Prohibition might be over but the spirit of the 20s is alive and well in these hidden bars throughout Southern California. An enduring American tradition, going to a speakeasy makes for an exciting, group-friendly event in Los Angeles or San Diego. So, put on your wingtips, warm up the Studebaker, and get ready to be transported back to the Roaring Twenties at these top-rated (and very secret) speakeasies.
Parlour Lounge, Long Beach
What sets this speakeasy apart is the location—this retro cocktail lounge is cleverly tucked away in the basement of The Federal Bar, which used to be a bank vault. In traditional speakeasy fashion, patrons are required to jump through a few hoops to get inside, which include finding the hidden door and knowing the secret password. But it’s worth it once you’re in because of the excellent cocktails and authentic décor.
Blind Barber, Culver City
It’s all business in the front with an old-fashioned, full-service barbershop on display. Stop in for a shave and haircut, then head to the back where it’s a full-on party, twenties style as you sip on an Old Fashioned at the bar. The Blind Barber is easy to find. Just keep walking towards the back of the shop and there it is.
Exhibition Room, Long Beach
For the whiskey connoisseur, this speakeasy is a real treat, especially with their collection of vintage spirits that are extremely rare and no longer in production. Located at the back of Roxanne’s Lounge, follow the trail of flappers and gangsters through a 1940s-era phone booth, say the correct password, and get ready to sip craft cocktails like it’s 1927.
Prohibition Lounge, San Diego
A fun start to group friendly events in San Diego is a handcrafted, old fashioned man soda at the Prohibition Lounge, a legendary speakeasy establishment that caters to the whiskey drinking crowd. And if you’re entertaining large groups of gangsters and flappers, here’s the rub: When it comes to booze, don’t take any chances with your family, friends, or colleagues. Party like a responsible bootlegger and book a charter bus rental at Metropolitan Shuttle, one of the safest ways to travel.
Old Lightening, Venice
Tucked away in the back of Scopa Italian Roots restaurant is a tiny Prohibition-era bar with a cozy layout that makes you feel like you’re sipping cocktails in someone’s swanky bachelor pad. Made with exotic liquors from around the world, the drinks are old fashioned and straight up, just like back in the day. But not everyone can handle the authenticity, especially the no cell phone rule and strict dress code (no shorts or flip-flops). To get in, ask your server at Scopa or send an email for the password.
£10 Bar, Beverly Hills
The Ten Pound Bar is one of the most exclusive speakeasies in Los Angeles, and rightly so. The owners and regular patrons want to keep the rare collection of Scotch to themselves. In fact, £10 is the only place in North America that features Macallan Scotch. Served in Lalique crystal glassware and ice cubes made from imported water from the Scottish Highlands, cocktails cost between $30 and $2500. Make a reservation by phone and get ready to be a big spender.
Noble Experiment, San Diego
Staying in line with the secretive tradition of the speakeasy, this Prohibition-style bar is hidden behind a wall of boutique eateries and can only be accessed by patrons that know where the entrance is located. Once you step inside the swanky establishment, it takes you out of the present and into a time machine that takes you back to the Roaring Twenties.
Sunset & Vinyl, Hollywood
You won’t find a sign advertising this hidden hotspot, which makes it one of the most secret spots in Los Angeles. It’s hard to believe a speakeasy exists above the 800 Degrees Pizza, but if you walk past the restrooms and up the stairs, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the groovy 60s and 70s décor of this vinyl-themed bar.
The Slipper Clutch, Downtown Los Angeles
Standing out in the speakeasy scene with its strong punk vibe, this rock-theme speakeasy is hidden inside Bar Clacson. It’s a cozy hideout where you can get the best highballs in Southern California. The menu only has eight cocktails, which includes classic drinks like Jack & Ginger or an Old Fashioned. Look for the “Highball” sign and follow the arrows. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the vintage Pac-Man and pinball machines.
Mezcal Bar, West Hollywood
With about 100 different varieties, this speakeasy specializes in top-rated mezcal, which makes a perfect complement to their selection of Mexican dishes with a modern twist. The place is about a secret as you can get, especially since the small bar is hidden within the Laurel Hardware restaurant. Walk to the front of the restaurant and you’ll find a spicy little speakeasy right behind the curtain. And most importantly, don’t forget your designated driver from Metropolitan Shuttle, the leading charter reservation company for safety and affordability.
The Boardroom, Downtown Los Angeles
If you’re going to a show at Disney Hall, this exclusive lounge is the perfect spot for pre-show cocktails. Hidden inside the ultra-upscale Kendall’s Brasserie, The Boardroom has also become the go-to bar for late-night jazz. With delicious cocktails, a classy ambiance and a small menu of gourmet bar food, it’s a favorite downtown destination for jazz aficionados. On busy nights, it’s a good idea to make an online reservation. But if you happen to be in the neighborhood, just ask the host at Kendall’s and they will escort you to the entrance.
Black Rabbit Rose, Hollywood
With nightly performances by Magic Castle magicians and décor inspired by famous illusionists like Houdini, the Black Rabbit Rose stays in line with its theme by serving magical cocktails—some drinks are even made on your table out of smoke plumes. Another trick up their sleeve is the legendary jazz club hosted by Fred Durst. Every Thursday, the top musicians in Los Angeles gather for a night of music and magic.
La Descarga, Koreatown
With a rum-soaked cocktail menu, a designated cigar lounge, and lots of salsa dancing, this ultra-secret speakeasy is a celebration of 1950s Havana. You can always hop on a flight to Cuba, but in the meantime, La Descarga is the next best thing. Getting in is pretty standard—make a reservation, then look for a plain door on Western Ave. If you know the password, the host will take you to an office and then to a closet, which is where this tiny bar is situated.
No Vacancy, Hollywood
Located in the historic Janes House, this elaborate hideout boasts an impressive Hollywood pedigree—it was the same building where stars like Charlie Chaplin sent their kids to private school. It’s also the oldest residential home on Hollywood Blvd. Even the décor is old school Hollywood with opulent chandeliers, plus a patio with a restored 1930s bar made of marble. Getting in takes patience, but once the doorman lets you in, get ready to party like it’s the twenties with live jazz, burlesque dancers, and circus performers.
Seventy7 Lounge, Culver City
To find this Parisian-themed speakeasy, you’ll have to wander down a back alley, but on nights featuring live jazz and burlesque dancers, it’s totally worth it. The vintage décor, including antique chandeliers, crushed velvet walls, and an absinthe fountain, gives it a classy Old World vibe. When you see a neon sign that says “Cocktails,” you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.
Jackalope, Downtown Los Angeles
Situated inside Seven Grand, this exclusive bar takes whiskey tasting to a whole new level of refinement and sophistication. You’ll get to sample rare, hard-to-find whiskey that you can’t find anywhere else. If you call ahead for reservations, it’s easy to get in. Just look for an unmarked door in the back and ring the doorbell. If you become a member, you can even secure your own whiskey locker.
If you’re in the mood for a late night cocktail on the down low, put on your 20s garb, gather your entourage, and feel like the cat’s pajamas in the best (and most secretive) speakeasies in SoCal.