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Battuta, the First-Ever Speakeasy in Boracay Is Here

...and you must enter through a wardrobe closet to access it!

Speakeasies have been trending in Manila years ago, with hidden entryways, unassuming doors, and even secret passcodes, making it a cool and unique hangout spot for yuppies who crave a good nightcap after a long workday. It may be popular (even mainstream) today, but let’s trace its origins hundreds of years back. 

Speakeasies emerged during the Prohibition era in the United States, which lasted from 1920 to 1933. This ratified the ban on the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. Unsurprisingly, it resulted in the widespread illegal production, distribution, and consumption of alcohol. Back then, speakeasies were clandestine establishments that illegally sold alcoholic beverages. The term supposedly originated from patrons being instructed to "speak easy" or softly when discussing the location of these illicit bars to avoid attracting unwanted attention. They operated covertly, often in hidden locations, basements, or behind unmarked doors, with passwords or secret knocks to gain entry.

Now back to the postmodern era when speakeasies are trendy, more and more entrepreneurs saw the demand for it, making it a top-of-mind go-to for a fun nightlife experience. I, for one, am a fan of these intimate and small-scale bars, because unlike massive clubs and drinking lounges, the music in speakeasies is toned down, usually of jazz decent, with comfortable seats, encouraging guests to converse, relax, and enjoy proper cocktails and libations that are more elevated and sophisticated than usual.

Battuta’s maximalist interiors with old-world charm

It’s about time Boracay had one, and as for entrepreneur trio Ramon Gaston, Pete Cape, and Marcus Thomson, their timing couldn’t have been any better. After “accidentally” acquiring Kasbar Moroccan restaurant in Station 1, they put up its sister brand, Battuta, a few years later—a beachfront speakeasy with old-world charm. Having a lust for speakeasies, Pete made it a personal mission to scour the earth for the best ones, being an enthused traveler himself. He’s seen it all, from East to West. The whole culture, vibe, and experience of speakeasies made him dream about owning one, and fast-forward to a couple of decades later, he now finally has his own “toy.” But dreams don’t come true easily. Pete and his partners went through countless grueling challenges for the birth of his baby. From a difficult building acquisition to some foundational issues executing their structural interiors, they had to endure a lot. But as the saying goes, ”Before the reward, there must be labor.” After eight long months of building and fixing, Battuta was finally born.

The backlit onyx bar tabletop took 2 tries to achieve!

After visiting the place, I’d say it was well worth it. Entering through a wardrobe closet by the second-floor wall of Royal Indian Curry House (RICH) at Station 1, I was transported to a small but opulent space intricately filled with drink trinkets and bar troves. I was in awe the moment I stepped inside. The backlit onyx bar tabletop is a breathtaking focal point in the 52-sqm space. The walls are painted midnight blue with detailed gold accents of stenciled doily patterns. Frames of AI art cover wide sections of the wall, with interesting photos of the partners and animals in unique scenarios. The sets of furniture have a vintage luxury look to them, overall giving old Marrakech vibes. The name truly fits the look, as it came from Ibn Battuta, a world traveler in the 1300s, who hailed from Morocco.

Battuta’s drink trinkets and bar troves

No bar is accomplished without its magical concoctions and selection of bevies. Having tasted many cocktails and blends from all over the world, I’d like to think I know a proper drink when I taste one. Under the headship of RG Jarque, they have curated a signature bar menu that’s sure to impress anyone. Battuta’s tandem of bartenders were no less impressive, as they were trained eight months prior to opening, gathering a wealth of knowledge for their craft. They even figured out how to work their own rotary evaporator (rotavap), a device that distills alcohol, allowing them to experiment with various elements for flavor infusion. To my delight, they just finished bottling their own nori-flavored alcohol, and Kim, one of the bartenders, whipped up a custom drink for me.

My custom nori cocktail, made on the spot just for me, served on a miniature carpet coaster

One sip and I had a big dopamine rush. The drink reminded me of the classic margarita, but with the savory finish of Japanese seaweed. I tasted notes of capsicum, which blended so well with its mild saltiness, and then a revitalizing tartness coming from the lime juice. It was a well-balanced drink. It surely fit my cocktail palate 100%, and my taste buds were definitely dazzled.

Bartender Kim, handing me my Nutty Silk Road cocktail, and thoroughly explaining how the rotavap works

To start off with their signature drinks, I got their bestseller, the Nutty Silk Road (P400), a bourbon-based take on the Baklava, a popular Moroccan pastry. It starts with butter fat-washed bourbon whisk base, mixed in with baklava syrup, angostura and cacao bitters, topped with a deep-fried sheet of siomai wrap, then sprinkled with crushed cashew and pistachio nuts. I love how creative and resourceful this concoction is, since pre-made phyllo dough is hard to find on the island. It works tremendously well though–the smoothness and smokiness of the bourbon plus the crisp, nuttiness of the garnish—it’s only logical that this drink is their number 1 bestseller. They even have the flavor attributes of their signature cocktails on their digital menu to help you find your perfect cocktail match.

Nutty Silk Road’s flavor attributes

For a fruity and sweet drink, I ended my night with the Violet Medina (P400), an elegant cocktail with a lemongrass gin base, topped with a foam of mixed berries, with lime distill and lychee syrup. This drink is a crowd-pleaser, with its refreshing and light mixture, added with the fun and airy texture of the foam. But if you want to keep it simple, they also have their own take of the well-loved classics, from Averna Negroni to Clarified Mojito to Whiskey Sour et al, ranging from P385 to P450 per glass.

The delightfully fruity Violet Medina

I really loved savoring my night at Battuta. From the intriguing entrance down to the tiny details—clarified ice, cocktails served on miniature Moroccan rugs, unique garnishes—my overall experience is of wonder and magic. I’ve seen many pass through the narrow door and have their jaws drop the moment they step in, spellbound. It’s like being transported to a whole new otherworldly place, with much to discover and relish. The atmosphere is enthralling yet cozy that’s inducing for memorable conversations, with intimate connections lingering in the air. Like Ibn Battuta’s philosophy in traveling, Battuta, the speakeasy, has a similar effect on those who step foot on their carpeted floors. As he once said: “Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Note: They only serve drinks and their signature peanuts (so good). Make dinner plans accordingly. It starts to get full around 9:00 PM, best to make reservations.

Battuta Speakeasy is at Station 1, front beach, Boracay. You may enter through the second floor of Aplaya. For the cool wardrobe closet entrance, pass through the second floor of Royal Indian Curry House. 

Reserve a table for guaranteed seats via their Instagram at @battutaboracay or via SMS at +63917 387 2241. Open daily starting 6PM till late.

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