need for these hidden gems quickly faded when the bans were repealed in 1933, the desire for underground and exclusive experiences still burns hot! Today, the speakeasy-inspired bar scene is booming, touting sparkly chandeliers, dim mood lighting, leather sofas, and seemingly-innocent entrances. And instead of slinging bathtub gin, they’re serving up hand-crafted cocktails with premium liquor and unique ingredients. From a fairytale-themed bar tucked behind library shelves, to an Italian deli with a cocktail club through their back door, there ‘s a strong hidden bar scene in the District. Here’s my roundup of the 12+ Best Speakeasies and Hidden Bars in (and around) Washington D.C.!
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Also be sure to check out the best Restaurant Patios and Rooftop Bars in Washington D.C.!
Denson Liquor Bar
600 6th St NW
In the heart of Penn Quarter, you’ll find an unassuming set of stairs that’ll transport you back in time to the underground Denson Liquor Bar. The beautiful art-deco space feels like walking into a scene from the 1920s, where quilted leather booths and tiled floors reined supreme. Sip classic cocktails and fine spirits while pretending you’re in a Bond movie.
My cocktail recommendation: Black Sails | Ingredients: Dark rum, Averna Amaro, honey syrup, pineapple juice
1201 K St NW #1
When you step into the Eaton Hotel, it’s easy to miss Allegory’s existence. With the bustling Wild Days rooftop bar, Michele’s French American restaurant, and the Baker’s Daughter Coffee Shop all located in the hotel, how would one realize there’s a speakeasy there too? Short answer: you wouldn’t. Good thing you’re reading this guide! Allegory is an Alice-and-Wonderland themed cocktail bar, with whimsical murals and drinks in a dimly-lit setting. Tucked behind the shelves of the radical book library in the Eaton, the spot sets a moody tone for an elevated drinking experience.
Off the Record
800 16th St NW
Off the Record is living for the drama with their ruby red seats, vintage chandeliers, and upscale wine and cocktail selection. The luxurious basement bar is located in the Hay-Adams Hotel – but transcends basement vibes with tufted booths, caricatures of politicians, and crowds of lobbyists. Although it’s hardly lowkey, having been named as one of the “World’s Best Hotel Bars” from Forbes.com, it’s a great quiet place to have a drink.
2009 14th St NW
The Gibson is one of the original speakeasies in Washington D.C., having opened in 2009. The watering hole is hidden in plain sight on 14th street, with an unmarked black door that you’d never assume holds a treasure trove of drinks. Set upon flickering candles, jazz-laden playlists, and cozy red booths, the hush-hush spot touts quality classic and house original cocktails.
1345 S St NW
Located in a covert unmarked house on S Street, Left Door is a low-key spot on the radar of D.C. locals and bar industry experts alike. From the cozy booths to the small space, the bar has a lived-in” feel that truly embodies what one would imagine as a real secret bar. The intimate space is complimented by expert mixologists shaking, stirring, and mixing away at fine cocktails.
1413 K St NW
Out of all the speakeasies in Washington D.C., The Mirror definitely wins my vote for most creative entrance. When you descend the stairs on K Street, you’ll enter a small room with nothing inside of it – except for a mirror on the wall. No doorman. No signage. Nothing! When you open the mirror and walk through the secret passageway, you’ll discover a secret bar. And what better place than three blocks from the White House where prohibition started almost 100 years ago?
Pro Tip: For lowkey vibes, try not to visit on weekends as it’s very crowded and loud.
Never Looked Better
130 Blagden Alley NW
Blagden Alley’s new neon-lit bar brings the “underground” to underground nightclub. Never Looked Better is a different take on the secret bar scene, with pink and blue lights and vodka-fueled cocktails. The bar definitely gives more of a “rave” vibe, sporting a DJ booth and loud music. However, it’s quickly gained notoriety and typically has a short line beside its grey unmarked door covered in stickers.
804 North Henry St | Alexandria, VA
Captain Gregory’s is a quintessential D.C.-area speakeasy, hidden among the confines of a local donut shop. The nautical-themed hideaway serves up craft cocktails and elevated comfort food small plates in Old Town Alexandria. As for drinks, the cocktail menu often changes with the season, but a couple things are constant: infused cocktails and a range of spices. Try the Cinnamon shaken cocktail with Lemongrass Infused Applejack, Elderflower, Cinnamon Spiced Aperol Tea, Lemon, and Red Veined Sorrel.
1201 Wilson Blvd G113 | Rosslyn, VA
Nestled in the heart of Rosslyn, Salt is a low-key hideout from the hustle and bustle of the city. Hidden behind unmarked wooden doors in Open Road Grill, the warm and intimate vibes are perfect for a calm night with timeless libations. Although the menu is peppered with classically-driven cocktails, it also features drinks with a modern twist.
My drink recommendation: Barrel Aged Maple Old Fashioned | Knob Creek Rye, Fee Brothers aromatic bitters, maple syrup
The BackRoom/Capo Deli
715A Florida Ave NW
Capo Italian Deli’s best kept secret? The BackRoom. In fact, it’s so “unmarketed” that there’s hardly a trace of the establishment on their social media pages – and not at all on the website. While the front-facing business has a hole-in-the-wall feel, the back is decorated with a posh and elegant interior that you’d never expect. However, what seems like a quiet sandwich shop is actually a raving party, complete with a DJ and dancing locals to match.
Chicken & Whiskey
1738 14th St NW
Located in the 14th street corridor, Chicken + Whiskey has turned a 127 year old row house into South American chicken joint and neighborhood hangout. And just a side note, their chicken is out of this WORLD! Unlike other speakeasies in Washington, D.C., the back bar takes a more casual vibe. When you walk through their fake freezer door, you’re greeted by with metal barstools an an unfinished wood bar. Don’t be fooled though, the whiskey menu is still 99 bottles deep, with a healthy mix of rare and international brands. Plus, on Whiskey Wednesdays, it’s buy one, get one old fashioned all day!
900 F St NW
Silver Lyan is an inviting underground world set in DC’s historic bank vault at The Riggs hotel. The downstairs cocktail bar is the brainchild of renowned London-based bartender, Ryan Chetiyawardana – the creative force behind some of the world’s most lauded venues and bar programs. Sink into the deep lounge chairs to take in the historic space, vibey ambience, and concise menu of bright bar bites and classic cocktails.
Although we may not be in the prohibition era anymore, the speakeasy-inspired scene is still in full swing! Take a trip back in time at one of these local hidden bars and speakeasies in Washington D.C. Which will you hit first?