Speakeasy bars may not be your go-to for a night out in Metro Manila yet, but in recent years, we've been seeing more and more of this type of establishment pop up in different cities, each with their own specialties and unique traits. Many of these bars open in the evening as they often function as something else during the day – bookstores, barbershops, and cafés, among other things. Don't worry if you aren't familiar with the speakeasy scene, because there's sure to be one out there that suits your taste. Check out these spots around the metro and you might just find your favorite one!
You might know of Lazy Bastard, the burger and hotdog restaurant along Jupiter Street in Makati. But what you might have missed in that same spot is Alcohol by Volume, or ABV, a 1920s-themed speakeasy. Come here to experience their classic and signature cocktails, a wide array of absinthe, and classy food choices, with jazz music to set the mood and really transport you to the 20s. Their drinks menu includes a couple of reimagined classics, like the Hemingway Daiquiri (P350) and Whiskey Sour (P360). If you're interested in learning how to whip up your own drink keep an eye out for their occasional mixology and cocktail making classes.
Int. Bar, Cubao
Image: Int. Bar
Hiding behind a photo booth at Cubao Expo is Int. Bar, a small speakeasy inspired by the owners' love for photography, film, and more. Once you step inside, you'll immediately feel the bar's vintage vibe - dim lights, leather couches, and all. The signature cocktails at Int. draw inspiration from classic films, poetry, and music as their own way of bridging art and everyday life. Some popular drinks include La Dolce Vita (P300), named after the 1960 Italian drama, and A Toast To Hemingway (P180) whose name speaks for itself. Aside from their carefully crafted cocktails, Int.'s food menu is worth a try; the Trio Tacos (P300) and Hummus served with pita chips (P200) make for great bar chow.
Bank Bar, Bonifacio Global City
Image: Bank Bar
Getting to this hidden bar might be tricky at first - it's located somewhere in a 7-Eleven at a corporate center in BGC, no signage in sight. But as soon as you enter, you'll be greeted by a very classy vibe in contrast to the convenience store it hides behind. Bank Bar is a "top shelf drinking den" by The Moment Group (a.k.a. the group behind some of your favorite restaurants like Manam and 8Cuts), so you can expect that aside from the drinks, their food selection is probably great. Indulge in their Bone Marrow and Wagyu Tacos (P895), or for something familiar, you can get the famous 8Cuts Onion Rings (P220). As for drinks, they offer their own takes on classic cocktails like the Pinay Colada (P380) that makes use of some of the best local rums, and the Smoked Amaretto Flip (P445) which has fresh lemon, egg foam, and smoked woodchips.
Lan Kwai Speakeasy & Hong Kong Cuisine, Katipunan
Image: Lan Kwai Speakeasy
College students and frequenters of the Katipunan area are undoubtedly familiar with Lan Kawi Speakeasy. Located along Esteban Abada, this restaurant-bar is a celebration of Hong Kong's modern culture and is named after the iconic Lan Kwai Fong. Get your fix of noodles, rice bowls, and dim sum by day, then try their signature drinks by night. Chinese-style noodles are Lan Kwai's specialty, so be sure to try the Roast Duck (P259) and Braised Beef Brisket (P249) bowls. They're also popular for serving their cocktails in bowls, perfect for sharing.
Thirsty Barber, San Juan
Image: Thirsty Barber
Thirsty Barber lies behind a wooden bookshelf at a barbershop along Wilson Street, San Juan. The concept of a bar behind a barbershop was inspired by speakeasies and hidden bars in New York City, and the folks behind Thirsty Barber put on a local spin on it by serving dishes and bar chow made with local ingredients. Try the Tapang Barako (P310) and the Corned Beef Croquettas with Labuyo Aioli Dip (P290) on your next night out! They also serve draft beer on tap and signature cocktails - The Undercut (P230) is made with tequila, orange, bell pepper, and cayenne and is a popular choice that goes with the barbershop theme of the place.
RM 16, Kapitolyo
Image: RM 16
To get to this next spot, they tell you to "Find the Big Red Vending Machine." RM 16 can be found by Tittos Latin BBQ in Kapitolyo, but you'll have to keep your eyes out for the secret entrance that lies behind a red soda vending machine. The Eiffel Tower is this bar's main influence, as seen in the interior design and style. The food and beverage menu, however, carries more Latin and Filipino resemblances. If you're out with a couple of friends looking for some great food and drinks, you can't go wrong with a Tittos Sangria (P280/glass, P595/carafe) and one of their Quesadilla Pizzas (P295-345) to go with it. If you can't decide on what to get, go ahead and order Me Soprendes (P320) and the bartender will make you a drink based on your mood.
