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Unlocking the Secrets of Seattle’s Speakeasies and Prohibition-Era Bars

Relive The Roaring Twenties without the fear of raids

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In the days of legal alcohol and the internet’s ubiquity of information, few true illicit or unknown speakeasies remain, yet they still loom large in the nostalgic consciousness. Certainly, there are similarities of ambience and purpose among Prohibition-era places channeling The Roaring Twenties, promising such charms as stiff, classic cocktails, tasty tinctures, a sense of exclusivity and discovery, and vintage decor. And if they’re no longer illicit as they were during Prohibition, at least at speakeasy-style bars patrons don’t have to worry about a raid.

Unpacking some of the secrets of the Seattle scene, here’s a guide to spots with an air of old-school mystery and wonder about them.

Map points are ordered geographically and are not ranked by preference. What’s your best-kept bar secret? Whisper it in the comments, send us a clandestine email about it, or start a poorly marked forum thread in its honor.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Percy's and Co.

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5233 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA
(206) 420-3750
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Not hard to find, but certainly tough to leave, Percy’s is branded as a vintage bar with apothecary-inspired cocktails, which means bartenders wield tart shrubs and herbal infusions with precision. The stunning space is filled with timeless globe lights, cushy booths, and soulful hip-hop grooves, one concession to the modern world.

2. The Backdoor

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462 N 36th St
Seattle, WA
(206) 362-7322
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With its vaulted ceilings, cozy booths, and overall odd collection of decor, this offshoot of Roxy’s reflects the quirky charm of the surrounding Fremont neighborhood. The unmarked entrance can be difficult to find, but the name sort of gives it away. There are some truly daring refreshments served, from seasonal treats to staples like the spicy gin Hot Charlotte.

3. The Tin Lizzie Lounge

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600 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA
(206) 283-1499
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While this casually sophisticated speakeasy isn’t hard to find (it’s inside the Marqueen Hotel), its inspired selection of local spirits and 1920s cocktails in a bourgeois New York-style setting sparks a bit of nostalgia all the same.

4. Knee High Stocking Co.

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1356 E Olive Way
Seattle, WA
(206) 979-7049
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Even if they spot the small sign and doorbell, visitors are advised against ringing it unless they’ve booked in advance via text. Inside, bartenders are happy to tailor drinks to individual tastes, though the listed compositions, like the Greener Pastures (absinthe, orgeat, lavender bitters, and pineapple), are plenty tasty. The cocktails complement surprisingly traditional Filipino food, including favorites like garlic-infused chicken arroz caldo.

5. The Needle and Thread

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1406 12th Ave
Seattle, WA
(206) 325-0133
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Needle and Thread has the speakeasy approach down pat, with inconspicuous signage, a bank-vault door, and a rotary phone call required to call for a visit to this upstairs nook of Tavern Law. While most bars have a set drink menu, the talented mixologists here serve custom drinks based on discussions with patrons.

6. The Hideout

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1005 Boren Ave
Seattle, WA
(206) 903-8480
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First Hill’s dark and cozy artist’s lounge is the kind of place Ernest Hemingway might frequent if he were alive today. The bar is as much about the experience as the libations, encouraging patrons to explore the little details that make it what it is, like the endearing Earl 3.0 Robotic Art Dispenser or The Andy Warhol, which comes with a drink and a polaroid of its drinker. Say cheese.

7. The Upstairs

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2209 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA
(206) 441-4013
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With its Old World motif, The Upstairs is an eclectic winner. House cocktails play on classics, like the Campargarita’s addition of bittersweet Campari to a margarita, or mix in local favorites, like Every Rose Has Its Thorn pairing Woodinville’s Brovo rose geranium liqueur with ghost chili tequila.

8. Bathtub Gin and Co.

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2205 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA
(206) 728-6069
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This hidden gem derives its name from the often-questionable bootleg hooch being made by enterprising home-distillers during Prohibition. Thankfully, Bathtub’s libations are legit. Dim lighting serves for an intimate, brooding atmosphere offset by friendly staff and stiff cocktails.

Matthew Lombardi for Eater

9. Zig Zag Cafe

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1501 Western Ave
Seattle, WA
(206) 625-1146
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While there are no secret codes or faux storefronts to be found here, this is still a favorite Prohibition-style bar that’s easy to miss for anyone not paying attention. Tucked behind the staircases on the way from the waterfront to Pike Place Market, Zig Zag’s rosy interior and buttoned-up bartending staff have turned it into a Seattle icon. An appetizing food menu perfectly complements a ritzy drink selection.

10. E. Smith Mercantile

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208 1st Ave S
Seattle, WA
(206) 641-7250
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A quaint combination of old-timey general store and watering hole, E. Smith stocks its dry goods and denim jeans up front and its killer cocktails in back. Deviled eggs, smoked chocolate chip cookies, and other satisfying bites complete the effect.

