When it comes to the modern speakeasy, it’s the “shared secret” that makes them a go to cocktail destination.
Sometimes, all it takes to bring strangers together is the sharing of a common enemy. When the US government enacted Prohibition in 1920, effectively banning all sales of alcohol, the sigh of dismay could be felt in every bar in America. Outraged, folks took to buying booze from bootleggers, or if they had a bit of spare change pre-Prohibition, filling their home’s wine cellar to the brim.
Speakeasies became a hotspot during the time period. If you’re out of the loop, then that back-alley door with a red light shining above it probably means nothing to you. But for those in the know, that light meant a long night of partying with strangers was ahead. While Prohibition ended over 70 years ago, speakeasies still exist today, capitalizing on the essential underground factor of having to know somebody to get in—if you’re here, you belong here. Pasadena has long been home to several speakeasies, but to get in each has a ritual that must be completed before access is granted. Below are three standout speakeasies in the Pasadena area, each with a unique, lowkey entrance.
As the name might suggest, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Make your way down Exchange Alley and you’ll find this establishment’s sneaky back door. But that’s not the end of the story; if you don’t know the password, you’re straight out of luck. Send firstname.lastname@example.org an email regarding why you’re interested in visiting and if you’re persuasive enough, they just may give you the secret ticket in. Once the doorman brings you inside, the ominous red lighting draws you in towards the classic bar top and wall lined with vintage liquor bottles. At long last; you’re at the right place.
25 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 626-676-1205, speakeasypasadena.com
If not for the doorman standing outside this establishment’s hidden elevator, you’d be hard pressed to find the entrance to Pasadena’s lowkey underground wine bar. After a quick trip down to the cellar, you’ll find yourself surrounded by velvet walls adorned with rows of vintage wine bottles, beckoning you to sit down and do what you came here to do; drink. But you’ll want to get there quick; it won’t be long before the secret about this exclusive retro bar is out.
26 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626-578-9156, lecellar.com
Ironically, this German-themed beer hall started out as a police station—long before the owners of Der Wolfskopf turned their underground cellar into a secret speakeasy. Mum’s the word in terms of how to actually get down there; the entrance to the staircase remains blocked off, unless you somehow convince the staff that you are, in fact, too cool for the “regular” bar. A secret assortment of off-the-menu cocktails and beers await those privileged enough to walk down the brick-laden steps. 72 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626-219-6054, derwolfskopf.com