The Back Room, Bonifacio Global City
Image: The Back Room
The Back Room is a posh speakeasy bar at Shangri-La The Fort. They specialize in craft gin; you can find over 150 variants behind the bar, and they have their very own gin called The Bee's Knees. The Back Room's interiors are reminiscent of the 1920s Prohibition Era in the USA, the very era that speakeasies began to operate. Visitors enjoy this spot as it's more spacious and quieter than other hidden bars you might find in the area. They also have an extensive drinks menu divided into five sections that range from classic cocktails to more experimental ones, and even includes cocktail bowls for sharing.
The Odd Seoul, Poblacion
Image: The Odd Seoul
Korean culture lovers will enjoy this hidden bar on Kalayaan Avenue. The Old Seoul is located inside Korean restaurant Gaja, and as the name suggests, draws great inspiration from South Korean culture – the place is filled with neon lights to complement their fun, creative take on Korean food and cocktails. You'll find many staple Korean ingredients on the menu like gochujang, kimchi, banana milk, and more. Get a taste of the classic pairing of soju and Yakult with the Yogurt Lady (P295) that also comes with a Melona popsicle stick. If Korean cuisine is your thing, don't miss the deep-fried KFR Balls (P280) made with kimchi fried rice, mozzarella, and spam.
Run Rabbit Run, Poblacion
Image: Run Rabbit Run
Run Rabbit Run is all about a sensory overload that goes beyond just good drinks. Curated playlists, art pieces, and an exotic take on cocktails all contribute to the total experience at this friendly neighborhood cocktail bar. Its location at P. Burgos in Poblacion is easy to miss, as the facade looks like a normal home - in fact, it used to be a residential house for 40 years before the owners of Singapore bar Bitters and Love partnered up with Run Rabbit Run's creators to give it a new life. Their cocktails (all priced at P400) are inspired by Filipino heritage, each with a unique taste and mix of flavors. The bestseller is Chillin Like A Villain with a base of gin and peach flavor and topped with a Sampaguita flower for that uniquely Filipino experience. They also serve a signature from their Singapore counterpart, the Kaya Toast, a citrusy rum cocktail actually topped with a piece of toast and kaya jam.
The Curator, Legazpi Village
Image: The Curator
Did you know that Makati houses an award-winning bar? The Curator is the only bar in the Philippines to consistently make it to Asia's 50 Best Bars since 2016! This spot found behind Cyrano Wine Shop in Legazpi Village does both handcrafted coffee and cocktails, an unusual pairing that they make work without compromising the quality. Get your coffee fix from morning until 7pm, then they transform into a bar serving up carefully crafted cocktails. What makes The Curator special is how your experience is made more personal by friendly staff and bartenders who won't hesitate to make you a drink they know you'll enjoy. They offer the classic cocktails but try asking them how they can change it up to suit your taste and you won't be disappointed.
Blind Pig, Legazpi Village
Image: Blind Pig
Blind Pig was actually the country's first ever speakeasy bar, opened in 2011 when the owner was inspired by a bar in New York City. Blind Pig gives off a very intimate, exclusive vibe; through the years, their customers have become loyal, and they highly recommend making a reservation before paying a visit, as it is likely you won't be able to just walk in. For drinks, try the popular Smokey Old Bastard (P700) made with 10-year-old Islay Scotch, cigar-infused maple syrup, bitters, and orange smoke. If you're unsure of adventurous with your drink choice, you can always opt for the Bartender's Choice - just tell them a bit about what you like and leave the rest to them. Their light bar chow are also bestsellers - try the Rosemary Popcorn (305) and Applewood Smoked Salted Egg Fish Skin (P370).
Mandalay Whisky, Legazpi Village
Image: Mandalay Whisky
Belle and Dragon is one of Legazpi Village's most popular gastropubs, and it happens to house a secret bar by the back of the restaurant. Walk down the hallway to find a giant wardrobe that leads to the elegant, dimly lit Mandalay. Many have compared Mandalay's secret location to Narnia, which is fitting for a bar that invites you to 'come find them behind the closet.' The specialty at this spot is whisky; they carry a wide range from around the world. Aside from this, they carry gin, rum, and a selection of signature cocktails. Their food selection pairs well with their drinks, as Mandalay offers a number of Asian and Western-inspired dishes like Ika Karaage (P395) and Wanton Nachos (P410).
The Bonbon Club, Legazpi Village
Image: The Bonbon Club
A salon by day and cocktail bar by night, The Bonbon Club in Makati is a good place to hang out after work hours for some drinks. They're one of Metro Manila's designated gin joints - they carry over 50 brands, so don't miss out on their cocktails and shooters. On Tonic Tuesdays, you can try their Gin Flights for P1,000! The Bonbon Club also serves some classic Pinoy pulutan like siomai, fish balls and squid balls, chicharon bulaklak, and others.