A speakeasy, which is also called a “blind pig” or a “blind tiger”, is an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages and such establishments came into prominence in the USA during the Prohibition era from 1920 to 1933. They were ‘speak-easies’ because they would practice speaking quietly about such a place in public or when inside it so the police and neighbors wouldn’t be aware of it.
When you think of speakeasies, you picture a hidden entrance, dim lights, a small bar and an ambience with an appeal of sensuality that permits you to enjoy alcoholic beverages. Below are some Kuala Lumpur’s more well-known and appreciated “speakeasies”:
PS150 (150, Jalan Petaling)
Photo by Amanda Chin
A hidden bar in the heart of Chinatown which displays three spacious different areas that represent scenes from the Prohibition era from the Oriental side where alcohol was banned. People had to drink in the privacy of secret venues.
I thoroughly enjoyed the innovative and creatively Asian-flavored based cocktails such as ‘Salty Chinaman’ and ‘Asam Boi Margarita’ as I was given the chance to also explore the extensive and cultural space this bar has to provide.
The staff is friendly, down-to-earth, and always jumping at a chance to recommend great cocktails and suggest why it is their personal favorite. Angel currently manages and oversees the whole thing, as she is one of the creative directors and there could not be someone better for the job than her as she is also quite the connoisseur of alcoholic beverages.
Tate (Ground floor, The Intermark, 182 Jalan Tun Razak)
Image credit: Lipstiq.com
I started out working here as a café executive when I first arrived to Malaysia, and my first impression was that it is a small but very enjoyable cocktail bar, with a secret doorway that blends in as part of the wall inside Double Tree Hilton.
You can enjoy the fine cuisine from the restaurant next door, which is the BIG enterprise that Tate is also a part of. Inside, Tate provides a vintage pool table along with lush, leather sofas where you can enjoy a manly cocktail and a cigar.
Tate would probably be Kuala Lumpur’s most renowned hidden speakeasy bar as it has been there for a long time, people usually fall in love with the entrance and take several pictures with the infamous top hat placed on the door which adds a certain touch of vintage class.
Mr. Brooks (G138, Jalan Maarof Bukit Bandaraya
The entrance to this bar is hidden inside a garage where an old vintage car sits nicely, and Mr. Brooks is known to be more of a gin & tonic bar. During weekends, this place is known to shake it up a little as the DJs take over the decks to play soul, funk, jazz, disco & deep house music. It is quite a spacious venue, perfect for hosting parties where great cocktails can be made for you.
Ril’s Bar (30, Jalan Telawi 5)
A vintage-style bar with décor from the 20’s to 40’s, including a slick Victorian layout with dark red curtains, a small stage for musical performances, and a bar producing magical cocktails to tickle your fancy. During weekends, it becomes a place to enjoy live music, ranging from classic jazz and funk to soulful R&B.
The bathroom is unforgettable, featuring floor-to-ceiling parrot and flamingo wallpaper. A Victorian woman’s powder room set, combined with the framed Alice in Wonderland illustrations on the door inspire the visitor with a sense of enchantment unprecedented from a typical bar restroom.
It is also no secret that Ril’s has some of the most innovative bartenders shaking, stirring, and serving cocktails in the KL bar scene today. Having talked to Zachary, current head bar manager, I find out Ril’s Top 3 Cocktails: The Dill Southside (bright, citrusy and floral), The Melacca Negroni (balance of sweet and bitter) and La Maestra (a nuanced and layered drink).
The Vault (5, Jalan Sri Hartamas 7)
This is a bar with sets from the 1920’s to early 1940’s. During the prohibition era, cocktails had to be made to mask the flavor of the alcohol because it was so strong due to bootleggers making their own booze.
As I spoke more to Darien, the head bar manager he let me know what Joshua Ivanovic and he had planned as a concept for The Vault and their cocktail menu. They created this menu based on simplicity, not over-complicated drinks, so most of them have no more than 3-5 ingredients and some of them using home-made matter such as marmalade, foam, pure and so on. Darien tells me, “We don’t pride ourselves on a signature drink because all our drinks are signature to The Vault.”
However, if I was to put my finger on one, it would be The Smoking Manhattan; made with High West Double Rye and Carpano Sweet Vermouth infused with Cherry Tobacco Smoke. The reason why we’re so different from any other speakeasy/prohibition is our vast range of spirits, the years of experience behind the bar and an ever evolving bar menu. With the addition of the second floor opening in a few months, our menu will grow bigger and get better.”
Blue Elephant (17M & 15M Plaza Damansara)
This speakeasy bar hidden by a bookshelf for an entrance provides guests with a karaoke room, a private room for parties, and a resident DJ to keep your body grooving. Blue Elephant is based on a movie-theme concept, due to the cause that one of the partners behind it is a significant Village Roadshow producer and distributor of movies so it therefore reflect off that.
Food can be ordered from the fine-dining restaurants downstairs such as Neroteca, and social nightlife can be enjoyed within the secret walls of this venue.
The thing that I enjoy a lot about this venue, is the fact that everyday of the week, they have a machine and they serve great caramel popcorn to guests free of charge, which adds a certain carnival/festival retrospective feel to the social drinking environment. After enquiring about the three top drinks in this venue, I’ve been told that Blue Elephant, Ginberry Juniper and Valentine make the cut for being the signature cocktails that are made most behind the bar for the guests.
Hyde at 53M (Damansara Uptown)
The entrance to Hyde at 53M can be found upstairs through a sliding entrance. This venue is a perfect spot to enjoy artistic and creative cocktails, quite an intricate fusion of flavors in terms of bar snacks in an ambience with a hint of glamour. It also provides a balcony to enjoy a nice view of the city lights Kuala Lumpur has to offer.
Having these speakeasies in mind now, it is time to go explore the little hidden nooks and crannies Kuala Lumpur has to offer. With a new bar appearing on the list of venues definitely worth your time and money every now and then, you’ll want to tick these off your must-visit places list! Enjoy a cocktail, or several as you take in the creative ambience of the spaces with a more private feel on social nightlife venues.