Buenos Aires is a city of secrets and some of the best spots for an evening cocktail can be found behind closed doors, only accessible to those in the know. From a speakeasy that takes you back to the Prohibition era of New York circa 1920 to a train ride on the Orient Express or a jaunt on the New York subway, every place offers a distinct experience and its own imaginative menu of signature cócteles. Here are six of the best speakeasy bars in Buenos Aires and how to access them.
Board the Oriental Express train carriage that awaits you behind a big wooden door on a quiet street in Palermo Soho and ride back in time to a hidden speakeasy bar that conveys a nostalgia for classic train travel and London at the turn of the 20th century. On exiting the carriage, you find yourself in a stylish, exposed red brick interior with a long illuminated bar, a vintage wall mural and a team of bar staff whipping up delicious cocktails for your drinking pleasure. If you want to get a seat and a table, especially on the weekend, reserve in advance as this place fills up fast.
Godoy Cruz 1875, Palermo Soho
Discretely hidden behind chic sushi joint Nicky Harrison in Palermo, The Harrison Speakeasy is one of the most exclusive cocktail venues in the city. The bar’s concept is based on the story of the youngest son of the famous Harrison family in New York, who operated a secret speakeasy in the 1920s at the back of his family’s fish market. It’s officially a members only bar but if you’re not fortunate enough to know a member then go to the restaurant for dinner in your best attire and your waiter will most likely invite you to ‘visit the cellar’ at the end. You’ll be told a narrative that sets the scene before the doors are flung open and a lively bar is revealed taking you back to 1920s New York. The extensive cocktail menu is poignantly listed on a copy of the New York Times article that detailed Nick Harrison’s jail sentence back in the day and features lots of inventive concoctions using all manner of ingredients. The Union Pacific cocktail is a stand out made with vodka, Earl Grey tea, ginger and lemon and served in a model train. The creators want to maintain an air of mystery about the venue so photography is forbidden inside.
Malabia 1764, Palermo Soho
Currently the most talked about bar on the Buenos Aires scene, Uptown opened its doors earlier this year. From the same creators as The Harrison Speakeasy, it offers another unique New York-inspired experience. Quietly concealed next door to the swish Peruvian restaurant La Mar in Palermo Hollywood, Uptown recreates a less grimy version of the New York subway. Venture down the stairs and you’ll see signs for Uptown & The Bronx and the same familiar subway tiles and ads on the wall. Enter through the turnstile and get on the train. At this point, you’ll probably want to stop and take some cool photos for your Instagram before you press the green button to get off the train and enter the impressive bar area with graffiti sprayed walls and a stylish lounge area done out like a pharmacy. The menu of drinks is themed around different parts of New York and once you’ve had a couple, you’ll be ready to take to the dance floor as there’s a live DJ playing every night. Note: there’s a dress code to get in so leave your flip-flops, T-shirts and ripped jeans at home.
Arévalo 2030, Palermo Hollywood
By day, La Pasionaria is an antique lover’s dream. It’s a palatial warehouse filled with a myriad of fantastic furnishings and objets d’art, all with a story behind them. But by night (on the weekends), it’s transformed into an intimate closed-door restaurant and bar that provides the perfect backdrop for a unique evening of drinking and dining. Dine and drink by candlelight sat on vintage furnishings, admiring the treasures around you. A different live act provides the music each night covering all genres, from jazz to Bossa nova, and the space is cleared if you fancy a dance. You can choose to bring your own wine and pay a corkage fee or purchase wine form their pop-up bar.
Godoy Cruz 1669, Palermo Soho
This hip cocktail bar is ranked as one of the World’s 50 best bars. From the outside, it appears to be an upscale florist but head towards what looks like the door to the freezer and venture down into the basement bar. It’s a narrow, cozy establishment whose stripped down walls give it an edgy, industrial feel. Inspired by Buenos Aires’ early immigrants, who flocked to Argentina by boat in the late 1800s and early 1900s, illustrations of mythical sea creatures adorn the walls (drawn by the bar owner Tato Giovannoni himself) and the signature cocktail list is divided up into the countries Italia, Espana, Francia, Inglaterra and Polonia. To give yourself a real buzz, order an Aeropostale that features absinthe and champagne or the more refined and fragrant La Rose that features the bar owner’s own blend of gin Principe de Apostoles (made from Argentina’s beloved yerba Mate leaves, pink grapefruit and eucalyptus), elderberry and lime, and is topped with rose petals. As well as beautifully presented cocktails served in some original apparatus, there’s a great menu of delicious dishes from the grill.
Arroyo 882, Retiro
This is one of Buenos Aires’ original speakeasy bars and access is only granted to those with the secret passcode (that isn’t so secret as you can find clues to it on their Facebook page without too much difficulty). Knock on the unassuming black door, give the passcode and the bouncer will let you in to a dark room with a phone booth in the corner. He’ll give you a numerical code that you have to then type into the phone and the doors suddenly open onto a sophisticated, two-floor dimly-lit haunt decked out with chandeliers and plush velvet seating where you can pass the night away oblivious of the time while the gloved bar men expertly mix special cocktails for you based on your requests. While the cocktails here are among the most expensive in town, they’re worth the treat.
Arévalo 1443, Palermo Hollywood
Been to any other great hidden bars in Buenos Aires lately? Tell our readers about them in the comments section below.