What exactly is a ‘speakeasy’? The term came about during Prohibition in the States, where production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages were illegal. This led to the establishment of speakeasy bars throughout cities nationwide, all of which are typically hidden in plain sight.
It’s thought that the word came from guests needing to whisper, or in this case speak “easy”, before entering the bar. But while Prohibition has long been obsolete, the concept of speakeasy bars continues to evolve, especially in the Klang Valley. Here are some to check out before the year ends and don’t worry, we’ll give you clues on how to find the entrance.
The First Chapter Speakeasy
Located in TTDI along a row of shop lots and up a flight of stairs are two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. And while this may startle you, attention to detail is key in finding its entrance. Instead of looking at eye level, fix your gaze on the floor where you may notice drag marks of the door. Carefully pull one of the bookshelves forward and you’re met with a contemporary atmosphere as bass from hip-hop tunes echo in the background. As for cocktails, the bar offers its own infused gin using florals like rose and chrysanthemums.
Address: 139a, Jln Aminuddin Baki, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur
Operating hours: 5pm–12am, Wed-Sat
Contact: 011-2319 2556
Upstairs at The Crane KL
Housed in the Selangor Grocers’ Guild that was built in 1927 is The Crane KL, a lush restaurant decked in greenery, traditional elements, and turquoise hues. The eatery is also steeped in history, with tales of gambling parlours, opium dens, and brothels that once surrounded the area. Today, patrons enjoy modern fusion cuisine from pasta garnished with edible flowers to local beef satay and more. But nestled ‘Upstairs’ and hidden behind a bright red wall with traditional drawer details is the entrance to the bar. Inside, the dimly lit space is filled with oriental components from its interior to its cocktails, some served in vintage Chinese liquor cups.
Address: 78, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Operating hours: 12pm–12am (Mon-Fri) | 10am–12am (Sat & Sun)
Contact: 011-2319 2556
Visitors often confuse Sip Society’s entrance and it’s understandable why. Because between the stoned wall and an industrial-looking wall art shaped like a door, the latter may look more convincing. But behind the first is where you’ll find the speakeasy bar, with a sleek interior featuring geometric details and neon lights. Electro beats play during the earlier hours before live performances take place later in the evening. Beverages here are rather floral and fruity, utilising ingredients like passionfruit, pineapple, and roses.
Address: 18, Jalan PJU 1/43, Aman Suria, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Operating hours: 4pm–1am (Mon-Sat)
Contact: 010-202 1663
In the heart of Chinatown among other pre-war shophouses is yellow neon signage beckoning the entrance of Her House. But to get into the bar itself, patrons are required to seek a black grilled door that leads them to a mirrored space lined with neon streaks. Take this opportunity to get your fit for the gram before nudging the mirror forward, which opens to the speakeasy. Aside from upbeat hits, the bar offers unique cocktails like a biscoff-inspired drink served in a lopsided wine glass.
Address: 63 D, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Operating hours: 5pm–1am (Mon, Tue, Thur, Sun) | 5pm–12am (Wed) | 5pm–2am (Fri & Sat)
Contact: 017-227 3220
A pioneer in gin-based cocktails, Pahit has been around the nightlife industry for years and has also been named one of Asia’s best bars. Hidden in a 1920s shop lot on a quiet street of Bukit Bintang, a washed-out white wooden door seals the chilled environment of the bar from the outside. As soon as visitors enter, they’re met with jazzy tunes and rattan furniture throughout the indoor and courtyard space. Pahit is known for housing over 80 bottles of gin from around the world and often bottles up its own gin and tonic concoctions.
Address: 3, Jln Sin Chew Kee, Bukit Bintang, 50150 Kuala Lumpur
Operating hours: 5pm–1am (Tue-Fri) | 3pm–1am (Sat & Sun)
Contact: 03-2110 0776
Features image by Sip Society.