Purveyors

Behind Closed Doors: Pepper’s Guide to Makati’s Speakeasy Scene

March 13, 2014

Take any fancy foreign concept that fosters exclusivity, bring it into the posh Manila scene, and in practically no time, you’re almost guaranteed to have the socialites and yuppies of the Metro flocking to be part of the experience. In this light, the success of speakeasys, at least in the short term, was almost inevitable. Just the latest in a long line of offshore ideas to arrive in Manila, speakeasies were originally a 1920s term for the secret bars in the US that served illegal alcohol during the Prohibition Era. The name itself comes from the bartenders warning customers not to call attention to themselves as they enjoy their taboo drink.

Manila’s speakeasies still adhere to the same rule, applying the same guideline to its patrons’ behavior, but for different reasons. The city’s speakeasies are a haven away from the loud, obnoxious club music that many have grown tired of. They try to keep the background noise low,  allowing for free flowing conversation between guests over quality cocktails.

Today, we’ll tell you all about 6 different speakeasies that Makati has to offer. We hope this’ll make it easier for you to decide which are the best spots for a Friday nightcap, a barkada reunion, or a hot date over drinks.

Blind Pig

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Blind Pig first made waves with their promise of total privacy.

Blind Pig can easily be credited for pioneering Manila’s speakeasy craze. Their name stems from yet another Prohibition Era term for a speakeasy. Blind Pig first made waves with their promise of total privacy. Just make a reservation (which can be difficult on a Friday night), find its side door entrance, identify yourself through the camera and peephole, and you’ll be welcomed into a dark, quiet, and comfortable space. You and your companions are then free to settle into a cozy booth, one of the longer tables, or by the bar itself.

Like the speakeasies of the 1920s, the bar adheres strictly to a certain set of rules on etiquette and decorum. Guests are asked to keep their voices down, there’s no flash photography allowed, and you need to ask permission from the staff if you want to be introduced to someone from another table.  Some may think these stringent policies work against the chill vibe speakeasys seek to engender, but anyone tired of being hit-on by rude drunks in conventional bars or two individuals on a date seeking a few moments alone and away from the world may think otherwise.

Blind Pig has recently upped their menu prices.

Previous customers of the Blind Pig may be shocked to find that they’ve recently upped their prices, but that’s just their way of keeping the space intimate and exclusive. While a mere 500 pesos won’t get you very far inside, it’s easy to look at it as an investment considering everything the place has to offer.

On their menu, one  personal favorite of mine is their Smokey Old Bastard, a sweet bourbon based drink that packs a delightful punch. If their standard menu options aren’t what you’re up for, however, feel free to tell the bartender what flavor or notes you prefer. They’ll do their best to make or recommend the drink that best matches your expectations.

Blind Pig
227 Salcedo St., Legaspi Village,
Makati City, Salcedo, Makati
Text 09175492264 for reservations

Finders Keepers

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Finders Keepers has five house rules all customers have to remember. You order and pay at the bar, guests have to cover their drinks with a tissue if they leave their table, sharing is caring, remember to offer a seat and make a friend, and for pete’s sake, no smoking. Finders Keepers has no signs up front, no brightly lit exits. There’s just a Joe’s Meat Shack parked out front and one or two bouncers screening visitors at the narrow warehouse entrance.

With cocktails that pack quite a kick, it’s easy to get the courage needed to make a new friend.

Step inside and you’ll be welcomed by tables bathed in red light. You’ve found it, so I guess it’s time to keep it? Sit with your friends on one of the comfortable couches or feel free to position yourself beside a stranger on the long table at the other end of the room. With cocktails that pack quite a kick, it’s easy to get the courage needed to make a new friend. The drink prices increase based on the liquor used, though, so be wise when it comes to picking your poison.

Once midnight hits, the bar comes alive with a balanced mix of 70s to 80s hits, samba songs, and hip hop. By then, you’ll probably be tipsy enough to get your feet moving and hips shaking.

