Stay Classy This Winter With a Spiced Pear Tom Collins
At Buenos Aires Café, long known as a date-worthy Argentinian eatery, you can now enjoy a nightcap and a flamenco performance at the secret basement bar, Milonga Room. The menu includes tapas and wine, but the spotlight is on amaro and fernet-focused cocktails, as these herbal spirits are major players in Argentinian drinking culture.
How to get in: Walk around the back of Buenos Aires Café, and knock on the blue door Emerald City style. Reservations are recommended to guarantee entry.
East Side mezcaleria Techo -- from the owners of Mi Madre's -- specializes in traditional consumption of the smoky spirit. Sip on copitas of single village mezcal in the very private, candlelit niche, or opt for a cocktail like the always popular mezcal margarita.
How to get in: Find the staircase accessible from the patio of Schoolhouse Pub. Enter Techo (Spanish for roof) and be transported to a place where the mezcal runs like water.
And the winner for the simultaneously bro-iest and most-difficult-to-access speakeasy-style bar is... Red Headed Stepchild! Behind the keypad and “Floppy Disk Repair” sign lies a shoebox-sized bar with whimsical touches everywhere -- giant swings, neon sign that reads “ mmm... your hair smells pretty” -- and cocktails that don’t want to be taken too seriously.
How to get in: The (red headed) owner of this bar wants it to be a legit word-of-mouth system. So, ask someone! And, once you’re in, answer a series of questions and you’ll be notified via text when the password changes.
You wouldn’t expect a fine cocktail to come from a spot that was (until recently) advertising modeling and oriental massage, but at Midnight Cowboy -- if you follow the proper process -- you can get one poured and enjoy it in a lush, slick atmosphere, hidden in plain sight in the middle of Dirty Sixth.
How to get in: Head to the speakeasy’s website to make a reservation, or if the red light bulb is illuminated, walk-ins are welcome. Then ring the buzzer marked “Harry Craddock” for entry, and get ready to enjoy a damn-good drink.
While the Continental Club requires no introduction (or directions, given the iconic neon sign) the Gallery is a little less of a landmark. The Continental’s upstairs companion bar offers music, art, and mixed drinks in a far cozier environment than that of the main institution, and is easily accessible if you know where you’re going.
How to get in: Head a couple of doors north of the main entrance, and up the stairs.
The classic hostel takes a Harry Potter-ish turn at Firehouse, where a secret bar is accessible only through a sliding bookshelf in the hostel lobby. Inside, you’ll find well-crafted cocktails, live performances, and -- because it is still a hostel -- probably a little debauchery, all in a warm, inviting atmosphere. (No word on the butterbeer, though.)
How to get in: Head to the bookshelf in the hostel’s reception area, and slide it across.
Typically, the only drinks being consumed in parking buildings are those of the paper-bagged variety, but Garage turns the tables and slings elaborate concoctions like the rosemary-infused Indian Paintbrush, which was crowned the Official Drink of Austin 2015.
How to get in: Head into the parking garage on the northeast corner of Fifth and Colorado, where the word “Cocktails” quite fittingly marks the parking garage and a neon sign marks the bar’s entrance.
While this watering hole isn’t exactly heavily concealed, if you were to never venture up the stairs to the area above Whisler’s, you’d never know it existed. The second-floor spot is cozy and quiet, with stone walls, a few stools, and a thick slab of bar. In terms of drinks, it’s all mezcal, all the time. Basically, if you’re looking for a low-key evening on the East Side (and want to indulge specifically in this unique, smoky spirit) consider Mezcalería Tobalá the perfect spot to do your sipping.
How to get in: Just head up the staircase found on Whisler’s patio!
Consider Bar Ilegal a bar within a bar, easy to spot when you head outside at Clive but invisible from the street. Located right in the backyard, the tiny candlelit stone cottage -- yet another drinkery by Austin's Bridget Dunlap, the brains behind establishments like Lustre Pearl, Bar 96, and more -- specializes in artisanal mezcals and mezcal-based cocktails, and serves as an excellent respite from other rowdier Rainey Street bars. Pro tip: Bar Ilegal is only open on Friday and Saturday from 8pm to 2am.
How to get in: Head to the backyard at Clive.
If the W didn’t have an aura of upscale exclusivity before, the Secret Bar seals the deal. Open from 4:30pm until late every day, the lounge has its own bar, along with a vintage McIntosh sound system, gorgeous both to look at and listen to.
How to get in: Enter through the Records Room in the W’s Living Room Bar, and congratulate yourself. You’ve officially gone down the rabbit hole.