From your first walk along a tucked-away street to an initial chance encounter with beguiling locals, Buenos Aires seduces anyone who visits. There’s far more to this city than tango shows and parillas — even more so when you venture out at night, just as the sultry city’s clandestine culture awakens.
Thriving in the presence of halcyon days aplenty, discover the hidden speakeasies churning the cocktail culture of South America’s most romantic city to life. Perhaps you must enter through a secret door or have access to a covert code: To those lucky enough to enter, behind closed doors in this city’s delightfully titillating boroughs, delicious libations await.
Here, you'll find your guide to the best.
The Harrison Speakeasy
An ode to the Harrison family who settled in Manhattan in 1875, The Harrison Speakeasy at Malabia 1764 in Palermo is set beneath Nicky Harrison, the city’s most coveted sushi address. In the Prohibition Era, the Harrison family owned Manhattan’s most famous fish market, and, just as the Harrison’s son had a speakeasy at the rear of his family’s fish market, so does Nicky Harrison.
With the permission of the restaurant staff, patrons are led to a holding chamber before the safe is opened, unveiling the lively bar within. With a menu made from a New York Times clipping of Nicky Harrison’s famous jailing in 1930, you’ll find myriad inventive cocktails. Do order the Union Pacific, a drink served in a smoke-blowing train, featuring a fusion of vodka, Earl Grey tea, bitters, ginger and juice. When the real Nicky Harrison was finally run out of New York, he escaped to Buenos Aires where he found love and a new life, and during a visit to this hidden bar, you may find the same.
Located on 872 Arroyo in Recoleta, Florería Atlántico is a hidden cocktail bar inspired by the immigrants who flocked to Argentina in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The façade represents the finest French architecture, set near the popular Retiro railway station, alluring visitors to the entrance, disguised as a florist and wine shop. Only those attuned to the city’s underground culture know to go to the shop’s rear door, which harbors a separate entrance, dividing first-floor blooms and below-ground bubbles.
Owner Renato "Tato" Giovannoni joined forces with 878’s owner Julián Diaz to create the bar. The bar’s proximity to the city’s port is a reflection of Giovannoni’s upbringing, inspiring vibrant memories of his childhood in Pinamar, a town by the sea, nearly four hours south of Buenos Aires. While here, enjoy a cocktail menu separated according to culture, with unique libations listed under Italia, España, Francia, Inglaterra and Polonia, all reflective of the city’s first immigrants. Tying in the aboveground flower shop, the bar’s most revered cocktail is the La Rose, made by topping a mix of macerated lime, elderberry and gin with a sprinkle of rose petals. It goes down rich and smooth, smelling just as French perfume should.
You can find 878 (ocho siete ocho, or El Ocho to locals) at Thames 878 on a quiet, tree-flanked street in Villa Crespo. As the city’s first true speakeasy purveyor, owner Julián Díaz set the standard for underground cocktail culture in Buenos Aires when Díaz opened Casa Chai in 2002, a certifiably illegal, true-blue speakeasy. Moving on to 878 in 2004 and now 11 years legit, 878 is the most welcoming and laid back of the city’s hidden bars, as you instantly feel well-received and warmly welcomed upon entrance, something that can be quite rare in speakeasy circuits. You don’t need any fancy codes to enter, just an address.
Opening its doors at 7pm with an hour dedicated to vermouth, the bar runs well into the morning hours. On many occasions, the back portion of the bar is transformed into an experimental space, with analog music playing as a backdrop to mysterious projections. But every night, you can find an exceptional cocktail list, with both novel and classic drinks, a bar menu that always delivers, a wine list with unique Argentine varietals and an enchanting atmosphere that’s authentic and delightfully free of pomposity.
Designed to mimic a railroad gateway to turn-of-the-century London, J.W. Bradley owner Martin Brenna designed his bar to reflect a hidden speakeasy in Europe. Patrons are required to take a ride back in time on the mythical Orient Express before entering. Inspiring grandeur of a bygone era and erecting visions of grand journeys from Europe to Asia, the bar’s railway car sets the scene. As patrons enter the train’s door, they must wait in the anteroom of an old station, requiring the invitation of a machinist to grant them safe passage. After passing through a tunnel, the bar bursts to life, with the city’s young and beautiful occupying every corner of the red-brick outpost.
Brenna purchased the bar’s interiors in various London auctions and commissioned custom pieces, lending to the bar’s authentic London underground ethos. Here, order the Sigmund Dream Cocktail — a smoked libation served in glass teacup and topped with candied orange — inspired by the Londoner’s love of tobacco. To enter, there’s no need for a password. You must only know to look for an old wooden door at 1875 Godoy Cruz in Palermo.
Disguised by a quintessential café and cake shop on Costa Rica 4827 in Palermo, Victoria Brown is designed as a mirror into the Victorian age, one of the world’s most revolutionary chapters, which is perfectly reflected in the bar’s machinery-inspired interiors. To enter, simply walk to the back of the café and push open the brick door. Once you step inside, it’s easy to picture the world’s industry leaders, artists, and literati flocking to halls such as these, with a plethora of steelwork and plush leather couches.
As a fully-restored abandoned warehouse, the bar was designed by Hitzig Militello Architects to juxtapose tradition and modernity, exploration and psychedelia, creating a dimly-lit space with tinctures and old mechanical clocks, nodding to the royal gears and motions of the Victorian era. To toast to the time’s subtle anarchy while under the watchful eye of Queen Victoria and her secret lover, order the Latin Affair, a fruity cocktail topped with watermelon. For a more decadent libation, go for the Penicillin, a cocktail featuring two parts whiskey with lemon, ginger and honey.
In Palermo Viejo at the unsuspecting address of Arévalo 1445, Frank’s resides. As a true speakeasy, Frank’s prefers to be invisible to the eye, only revealing secret passcodes for entrance on Facebook. Inspired by the Prohibition Era bars of New York’s past, expect a steamy atmosphere: It’s seduction found, with glimmering chandeliers casting sensual shadows on red velvet couches — it’s easy to get lost in the romance of it all. The bar’s word of mouth entry requirement spreads like the best rumors do, in quiet spaces, creating a lively atmosphere attracting the city’s most interesting people who choose to meet at Frank’s, a watering hole where nocturnal pleasures run array.
To enter, patrons must give the secret passcode to the bar’s gatekeeper, which, he in turn, grants the patron a numerical code. After passing the first set of doors, you must enter the code at a phone booth. If successful, you’ll soon be enjoying cocktails in the bar’s split-floor interior. You could order from the expertly-crated cocktail list, but the mixologists at Frank’s prefer to go off menu. Tell them what you like, and you’re sure to be impressed with the creation they present.