Las Vegas is many things, but you probably wouldn’t describe it as low-key. This City of Fun tantalizes our senses in the most thrilling way. Hotel lobbies soar into starry skies. Restaurants serve meals that resemble exquisite works of art. Dazzlingly costumed acrobats leap into stages filled with shimmering water. The clubs pulsate with excitement. In recent years, however, Vegas also has welcomed a handful of bars that express another facet of the always surprising city. They’re quiet. They’re secret. In some cases, you even need a password to get in.
These speakeasies present a whole other side of Vegas: refined, exclusive, and sophisticated. Here’s a look at a few of those worth slipping into.
Towards the back of Block 16 food court inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, behind a black door with nothing but the image of a donkey on it, you’ll find the tequila-and-nacho oasis known as Ghost Donkey. Inside, string lights create a pinkish-orange haze. A playlist of upbeat world music (think: reggae, Brazilian, salsa and more) curated by head bartender Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez provides the celebratory soundtrack. It almost feels like a dream. The outpost of a New York bar by the same name is tiny (there are fewer than 30 seats) but the experience is rich. Servers can craft drinks based on personal preferences, or hand over a menu of specialty libations. Two favorites: The tequila-based Pistolero, featuring roasted poblanos and pineapple; and the Mezcal Sun-risa, combining mezcal and tequila with hibiscus and habanero. Hungry? Select from several tasty nacho dishes, including one with truffles.
The Laundry Room
The bar scene in the Fremont East District of Downtown is high-energy: Large crowds, thumping tunes, drinks for all. It’s a lovely surprise, then, that perhaps the busiest of the bunch —Commonwealth — is also home to The Laundry Room, a speakeasy hidden behind a bookcase. Access is challenging; you must get a secret phone number from the Commonwealth staff, then text for a password. Once you’re in, however, bearded mixologist Anthony Partridge shakes up new spins on old classics while a pianist tickles the ivories across the room. This former laundromat (hence the name) is only big enough for about 12 guests, so the vibe is intimate. Perhaps most incredibly, you can’t hear anything unfolding outside, which makes it feel like the hubbub has disappeared completely.
The experience at MR. COCO, a speakeasy inside the billion-dollar Palms Casino Resort, is completely over the top. After checking in at a desk just off the main casino floor, you are led through a hallway and up to an elevator, which whisks you to cocktail heaven. Here, relax in comfy chairs and booths, listen to tunes on the Steinway baby grand, and sip cocktails like the signature MR. COCO with Cîroc coconut-flavored vodka, Plantation XO rum, O.M. Coconut-Lychee liqueur, coconut puree, citrus and bitters. Owner and master mixologist Francesco Lafranconi’s personal passions are brandy and Cognac, and he has quite a library of both on site. If he’s there when you go, ask him to pop open a bottle of his current favorite and you might just get a private tasting.
The Barbershop Cuts and Cocktails
From the outside, The Barbershop Cuts and Cocktails at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas looks like every other working barbershop in town—three barber chairs, a small waiting area, and a bar cart for customers to indulge while they wait. Behind a back door, however, the barbershop gives way to a dimly lit lounge that cultivates a lively scene. The vibe is old-school; there’s a mahogany bar that dates back more than 100 years, as well as floor and ceiling fixtures reclaimed from a historic barn. Drinks here are stiff; mixologists stock more than 150 bourbons and whiskeys from around the world, and offer organized tastings designed to broaden customer palates. Live bands round out the atmosphere and throw back to almost a Rat Pack-era feel.
Tucked into The Mob Museum Downtown, The Underground is both a working speakeasy and immersive experience. As its name suggests, the bar occupies the basement of the museum—a living exhibit that details the days of Prohibition. The facility has a working distillery and brewery, and it serves its own house-made moonshine and house-brewed beer. There’s a full complement of other beverages, as well—some even come hidden in hollowed-out books for effect. Time your visit to join one of the weekly dance classes teaching classic moves like the Charleston, or drop by a weekly Jazz Night, featuring a rotation of artists. To get in, buy a ticket to the museum and take the elevator downstairs or hit the side door with the password from the museum’s Instagram page.
1923 Bourbon Bar
The last thing you’d expect to find beneath the escalators to the Shoppes at Mandalay Place is a swanky and secret lounge and a cigar room–which is precisely why 1923 Bourbon Bar is such a treat. The bar, on the edge of the gaming floor at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, is open Friday and Saturday nights, and has 50 different bourbons and whiskeys. The most expensive option on the shelf, The Boss Hog V: The Spirit of Mauve, isn’t a bourbon, but rather a 13-year straight rye whiskey finished in Calvados casks. Sometimes there’s Pappy Van Winkle, too. On the cocktail side, a guest favorite is the Gangster’s Holy Grail, which comprises Cantons Ginger Liquor, Fernet Branca, fresh lemon juice, and Crabbies Orange Spice Ginger Beer. If you’re a cigar person, bring some sticks and smoke ‘em in the bar’s Estate Room.