The allure of “secret” watering holes first came about during the prohibition era of the roaring 20s. With the ban of alcohol in place, tiny bars were kept secret, with little to no indication of the usual bar aesthetic from the outside. The concept of these hidden spots — scouring to earn your drink — has blossomed over the decade in our own city. With a nod to Tate at Intermark for pioneering the way back in 2011, we pop the cork on Kuala Lumpur’s very best speakeasy bars, and where to find them.
PS 150, Jalan Petaling
The Chinatown escape is decked in oriental influence. Nestled in Petaling Street, there’s little to nothing around at night, but inside you’ll find Chinese character neon lights inside, lanterns, and crafty cocktails brought to you by award-winning barista, Angel Ng. Although without a reservation on the weekends, you could be lingering for a bit waiting for a seat.
What to order: A buttery shot of Pandan Rum.
Where to find it: Behind an old-school Chinese toy shop.
Skullduggery, Bukit Damansara
Tiny copper skulls plastered against the walls, and a toy train that makes rounds delivering shots say it all: this is one hedonistic hideaway. The drinks, however, don’t play around — they all pack double shots, the standard pour adhered to at the world’s top bars.
What to order: The ‘Star Walker’; a blend that includes chai and an egg white.
Where to find it: Behind the alleyway of Huckleberry Food & Fare
Omakase + Appreciate, Jalan Ampang
The bar swoopt into the speakeasy scene in 2013, giving it a well-deserved reputation of a long-standing favourite. Following an ‘omakase’ style, leave it to the skilled hands of award-winning mixologists Shawn Chong and Karl Too to whip you up a cocktail that’s ‘you’… in a glass.
What to order: Anything Shawn and Karl hand you. And then another one.
Where to find it: Behind “No Entry” doors on the lower ground floor of Ampang Bangunan Ming Annexe.
Jack Rose, Bukit Damansara
You’ll know it by the neon rose on the wall, as seen on Instagram. The newer kid on the block exudes the raw vibe of a bar that takes pride in simple, yet sophisticated cocktails. And, it’s good a simple yet hearty menu of food. You’ll find a plate of freshly deep-fried chicken wings does the trick.
What to order: The ‘Jack Rose’, a citrusy cocktail invested in the 1920s.
Where to find it: The basement floor of Wisma E&C.
Suzie Wong, Jalan Raja Chulan
A sexy tribute to Hong Kong’s nightlife in the 1950s, this wonderland of a bar has as much to see as there is to drink. On the outside there is a modest noodle station but once you step inside, you’re transported to a world of glitz and glam, afforded by ladyboy dancers, live music, and even a small corner for play-pretend gambling.
What to order: The ‘Coconut Rumble’, if you’re up for an actual coconut taking up space on your table. You should be, though.
Where to find it: At the back entrance of Wisma Lim Foo Yong.