These 6 Speakeasy Bars In Metro Manila Are Waiting To Be (Re)Discovered
On a quiet section of 30th Street in Taguig, not far from the Shangri-La at the Fort, a new bar opened earlier this month.
Try to find it.
There’s no sign to give the place away. This gray side of the hotel is unimposing, giving even the pavement you stand on a utilitarian look. And the strong metal doors hint at a service entrance, not a high-end bar.
But once you step inside, you’ll be privy to Metro Manila’s newest best kept secret. And just like the movie Fight Club, the first rule at The Backroom is to not talk about The Backroom.
Today, there are lots of bars like this one. With sly, furtive looks, these places beckon, inviting you to step lightly into shadowy alleys and hidden exits. It’s a growing wave of nostalgia that began stateside, spreading rapidly across the continent and then across the Pacific. It’s a modern movement that brings the drinker back to the heady, alcohol-fueled decade of the Prohibition. It’s a throwback to nights of dapper men, scotch in hand, confidently approaching ladies at the bar, chatting the women up as they purse their ruby-red lips and inhale the poison in their Virginia Slims.
If you’re hankering for an experience of the Roaring Twenties, fret not. We’ve done the research for you, with a rundown of the best places to hide away and enjoy a single malt on the rocks or a top shelf mix. Below, a list of the top speakeasies in the Metro.
1. The Backroom
As the newest on the list, The Backroom is noteworthy for its quiet, low-key luxury. Their classic and bespoke tipples are perfect both for spending intimate moments with your date and celebrating milestones with small groups of friends.
Though the speakeasy focuses on gins (try out their house special Bee’s Knees, a Manila-raised gin and tonic), adventurous drinkers should give their fig-infused Big Fella a shot. For those who can’t get enough of bacon and Latin American spirits, the bartenders are ready to serve a Dirty Sanchez.
Get a bite of the crunchy Fresh Catch—cracklings topped with tuna poké—before you wrap up the evening. And if you need to clear your head, you can always step outside and catch the cool night air.
Location: Backroom, Shangri-La at the Fort, 30th Street, corner 5th Ave, Taguig
2. Mandalay Whisky and Cigars
Ah, the Mandalay. While Rudyard Kipling’s poem calls to the exotic colonial gem of an old Burmese capital, reminiscing of empire and romance, its namesake bar reckons you to travel the world through its exquisite collection of whiskeys.
From scotch classics to Japanese Yamazaki, Mandalay Whisky and Cigars has it all. The speakeasy even stocks Kavalan, young award-winning single malts aged in humid northeastern Taiwan. Take a sip of their whisky sour while relishing their roasted foie gras, or ask their staff to break open their Methuselah-sized champagne for special occasions.
Close the night of exploration by heading out the Narnia-like closet into The Belle & Dragon, which contains a lively, upbeat crowd. But when you sleep, dreams will transport you to the old Moulmein pagoda, or the hot air balloons and gold spires of Old Bagan at sunrise.
Location: 100 Don Carlos Palanca, Legaspi Village, Makati City
3. The Gold Room
Hidden in Roice’s Restaurant—a foodie destination that’s ostensibly the first house ever built in Quezon City—is The Gold Room. People may have been drinking here since the place was an unending expanse of palay stalks swishing in the wind, but this speakeasy is barely 6 months old.
Despite its youth (or perhaps because of it), this bar is determined to be bold and experimental in its offerings. Featured drinks include the Jakaranda, a smooth and velvety violet blossom created from Hendrick’s Gin, and Armando’s Bird, a lemon-lime vodka cocktail topped with a spruce of fresh mint.
While you peruse the menu, wavering between Italian and Japanese dishes, won’t you give their taho dessert cocktail a try? This bar is all about returning to old Filipino roots while being different, and it’s not afraid to stand out in the process.
Location: 12 Sct Delgado St. Tomas Morato Quezon City
4. Blind Pig
The black Braille signage on the outside is the only thing that will give the Blind Pig away. Though this speakeasy is a pioneer in the Metro, it’s remained stalwart all these years. And despite its popularity with celebrities, the Blind Pig manages to keep crowds down through its reservation system. You also get to knock on a door and talk to staff through a sliding peephole, just like Jake Peralta in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Notice how bartenders pay attention to detail as they create your drink—even a Guinness is poured perfectly into a tulip pint glass with the six-step ritual. We recommend the Kowloon, a cocktail that begins with quality 42 Below New Zealand vodka and ends in a tropical medley of mangoes and coconut. The Bartender’s Choice is also a popular option—just give the man some hints, and slowly marvel in the result.
After sampling their top-notch offerings, return a week or two later to lounge once again in soft leather chairs, drink in hand, listening to the trill of the saxophone and the whisper of old days gone by.
Location: 227 Salcedo St., Legaspi Village, Makati
5. Bank Bar
When you bar hop the Friday night away, do you end up at a 7-11 to down some Gatorade and grab a recovery snack? Perhaps, but if you step into the convenience store at RCBC building in BGC, you’ll find The Moment Group’s speakeasy, Bank Bar. Once you enter, the high, deliberately unfinished ceiling recalls an old European loft, or perhaps a Gothic cathedral.
You’ll find yourself investing in a premium experience at this bank, especially with a mind-boggling liquor collection like theirs. But their drinks won’t break the bank; instead, they’ll defy expectations. Try out the suave Earl Grey Martini if you appreciate high tea, or a Mariang Bastos, an exotic twist that brightens up a local rum.
Remember to indulge in some bar chow, choosing between Filipino favorites like chicken skin chicharron and American comfort food. Or why not both? Besides, it’s not every day that you get to receive a big check, so laugh your way to the bank as much as you want.
Location: (Inside 7/11) G/F RCBC Corporate Center, 25th & 26th St., Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
6. The Curator
Allow us to close with a classic. The Curator was once hidden inside a wine bar, but today, it’s fronted by third-wave coffee shop. At the back wall’s a door, which opens into The Curator’s drinking lounge. Somehow, this not-quite-speakeasy accomplishes the impossible task of combining industrial chic and homey vibe.
The Curator’s quality cocktails speak for themselves, although there’s no need to be constrained by their minimalist menu. Instead, give the bartender a general idea of the drink you want tonight, and see them bring it to reality with a flourish. Their cocktail guy is not one to brag, so we’ll be the ones to tell you—this place landed three consecutive times in Asia’s 50 Best Bars List.
So push your seat back, engage in slow conversation with your friends (or even the bartender), and relish this perfectly curated moment—one you won’t see on Instagram.
Photos from @bank.bar and @backroomph