Travel

5 of the UK's most Instagrammable speakeasies

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Tucked away in secret chambers or hiding in plain sight, these bars are calling out for a visit…

As much as it lifts our spirits when someone pings the group chat with ‘Pub?’, sometimes nursing the same G&T in the same spot can get, well, a little samey.

The thing is, that drink always tastes better when you’ve had to work for it a little. And in 2018 and with hundreds of choices right under our noses it feels like we’ve lost that art.

That’s where the speakeasy comes in. We’ve watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in envy as our protagonist navigates, drinks and performs stand-up comedy at the secret drinking joints.

Basically, we wanted a piece of the action and it turns out if you search hard enough it’s within the realms of possibility.

With 1950s charm in spades, themed decor and drinks and a bit of rigmarole to get in, these Prohibiton-era joints add a much needed touch of excitement to your Friday night plans…

1. Cahoots, London

Tucked away from the bustling Soho crowds, Cahoots is a thoroughly British speakeasy.

Resplendent with WW2-era signage, cosy sofas and wonderfully low lighting, it’s in a disused Tube station. 

Drinks come served in vintage milk bottles, mugs, flasks, and an impressive array of other crockery. There’s even ‘rations’ on offer if you get peckish - expect sausage rolls, sandwiches and other British fare. 

With live swing music and fully kitted-out staff, you’re unlikely to find another spot so special in all of London, so get down there and get snapping ASAP. 

If you deck yourselves out in 1940s gear you might even get treated to the odd surprise or two…

2. The Red Light, Bristol

From the moment you enter The Red Light - through a decommissioned payphone, where a red light illuminating alerts a bartender to your presence via CCTV - you know you’re somewhere special.

Curl up with a cocktail, soak in the surrounding and take some surreptitious snaps. 

You can order one of the bar’s house specials, or enjoy a classic drink - either will be served with a flourish by a braces-clad barman. 

All the drinks are customisable, with a mix of reasonably priced short and long drinks. Settle into one of the leather wingback chairs and soak up the vibes. 

We recommend asking the bartender for a Slap and Tickle (trust us). 

3. The Maven, Leeds 

Can’t find your way to this spot? You’ll just have to text one of the bartenders.

It may be on Call Lane, the city’s busiest cocktail street, but The Mavern is purposefully hard to find and with secret rooms inside the secret bar, it’s so worth the hunt.

Classic cocktails like negronis and martinis feature, alongside specials cooked up by their blockbuster mixology team, like the ‘Sparkle Sour’. Expect lots of frills and flourishes in this theatrical spot.

Inimitable atmosphere, worryingly moreish cocktails and a whole lot of fun, this one is so much more than just grid goals.

4. Panda & Sons, Edinburgh

Disguised as an old-school barbershop, Panda & Sons has all the molecular bells and whistles you’d want (smoking cocktails, an impressively long bar menu), but still has whimsical touches, like gramaphones and old lamps and vintage books.

Bring your friends along and order the 4-person ‘High Society’ cocktail which arrives served in erm, a hat.

There’s free popcorn to nibble on, plenty of cute critters (it is Panda & Sons, after all) dotted in the decor and a welcoming feel - despite the hush-hush entrance.

Not one for cocktails? They’ve got a great selection of craft beers and wine, as well as cheese and meat boards if you get peckish - and given the panda theme, you shouldn’t miss the Bamboo Cocktail.

5. The Blind Tiger, Shrewsbury

Shropshire hideaway The Blind Tiger has fully committed to the speakeasy vibes, with low lighting and an irrepressible 1920s feel to their classic cocktails.

Despite all the frills, the bar is utterly unpretentious and the perfect place to settle into with a group of friends, or stake out for a date.

Their latest menu was inspired by the risqué comic books popular in the 1920s called Tijuana bibles. Check out ‘The Godfather’s Mistress’, a mixture of scotch, chocolate and amaretto liquer and salted caramel.

The place is seriously quirky, but utterly fun.

Whether you’re looking for sartorial inspiration or just a slice of the speakeasy life, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel needs to be on your watch list. Watch seasons one and two on Prime Video now.