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Big in Japan Bar
Photograph: Dominique Lafond

The best speakeasies and secret bars hidden in Montreal

The essential list of the city's best speakeasies and hidden bars serving superb drinks in unassuming, covert places.

Written by
JP Karwacki
,
Amie Watson
&
Laura Osborne
Contributor
Tommy Dion
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UPDATE, Summer 2022: There’s nothing like the thrill of discovering hidden addresses of the city’s best speakeasy and secret bars. Knowing which unmarked door leads you to award-winning mixologists and incomparably cool settings is unlike anything else in the city. We're talking hideaways home to the best cocktail bars in Montreal to hit before going to one of the best restaurants in the city, or a late-night stop as you explore everything the nightlife in Montreal has to offer.

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Where to find the best speakeasy and secret bars in Montreal

Pointe-Saint-Charles’ first speakeasy is a psychedelic clash of concepts. Behind a leopard skin door connected to the Fugazzi pizza restaurant, walk up the stairs between a rainbow of neon-lit walls and stroll into a jungle-tiki cocktail bar where drinks come in disco ball glasses, Easter Island Moai statues and shiny flamingos. With its connection to the pizza restaurant, it doubles a great place to snack as well. There are no reservations except for groups, so come early or expect a wait.

The retrofitted diner Foiegwa turned a lot of heads when it opened its doors in Saint-Henri, but the real line-ups are found in the alleyway behind it. Pass through the steel door at the end of the passageway to find this French disco-themed bar with one of the most spectacular liquor selections in town, all of which is doubly impressive when tasting the cocktails that Christophe Beaudoin Vallières makes with them. No style or presentation is too wild here to try out—that is, if you can grab a seat.

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Le Mal Necessaire
Photograph: Steven Smith

3. Le Mal Necessaire

This famous tiki-style bar, just steps from Chinatown's ornate gates, serves up quirkly cocktails exploding with tropical fruit—and some slushy twists on old favourites—with a focus on sustainability and upcycled ingredients. Look for the glowing neon pineapple that hangs over the stairwell leading down to this hidden gem.

Big in Japan Bar
Photograph: Dominique Lafond

4. Big in Japan Bar

You’ll walk past the non-descript door to this slick speakeasy at least twice before finding it, but once you’ve been, it’s hard to forget. First-timers will be rewarded with a cocktail den decked out with candles and a wrap-around-and-around bar serving a stellar wine list, a touch of saké and killer whisky sours. Locals and returning customers might enjoy purchasing a full bottle of whisky to hang from the ceiling which they can return to at their leisure over the course of a year.

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If you don’t want to spend time walking up and down Saint Denis Street in search of this cocktail bar, go to the 4e Mur website first and fill in the contact form to be emailed the location. The Google Maps address will lead you astray, as will the clues of the murder mystery which thematically frames the cocktail program here. Come with a crowd, since each of six drinks that shift monthly gets you a clue, all of them gradual steps closer to solving the puzzle and winning more drinks.

A prime date destination, this bar brings romance to cocktail descriptions with seasonal specialties. To find the bar, look for the duck below the exit sign next to El Pequeño Bar, and enter a world where the bartender rules. Seriously, that’s #1 on the official house rules. There are several more where that came from, but each rule leads to a single purpose: Keeping it classy.

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This classy subterranean spot upped the Plateau’s cocktail game when it opened in 2017. Located below reputed wine bar Le Rouge Gorge, it’s a 65-seat secret designed by Montreal’s own Zébulon Perron, the brains behind innumerable beautifully designed projects in the city. It's the perfect date or late night party destination. Above all, head cocktail creator Manu Ruiz is among the city's current masters.

With a couple of romantic nooks, some tables and a few coveted stools numbering in at a total of 25 seats, this bar is one of Montreal’s most intimate cocktail speakeasies. Tell the bartender what you like in terms of flavours and let them make something to order, carving an appropriately sized cube of ice to match. Don’t like what they made? No problem, they’ll try again. If only it were so easy at the adjacent barbershop and bespoke.

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The Asian speakeasy below Vietnamese restaurant Hà in Old Montreal is no joke: Drinks come in shells, buddhas and coupes as classics are reinvented à la tiki, like the Pandan Sour and the Dji, a riff on an Old Fashioned with tequila, mezcal, pineapple, hazelnut bitters and chanterelle mushrooms. The dancing to deep house starts around 11 p.m., so come early or reserve if you want a seat. Otherwise, join the crowd trying not to spill their buddhas-for-two.

If you're looking for a place that's cozy, intimate, and a little sexy, this is the one. Sporting a look that's similar to a grotto in the Playboy Mansion, a trip to Henden's downstairs hangout below the fried chicken and champagne restaurant Bird Bar in Griffintown has just about everything you need to help you unplug from the day to day. Bubbles, caviar and blinis help start the evening just as well as the cocktail menu, but the homemade pogos and oysters ain't too shabby either. 

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The only real clue for the entryway is a neon sign pointing downward to take a dive: Club Pelicano has got to be one of the only places in the world where it's possible to spend a full evening in a pool. It's through table-like diving boards, "No Diving" warnings and lifesaver decorations that you'll settle into a pool corridor and wade through your cocktails. We also enjoy the delicious Nikkkei-style cuisine of its neighbour/associate Tiradito. 

King Crab
Photograph: King Crab / restaurantmakro.ca

12. King Crab

If you can't find the entrance to King Crab's hidden bar, know that all you need to do is try asking someone working at the Makro seafood restaurant. They'll point a thumb over their shoulder to the cobbled alleyway next door, and you'll head down through a mirrored hallway to a place where evenings never seem to end. The place is dark, chic and elegant, with the added bonus of a wood-fired oven that churns out some pretty decent pizza to go with your popped bottles and signature cocktails.

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At its most active, Soubois is an buzzy nightclub in the heart of downtown Montreal, but you can pay a visit to its bar-within-a-bar speakeasy-style bar L'Orangerie for calmer vibes. Things can still get as wild in here as they can during a cabaret or on the dancefloor, but the bonus is being able to spend time with the bartender to watch their head-turning mixology at play while bottle service with sparklers cross the main room.

Tucked away out of view on Rachel East in the Plateau in a way that keeps things dicreet, A Bar Le A has a small terrasse and indoor space engenders calm and collected vibes earlier in the evening while—occasionally—getting a little more raucous later at night. Super casual and personable with a BYOF policy (bring your own food), it's just the kind of place you want when you're looking to escape and rub shoulders with (other) locals.

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Gokudo
Photograph: Mehdi Lampropoulos

15. Gokudo

Pull back the curtain beside the chirashi counter at Ryoshi to find this Yakuza-themed saké and cocktail speakeasy. Try the Ishigaki San with blended Japanese whisky, Cognac, fresh oranges and Saint Germain—a recipe given with permission from Bar Ishinohana in Tokyo—or a glass of Homare Junmai Daiginjo Kiwami sake. Both bring out the funk in umami-rich pork floss, soft tofu and truffle ponzu salads and torched foie gras and eel handrolls from up front. 

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