Speakeasies offer a glimpse into the past | Phoenix.org
The Mystique of Speakeasies: These secret bars offer a glimpse into the...

The Mystique of Speakeasies: These secret bars offer a glimpse into the past

Melinda’s Alley

By Laura Latzko

During the Prohibition era of the 1920s and early ’30s, speakeasies allowed men and women to socialize and drink in secret in underground clubs, backrooms, basements and homes. These establishments often offered live music, such as jazz bands.

Although drinking is now legal, speakeasies continue to have a certain mystique. This is why speakeasy bars continue to exist in cities around the country. These local speakeasies take patrons back to another era, with their music, atmosphere, drinks and secret entrances.


Honor Among Thieves

5538 N. Seventh Street, Phoenix


Located in the bottom level of Stock and Stable, Honor Among Thieves can be accessed via a staircase behind the restaurant. The dimly lit bar offers comfortable leather seats and a 1950s-style lounge atmosphere. The bar  has a selection of well-known cocktails such as martinis, White Russians and Manhattans, as well as specialty drinks such as the sloe gin and rum-based Sunbather, the scotch-based Job for a Cowboy, the tequila-based Arsonists Get All the Girls, the vodka-based Christian Woman, the gin-based E.M.O.J.I. Q.U.E.E.N. and the rye-whiskey-based Sextape. Guests are given a taste of Amaro to start their experience.


Melinda’s Alley

Basement of Renaissance Hotel Downtown Hotel, 50 E. Adams Street, Phoenix


There is no signage leading to Melinda’s Alley, and it can be difficult to find. A patron needs to go into an alley on Central Avenue, between Adams and Monroe streets, to find it. In the alley sits a colorful 70-foot mural of Malinda Curtis, an African American woman who once lived in an apartment in the alley and worked as a courtesan. Part of the allure of the bar is its history. Before the hotel was the Renaissance, the space was occupied by the Adams Hotel, which burned down in 1910. Entering the crimson-lit bar is like entering the past, as it is decorated with old-fashioned mirrors, armchairs and sofas, candleholders and paintings. The establishment regularly changes its menu of five cocktails, although it often offers the Old-Fashioned.


Pigtails Cocktail Bar

Desert Ridge Marketplace location

21001 N. Tatum Boulevard, Phoenix


Downtown Phoenix CityScape location

1 E. Washington Street, Phoenix


Little details, such walls covered in plants and decorated with copper detailing, make going to the speakeasy-style Pigtails cocktail bar a unique experience. The establishment has locations in Downtown Phoenix in CityScape, and in Desert Ridge Marketplace next to sister restaurant The Whining Pig. At the Desert Ridge Marketplace location, patrons exit the bar through a secret bookshelf door. Along with signature craft cocktails made with whiskeys, vodkas, tequilas and gins and special ingredients such as fresh fruit, the establishment also offers a raw seafood bar.


718 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix


The Sanctum isn’t readily apparent if one isn’t looking for it. Located on the top floor of The Grand coffeeshop, it is through a staircase at the back of the coffeehouse. To enter the intimate bar, a patron must have a password and be dressed in upscale attire that meets the dress code. The space offers an ambiance similar to speakeasies of the 1920s, but with a twist. The bar has jazz music playing in the background and gothic touches such as skull and gargoyle decorations. The bartenders craft cocktails such as the tequila-based Oaxacan Old-Fashioned, absinthe frappe, Calvados Sidecar and whiskey-based Sazerac.


White Rabbit Bar

207 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert


The White Rabbit Bar seeks to capture the essence of a speakeasy of the Roaring ’20s with a secret entrance and password. The bar is located in Downtown Gilbert, on the bottom level of the old Heritage Court building. To get the password to enter, guests must go to the bar’s website, twr.bar. Vintage photographs donated by local people, leather seating, and bartenders dressed in traditional attire can cause guests to feel like they have been transported back to another time. The bar offers an extensive drink menu that includes the pineapple rum-based This Side of Paradise, the vodka-based Flappers and Philosophers, the bourbon-based Star-Crossed Fools, the whiskey-based Irish Stone Sour and the rye and scotch-based Three Lives. Patrons can get enjoy small bites such as skewers, hummus plates, meat and cheese boards, bourbon-infused brie and flatbreads.


Mystery Room at the Arizona Biltmore Resort

2400 E. Missouri Avenue, Phoenix


The Mystery Room at the Arizona Biltmore Resort offers a cave-light ambiance with special touches from architect Frank Lloyd Wright. During the Prohibition era, the speakeasy was disguised as a men’s smoking room. The room still has a number of doors, which patrons used to escape during the late 1920s and ’30s. To be given directions to the secret room, guests must know a special password, which changes regularly. A bartender dressed in period attire and music from the Prohibition era help to recreate the original speakeasy atmosphere inside of the historic space.


The Ostrich

10 N. San Marcos Place, Chandler


Located below Crust restaurant in Chandler, the craft cocktail lounge The Ostrich is inspired by the history of the Chandler area. The bar can be found in the basement of the former San Marcos Hotel. The bar once served as an ostrich feather storage facility as well as a popular hangout spot for those traveling through Phoenix. The establishment’s vintage furnishings are a nod to bygone days. At the speakeasy-style bar, patrons can try specialty cocktails such as the Amaro and Sherry-based Career End No. 2, the rye and vermouth-based Boaty McBoatface, the gin-based Aviation Cocktail and the whiskey-based This Conflagration Nation.



2525 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix


Located in The Esplanade, MercBar was inspired by a bar by the same name from New York’s Soho neighborhood. Wood-paneled walls and leather furniture adorn the cocktail bar. The bar isn’t easy to find at first glance. Patrons should look for door lit by a red light, located next to a golden plaque. The bar has a number of specialty cocktails, including the tequila-based Purple Rain, the vodka-based Sophia Loren and the bourbon-based Mercer Sour. The bar also serves food items such as meatballs, stuffed peppers and a cheese board.


Killer Whale Sex Club

922 N. Sixth Street, Phoenix


This swanky, speakeasy-themed cocktail bar’s name is sure to catch your attention, if the building’s bright yellow-blue-purple mandala and Pegasus murals don’t first. Its array of creative cocktails is impressive, too; like the Gold Digger, made with plum, Cocchi Rosa, Madeira Madeira Malvasia, toasted sesame and whiskey. The unapologetically colorful bar even offers crudely titled bottled cocktails for delivery online.


Kazimierz Wine and Whiskey Bar

7137 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale


Kazimierz Wine and Whiskey Bar is a trendy speakeasy that has over 200 whiskeys and a wide selection of boutique wines. It also has live music from local musicians every night of the week.