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TOP 5: SECRET BARS

19.05.15

Well-intentioned plans to visit the coolest drinking spots off-the-beaten-track so often end in that reliable yet woefully over-visited local watering hole. For evenings spent sipping drinks in uncharted territory we recommend planning ahead. Through our list of Top 5: Secret Bars we've taken the hard work out of chancing upon that hidden gem of a hideaway this summer. Blink and you'll miss them, these bars may be under-the-radar, but they're certainly worth a little foraging for.

THE VAULT AT MILROY'S OF SOHO, LONDON

Milroy’s of Soho on Greek Street has been serving connoisseurs of whisky for over fifty years, but don’t let the shop’s unassuming interior fool you, cross the threshold of a door disguised as a bookcase, descend a flight of stairs, and you’ll find yourself in the midst of one of London’s most raucous drinking dens, The Vault.

Subscribing to a mixing mantra which can best be summed up as more, more, more, measures come bracingly strong (35ml sets the standard) while an affected yet effective interior alludes to the shabby chic typical of so many London’s secret drinking dens. What sets Milroy’s of Soho apart from many neighbouring boltholes? For us, it’s the painstakingly blended cocktails which are clearly reflective of time-cultivated expertise and a love of whisky.

3 Greek Street, London W1D 4NX

ATTABOY, NEW YORK

Before visiting New York's Attaboy, heed one piece of advice; know your poison. Located in the Lower East Side and occupying the location of fabled predecessor, Milk & Honey, like its name suggests, Attaboy favours a no-nonsense approach to drinking. Hidden behind a discreetly initialled door, once you're in there are no menus, so you can order whatever you please. If you're short on inspiration, the adept staff will swiftly see to concocting one of their classics or bespoke blends.

Gimmicky premise aside, the venue makes the most of limited space with decor clearly subscribing to a rough-around-the-edges approach to design. The result is a knowingly unpretentious backdrop, which is the ideal setting for sinking some of the bar's eclectic range of drinks in.

134 Eldridge Street, New York

BLIND TYGER, LEEDS

Like many of our favourite secret bars, Leeds' Blind Tyger is easy to miss, thanks to its intentionally inconspicuous doorway. But, beyond the modest door, what lies ahead is anything but. Dimly-lit decadence is order of the day inside and decoration celebrates old-school opulence.

With a soundtrack as carefully curated as the drinks menu (think swing and jazz peppered with hip hop) Blind Tyger artfully fuses the yesteryear elements of a drinking den with a modern approach to nightlife. But what of the drinks menu? Alongside well-balanced cocktails, you'll find craft beers and a bespoke selection of wines - a true all-rounder.

5 Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, LS2 8JP

CAHOOTS, LONDON

Still popping up at rapid frequency, London’s 1920s prohibition-style bars are now far from novel, making the task of finding  a genuinely creative hidden drinking experience that much harder. Fast forward two decades and step forth Cahoots. Located in an unassuming side alley just off London's iconic Carnaby Street, once you're inside you'll discover just why Cahoots is the most frequented hidden bar in town.

Housed in an abandoned air raid shelter, Cahoots' design draws its inspiration from the London Underground of the 1940s. And, though the interior may be decidedly vintage, the extensive drinks menu is very much future facing.

13 Kingly Court London, W1B 5PW

HAUSBAR, BRISTOL

Not many hidden bars can be found beneath an Indian restaurant, but similarly not many hidden bars can boast the same pedigree as Bristol's Hausbar. The brainchild of Aurelius Braunbarth (who spent his formative years in a Michelin-starred restaurant), Hausbar applies this same world-class precision to its impressive list of cocktails.

Ring the doorbell to enter and find yourself in a dimly-lit room, where bartenders mix up the best in classic and cutting-edge cocktails. With a focus on substance over style, Hausbar goes heavy on the expertise and light on the novelty, little wonder then that it's such a hit with locals in the know.

52 Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2XP