Back in the Prohibition era in the US when alcoholic beverages were banned, a “speakeasy” was a hidden place to sneak a drink. Its ambience would often be subdued with soft music while patrons kept a low profile. Today’s speakeasies are more “accessible” yet try to retain their original spirit. On my recent Taipei trip, I set out on a hunt for these hidden bars.
Alchemy // It is near Taipei 101 in the Xinyi district. You may mistakenly walk into another bar. Ask for the entrance to “Alchemy” and staff will guide you to the second floor. This small bar has a rustic ambiance set up in a baroque deco with soft lighting and music. Look for Victor – he does amazing cocktails.
Ounce // A speakeasy like none I have ever been. Enter the empty poorly-lit restaurant, walk towards the door on the left and ring the bell. A bartender will let you into the “real” Ounce – a petit and intimist establishment which hosts only a few tables. No drink list – tell the bartender your preferences, mood, or both – then trust him to come up with a delightful cocktail. Tested and approved.
East End // Probably “less speakeasy” than the others, this is nonetheless a highlight of my speakeasy crawl. East End is more of a hip cosmopolitan bar with a modern urban deco, the better to pore over their extensive selection of cocktails. Or don’t bother. The bartenders are pros and will make a concoction to your taste.
TigerLily // This was a surprise discovery while waiting for our dinner table to be ready. TigerLily is hidden amongst stores and signs. You would never guess from its simple “shopfront” with a dark façade and opaque windows what hides within. We actually stood next to it for 5 minutes before venturing in to find a bar with a modern industrial interior.
I prefer to ask the bartender to create a cocktail for me than to pick one from their bar menu. Each drink is a discovery and you can also judge how creative the bartender is.