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Milonga Room
Photograph: Jessica Fradono

The best speakeasies in Austin

Pop into these hidden bars and secret watering holes to imbibe in the best speakeasies in Austin

By Lori A. May and Cindy Brzostowski
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Austin is known for its charming quirks and fiercely independent spirit, and it’s no secret you’ll find amazing breweries and wine bars around every corner of the city. A little more secret, though, is a stellar selection of hush hush hidden bars and speakeasies in Austin. For our list of top watering holes off the beaten path you’ll need to look beyond the velvet curtain, enter through a bookcase, or whisper an exclusive password. If it seems like a challenge to find some of these venues, just know it’s worth the effort to discover some of Austin’s best cocktails

RECOMMENDED: The best bars in Austin

Best speakeasies in Austin

Midnight Cowboy
Photograph: Courtesy Midnight Cowboy/Cory Ryan

1. Midnight Cowboy

Bars Greater Austin

It's hard to resist a good secret entrance—especially one that’s hiding in plain sight. In the rowdy middle of Sixth Street, a cryptic white sign advertising "Midnight Cowboy Modeling Oriental Massage" juts out of a building. Underneath is a nondescript door and what looks to be a buzzer box for different residences. Push the button for Harry Craddock and you're in at this former brothel, now craft cocktail sanctuary. Word to the wise: Your best bet is to make a reservation ahead of time or you'll have to gamble with whether they're accepting walk-ins (if the red light about the doorway is aglow, you're good to go).

2. Techo Mezcaleria & Agave Bar

Bars Blackland

As the popularity of mezcal continues to rise across the city, Techo Mezcaleria & Agave Bar has made a name for itself with its laid-back vibes and impressive drinks. This small, intimate bar is a go-to for locals who prefer to keep hush hush about it’s awesomeness. Perched atop the popular Tex Mex restaurant Mi Madre’s (where you’ll find the best breakfast tacos), you’ll walk through School House Pub’s patio to reach the staircase taking you to that delicious agave spirit. Start by sampling their mezcal varieties, but don’t leave without ordering a frozen guava agave margarita, with house made chili salt along the rim.

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3. Red Headed Stepchild

Bars Cocktail bars Greater Austin

You’re sure to come across plenty of unusual sights while wandering around downtown, but a Floppy Disk Repair company is a little out there, even for Austin. Turns out the big Floppy Disk Repair Co. sign next to mustache-themed Handlebar is just a front for the speakeasy Red Headed Stepchild. You’ll need to put in a secret passcode on the keypad outside to enter, or you could always hope a local with the right connections lets you slide in with them. Waiting for you is a small space where the drinks have socially awkward names and the vibe is creepy-cool (there’s a neon sign saying “mmm… your hair smells pretty”).

Firehouse Lounge & Hostel
Photograph: Courtesy Firehouse/Maggie Svoboda

4. Firehouse Lounge

Bars Cocktail bars Congress Ave District

Be honest: how many of you dreamed of having a secret bookcase that led to a hidden lair when you were a kid? Firehouse Lounge gives you a chance to act out those childhood fantasies. This former fire station (built in 1885) is now a super cozy hostel for travelers, with a speakeasy lounge tucked behind a lobby bookshelf. Snag a cocktail or opt for beer or wine. This hidden spot in the heart of downtown makes for a great location to meet new people and the perfect place to impress your out-of-town friends.

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5. Here Nor There

One of Austin's newer bars, Here Nor There is pretty hip with the times and dependent on tech to lure in guests. In fact, the only way non-members get through the gated alleyway is by entering a secret password obtained via the Here Nor There app. Once inside, try the requisite house specialty, Milk and Honey, served in a teacup. Then make a bold move and order something from their experimental menu.

Garage
Photograph: Courtesy Garage/Rick Thorne

6. Garage

Bars Cocktail bars Downtown

The secret to this hidden bar is that it’s located in a fully functioning parking garage downtown. Spot the black sign that says “Cocktails” and follow the path to the turquoise, neon sign and the bar nestled under the ramp. Inside you’ll find a moody venue in appearance only, as the staff are super welcoming. Appropriate for the slightly industrial theme, drinks are divided between Custom, Vintage and Refurbished. We recommend trying the Indian Paintbrush, a concoction with vodka, grapefruit, lime and rosemary that earned itself the title of The Official Drink of Austin in 2015.

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Milonga Room
Photograph: Jessica Fradono

7. Milonga Room

Bars Cocktail bars East End

In the basement of Buenos Aires Café lies Milonga Room, a dimly lit speakeasy with an aptly Argentinean-influenced cocktail program (think amaros and fernets). You absolutely must make a reservation before visiting and share the secret password with the hostess upon arrival. Head to the alley behind the restaurant and ring the doorbell on the bright red door. Once inside, the vintage décor inside will have you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time to 1920s Buenos Aires. Along with delicious tapas and empanadas and the possibility of catching some live music, this romantic space serves as a great hideaway from the outside world.

Small Victory
Photograph: Courtesy Small Victory/Robert J. Lerma

8. Small Victory

Bars Cocktail bars Congress Ave District

There may not be a secret word to get into Small Victory, but it’s an aptly named venue for this hard to find location. You’ll wonder if you’re even in the right place, but you are if you’re wandering the parking garage. Head to the corner and go up a short flight of stairs, and through another door where you’ll be greeted by a narrow but classy interior with velvet chairs and cozy booths. Pick your poison from their menu of craft cocktails, and marvel over how they possibly craft their branded ice.

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Photograph: Nick Simonite

9. Barrel O' Fun

Restaurants Downtown

Everyone knows that part of the fun of visiting Alamo Drafthouse is that you can drink while at the movie theater, but the Mueller location takes it to a new level with their boardwalk carnival-themed bar, Barrel O’ Fun. What acts as a family-friendly space with games during the day transforms to a bar at night. They serve a variety of barrel-aged cocktails, highballs, flips and bombers—oh, and there’s beer and wine too. Throughout the week, Barrel O’ Fun also serves as a space for different events like karaoke bingo and trivia. Come one, come all!

Bar Ilegal
Photograph: Matthew Mahon

10. Bar Ilegal

Bars Cocktail bars Convention Center District

What’s the best place to hide a bar? How about in the back of another bar in one of the city’s busiest entertainment districts? Clive Bar has been a part of the bustling Rainey Street scene for a while, but not many realize that there’s another noteworthy drinking hole right in its backyard. Bar Ilegal is a stone cantina dedicated to mezcal. The candle-lit space may be small but the drinks are strong, and the bartenders are eager to take you on a journey featuring the agave-based spirit.

Get cozy at a dive bar instead

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