In a city with something spectacular down each alleyway and layers of history hidden just below its surface, it’s not a surprise in Mexico City to find cozy back corners and off-the-books concerts behind unmarked doors and down dark hallways. The speakeasy wave in Mexico’s capital has further ignited a cocktail renaissance, with some of the best mixologists in Mexico concocting behind closed doors. These swanky backroom dives are here to stay and are taking barhopping in one of the world’s most exciting cities to a new level.
Hidden behind a benign-looking Oaxacan food fonda, the bar at Hanky Panky is accessible through a freezer door and then down a dark hallway where you may begin to doubt whether you are about to get a drink or get mugged. But then the host who is leading the way punches in a code and a door opens into a swanky 1920s-style club where barkeeps stand at the ready in their button-downs and black vests.
The beauty of this bar is its intimate size–with space for only about 30 or 40 people you have the bartender’s full attention and you feel like you have stumbled upon a truly exclusive experience. Consistently rated as one of the world’s 50 best bars, Hanky Panky serves some of the city’s best cocktails. Once upon a time, you needed a membership to get in most nights, but now you can make a reservation on OpenTable, linked from their website, Instagram, or Facebook.
Parker and Lenox
Vintage Edison bulbs barely illuminate the overstuffed red velvet chairs and bare concrete pillars of Parker and Lenox’s speakeasy. Dark vintage wallpaper and black leather booths add to the smoky backroom ambiance and a small stage draped in a blood-red stage curtain awaits whatever band will be playing tonight. Parker and Lenox was one of the first speakeasies in the city and remains one of the most popular today, in part due to the fantastic musicians they bring in—jazz, blues, flamenco, and others—and in part to their stellar list of classic and signature cocktails.
To join the party you can make a reservation via the link on their Instagram, a message to their Facebook page, or trytheir Whatsapp number and they will confirm with you before the date. The first few reservations of each night can choose where they want to sit, so if you want something center stage is sure to book early as soon as that night’s act is posted on social media.
One of the most secretive experiences, Handshake is located behind a door marked only with the number 13, at the entrance of the NH Collection hotel in Colonia Juarez. Small and intimate, the bar fits around 30 drinkers max and is decked out in black and gold with Art Deco-style chandeliers and a massive mirror at one end. The waitstaff, with their in-depth knowledge of the cocktail menu and the preparation of its elements, will thrill die-hard cocktail lovers.
These libations are some of the most inventive and delicious in the city including a fig martini and butter mushroom old-fashioned that will mellow out even the longest day and sorest feet. An added bonus is four mini versions of classic cocktails–martinis, old-fashioneds, and negronis–that let you taste more in a single visit. Like Hanky Panky, the small size means very personalized attention from barkeeps and waitstaff without it feeling over-the-top. This is a great place for an early-evening cocktail with friends or a date night. You can make a reservation on Opentable.com, from the link on their Instagram page.
For a speakeasy bar that’s more chill, The Backroom is through the kitchen and a set of doors from the Trattoria Enricos in Colonia Juarez. The place is divey-hip, with a wall of wine bottles, a three-stool bar, and some funky décor that makes it feel more relaxed than some of the other upscale options. The crowd is less dressy too, and it feels like a local hangout where you could take your mom or your best friend. You can order hard-to-find classic cocktails like aviations and sidecars and the Italian menu is a welcome bonus.
This place is the smallest of all of the speakeasies on this list, and is therefore pretty strict about the reservation process—you can’t get seated early and you have a 15 minute grace period before they give away your table. The fastest way to make a reservation is to call.
While Casa Franca doesn’t have all the incognito maneuvers of some of the speakeasies on this list, it’s almost impossible to stumble upon. Up the stairs from an unmarked door, this bar is a total hidden gem, one that fans of blues and jazz will especially appreciate.
It’s located in a former apartment, with five or six low-lit rooms filled with couches and comfortable upholstered chairs, each with individual terraces that look out into the hustle and bustle below. There is also a central “living room” with a stage and a handful of tables. When you want some fresh air, you can head upstairs to the terrace where there is another bar for drinking al fresco. The cocktail menu is long and dotted with drinks named after famous musicians like the “Louis Armstrong” with Union Mezcal, lemon juice and egg white or the “Nina Simone” with Ketel One, berries, and Prosecco.
It helps to make a reservation in advance via Whatsapp, but it’s not obligatory. You can also walk up to the bar and if there’s space, they’ll let you in. Casa Franca lists their weekly shows on their Instagram account so you can see who will be playing for heading out.
You don’t need a reservation at the spacious Musak, but you do need to know where to find it. On the second floor of the boho-chic Tres Tonala, Musak has a breezy, mid-century modern style to match the beautiful historic building within which it’s located. There’s an open dance floor, with a scattering of tables in royal blue and mustard yellow, and a long common bar with seats for about 10. The main attraction is the slew of DJs that spin records most nights and the young dancing crowd. The drinks are good and there are a few small plates that are offered until 11:30 p.m. The best way to make a reservation is via a Whatsapp message, but again, it’s not absolutely necessary. You can also just go to the restaurant downstairs and ask if there is space. It’s a nice end-of-the-night locale, with is a smaller crowd hanging out past midnight.