The underground jazz joints, secret clubs, and password-protected bars iconic of the Prohibition Era known as “speakeasies” for the need to speak softly, and “easy” about them, remain hidden to the untrained eye in the Eternal City. Although they maintain the allure of a speakeasy (hard to find, and require either a reservation, password or both) don’t expect basic drinks and home-made moonshine; these hidden lounges serve some of the best cocktails in Rome, but you didn’t hear it from us…
The Jerry Thomas Project
If you have ever walked down Vicolo Cellini, you have probably passed one of the best cocktail bars in Rome without knowing it. In true speakeasy style, the Jerry Thomas door is inconspicuous and requires a password and previous booking to get in. Once inside, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back into the 20’s. The plush interior is decorated with vintage couches and is filled with the sounds of live jazz. Lounge on a leather sofa or sit at the bar and watch the bartenders carefully mix, muddle, and pour the rare bitters, liquors and the various flavorsome ingredients to create unbeatable cocktails from the 19th and 20th century. The sexy ambiance and delicious drinks make Jerry Thomas the perfect spot for a clandestine date night or that meeting you might want to keep hush-hush. Always book between 4 pm and 7pm and don’t forget the password.
The Race Club Speakeasy
A stone’s throw from the Colosseum, The Race Club is a speakeasy that’s fast becoming a beloved late-night underground den. Hidden from plain sight, this member’s only bar is seriously dedicated to its cocktails. Sit back and relax on one of their plush sofas with a well-mixed libation unique to Race Club’s menu. The cocktail menu is divided into three sections: classic drinks, classic drinks reinterpreted (think a moscow mule spiced up with jalapeño-flavored ginger beer), and signature cocktails. There’s also an aperitivo available on weekends, with food that matches perfectly with the cocktails.
To the naked eye, Barber Shop seems like a gentleman’s hair salon; however, at night the basement turns into a “members only” cocktail lounge (dressier attire recommended) with moustached, tattooed barmen typical of a Roman speakeasy. This underground club is open late into the night (and sometimes until sunrise), not only making it the ideal venue for a discreet nightcap but also a chic afterhours spot where you can waste away the hours sipping a classic or signature cocktail.
Via Iside 2/4/6 (Colosseo/Manzoni)
Mon-Thur from 10pm-4am / Fri-Sat 11pm-4am / Sun 10pm-2am
Literally located derrière Piazza Delle Coppelle, this cozy speakeasy is hidden in plain sight right in the heart of Rome. After you ring the doorbell, a large mechanical door slides open to reveal a dimly-lit living room with sultry live jazz singers and mixologists who take their cocktails and moustaches very seriously. Duck in at any time of night, relax on a couch, ottoman, or any of their velvety, vintage furnishings and sip a spicy cocktail infused with curated ingredients.
Vicolo delle Coppelle, 59 (Centro Storico)
Sip your way back in time at Campo de’ Fiori’s underground cocktail bar. What used to be an old theatre has transformed itself in one of Rome’s coolest speakeasy bars and cultural associations. Argot gives off warm, friendly vibes steeped in sleek, vintage nostalgia. Those who wish to frequent Argot pay a €10 member’s fee to become an associate, or as the boys put it: their guest. Because that is what Argot is about: feeling relaxed and at home. With unique and enticing cocktails, live music every weekends, events and a quirky, intimate ambience – Argot is the perfect place to step back in time.
Via dei Cappellari, 93 (Campo de’ Fiori)
Mon-Sun from 11pm-5am
In the popular Panineria, La Premiata in Pigneto, there is a door with neon writing marked “Carni Scelte.” Do not be fooled. This is not, in fact, a freezer filled with various meats. Open the door and you’ll find one of Pigneto’s best-kept secrets; the hip cocktail bar Spirito. To enter this New York-prohibition style locale, book ahead, and once inside follow these simple rules: speak softly, phone use to a minimum, be polite to the bartender, no groups, and no drinks will be served to those already drunk. Nestle into the red leather booths and enjoy Spirito’s delicious cocktails, which feature exotic flavors and syrups that breathe new life into the classic recipes. This speakeasy also offers a twist on the classic weekend brunch with “Spirito Brunch Sessions,” a welcome occasion to try their refreshing daytime cocktails and delicious food (every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm.)
Named after Al Capone, the famous gangster, bootlegger and mob boss of the Chicago Outfit, Capone’s is a small speakeasy with the spirit of the prohibition era and style of the 1920s. Those who enjoy getting dolled up in 1920s garb, imbibing on the best French Champagne or classic cocktails should head to Testaccio with either special key or the password. The password can be guessed by solving a riddle on their website; however, the key is only for the members deemed serious “gangsters.” Once you’re part of Capone’s gang, their live music events, burlesque shows, and cocktail classes will be open to you…as long as you follow the rules.