It's first come, first served at Apothéke, if you can find it. Tucked behind a 200-year-old door underneath a 'Gold Flower Restaurant' sign at 9 Doyers Street in Manhattan's Chinatown, this lounge was once an opium den and its decor is inspired by apothecaries. Since 2008, Apotheke has been serving medicinal-inspired cocktails made with organic produce, herbs, and botanicals and a curated selection of absinthe. Cocktail categories include aphrodisiacs like the Deal Closer (Quinoa Vodka, Horny Goat Weed tea, cucumber, mint, lime, agave, and vanilla essence), euphorics like Devil's Playground (gin, dragon fruit, prickly pear, lime, agave, and absinthe mist), and stress relievers like Pink Panther (rum with palo santo, blood orange, pink guava, coconut milk, lime, and agave). Apothéke is so popular it opened an outpost in downtown Los Angeles in 2018 and a second New York location, Apotheke NoMad, this year.
These days, you never know where you'll find a bar: tucked in an alley, down a staircase, behind a back wall, or through a piece of furniture. Look too quickly and you just might miss the best speakeasies in the US hidden in plain sight.
What were once secret bars serving clandestine cocktails during Prohibition are now a concept to evoke a setting still as alluring and intriguing. Just like decades ago, many speakeasies are hidden or disguised as things they aren't, a storage room, a business, or just another art mural, require a password or elaborate process to gain entry, and serve up mystery and surprise. The name comes from bartenders employing patrons to be quiet and "speak easy" during Prohibition. In doing so, police officers found it hard to bust bars because the locations were hush-hush and the drinkers discreet.
While drinking on the down low and following a strict set of house rules isn't new, the best speakeasies in the US, which weren't around during Prohibition, embrace the concept, character, and cocktails.