11. The Pharmacy

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126 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA
(206) 682-3242
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Tucked in the underbelly of Pioneer Square’s Temple Billiards, The Pharmacy is a trendy little spot that mostly avoids pretentiousness. The decor consists of an unusual mix of white leather sofas, schoolhouse lights, and wire-framed chairs. The amicable staff makes this a fun underground spot to get some lively refreshments.

1. Percy's and Co.

5233 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA

Not hard to find, but certainly tough to leave, Percy’s is branded as a vintage bar with apothecary-inspired cocktails, which means bartenders wield tart shrubs and herbal infusions with precision. The stunning space is filled with timeless globe lights, cushy booths, and soulful hip-hop grooves, one concession to the modern world.

5233 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA

2. The Backdoor

462 N 36th St, Seattle, WA

With its vaulted ceilings, cozy booths, and overall odd collection of decor, this offshoot of Roxy’s reflects the quirky charm of the surrounding Fremont neighborhood. The unmarked entrance can be difficult to find, but the name sort of gives it away. There are some truly daring refreshments served, from seasonal treats to staples like the spicy gin Hot Charlotte.

462 N 36th St
Seattle, WA

3. The Tin Lizzie Lounge

600 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA

While this casually sophisticated speakeasy isn’t hard to find (it’s inside the Marqueen Hotel), its inspired selection of local spirits and 1920s cocktails in a bourgeois New York-style setting sparks a bit of nostalgia all the same.

600 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA

4. Knee High Stocking Co.

1356 E Olive Way, Seattle, WA

Even if they spot the small sign and doorbell, visitors are advised against ringing it unless they’ve booked in advance via text. Inside, bartenders are happy to tailor drinks to individual tastes, though the listed compositions, like the Greener Pastures (absinthe, orgeat, lavender bitters, and pineapple), are plenty tasty. The cocktails complement surprisingly traditional Filipino food, including favorites like garlic-infused chicken arroz caldo.

1356 E Olive Way
Seattle, WA

5. The Needle and Thread

1406 12th Ave, Seattle, WA

Needle and Thread has the speakeasy approach down pat, with inconspicuous signage, a bank-vault door, and a rotary phone call required to call for a visit to this upstairs nook of Tavern Law. While most bars have a set drink menu, the talented mixologists here serve custom drinks based on discussions with patrons.

1406 12th Ave
Seattle, WA

6. The Hideout

1005 Boren Ave, Seattle, WA

First Hill’s dark and cozy artist’s lounge is the kind of place Ernest Hemingway might frequent if he were alive today. The bar is as much about the experience as the libations, encouraging patrons to explore the little details that make it what it is, like the endearing Earl 3.0 Robotic Art Dispenser or The Andy Warhol, which comes with a drink and a polaroid of its drinker. Say cheese.

1005 Boren Ave
Seattle, WA

7. The Upstairs

2209 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA

With its Old World motif, The Upstairs is an eclectic winner. House cocktails play on classics, like the Campargarita’s addition of bittersweet Campari to a margarita, or mix in local favorites, like Every Rose Has Its Thorn pairing Woodinville’s Brovo rose geranium liqueur with ghost chili tequila.

2209 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA

8. Bathtub Gin and Co.

2205 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA
Matthew Lombardi for Eater

This hidden gem derives its name from the often-questionable bootleg hooch being made by enterprising home-distillers during Prohibition. Thankfully, Bathtub’s libations are legit. Dim lighting serves for an intimate, brooding atmosphere offset by friendly staff and stiff cocktails.

2205 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA

9. Zig Zag Cafe

1501 Western Ave, Seattle, WA

While there are no secret codes or faux storefronts to be found here, this is still a favorite Prohibition-style bar that’s easy to miss for anyone not paying attention. Tucked behind the staircases on the way from the waterfront to Pike Place Market, Zig Zag’s rosy interior and buttoned-up bartending staff have turned it into a Seattle icon. An appetizing food menu perfectly complements a ritzy drink selection.

1501 Western Ave
Seattle, WA

10. E. Smith Mercantile

208 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA

A quaint combination of old-timey general store and watering hole, E. Smith stocks its dry goods and denim jeans up front and its killer cocktails in back. Deviled eggs, smoked chocolate chip cookies, and other satisfying bites complete the effect.

208 1st Ave S
Seattle, WA

11. The Pharmacy

126 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA

Tucked in the underbelly of Pioneer Square’s Temple Billiards, The Pharmacy is a trendy little spot that mostly avoids pretentiousness. The decor consists of an unusual mix of white leather sofas, schoolhouse lights, and wire-framed chairs. The amicable staff makes this a fun underground spot to get some lively refreshments.

126 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA

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