Finders Keepers
Warehouse 5, La Fuerza Plaza,
2241 Don Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo corner Sabio),
Makati City
Contact number:  0908813-5622 / 403-3955

Exit

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Some people call Exit Blind Pig’s younger sister.

It’s only Wednesday but you’re already stressed out over that upcoming work presentation, thesis defence, or family squabble. Friday is still so far away but you’re aching for a spontaneous night. Unfortunately  your wallet can only afford a bucket of beer. No worries, meet Exit, Blind Pig’s so-called ‘younger sister.’

Unlike its more serious older brother, Exit is where you can make more noise as you down a shot or two of tequila or have a swig of your favorite beer. At the same time, quiet conversation and privacy isn’t completely abandoned. The dim (but not dark) interiors hide extended booths that run on both ends of the bar, allowing large groups to occupy adjacent tables or smaller circles to converge.

Exit’s cocktails don’t pack the same punch as Blind Pig’s.

Cocktails start at PHP 200 and they have a mix for every palate, from the refreshing Old Sport (gin, cucumber, lime, mint, sugar) to the rum-based Golden Lion. Their menu also includes a wide range of spirits in case you need something stronger to get over your midweek hump. The cocktails don’t pack the same punch as Blind Pig’s, but they’re made equally well.

Exit’s name is a big clue on what you need to do in order to find it. You have to walk into the Plaza Café of Corinthian Plaza (across AIM) and keep going straight until you see the Exit sign. Push the door open and you’re in!

Exit
Corinthian Plaza 121
Paseo de Roxas corner Legaspi Street,
Makati City
Tel No. 551-1283

Red Rabbit

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The secret is only revealed after you’re asked, “Would you like to try the Red Rabbit?”

Bugsy’s has always been a favorite destination among yuppies for Friday nightcaps, but if you’re after one on one time with that special someone, you might want to take them to the restaurant’s “hidden” speakeasy, Red Rabbit, instead. The bar’s entrance is behind the smoking area of Bugsy’s Salcedo branch. Even once you’ve passed through that door, however, you’re still not quite there yet. The secret is only revealed after you’re asked, “Would you like to try the Red Rabbit?”

Red and black dominates this speakeasy’s interiors. The seats, tables, walls, and lamps are spot-on at capturing the mystery and glamour of 1920s décor. The booths are cozy enough for both a small group of friends or a couple wanting to get close. There are tables in the middle for slightly larger parties but wandering pairs won’t feel lonely just hanging by the bar.

Cocktail enthusiasts have Anthony White to thank for the team’s attention to detail in each drink.

The Red Rabbit’s cocktails are competitively priced at PHP 300 to PHP 500. The options range from refreshing mixes like the Pimm’s Cup and Gin Garden to the strong yet sweet Elder Flower Fashioned. Cocktail enthusiasts have Anthony White to thank for the team’s attention to detail in each drink. Just one drink can easily persuade you to go for another, but be warned that about 50ml alcohol is present in each.

Red Rabbit
Unit 1 Paseo Parkview Tower,
San Augustin,
Makati City
Contact No:+639266244685

The Curator

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Curator’s a coffee shop by day, a cocktail bar at night, and a place for people passionate about taste to gather in between.

The Curator is easily the most recognizable establishment on this guide, probably because they don’t consider themselves a speakeasy. Before the bar underwent renovation to its current form, the Curator was a place where people could learn how to mix cocktails. Since then, it’s become a coffee shop by day, a cocktail bar at night, and a place for people passionate about taste to gather in between.

The warm lighting and bare concrete walls give the space a homey vibe. You don’t feel like you’ve entered a secret bar. Instead, it’s as if you’re visiting a friend’s basement that he remodelled specifically for entertaining people. The menu doesn’t overwhelm its guests, giving you the option of either slowly easing into the night with a gateway cocktail like a Daiquiri or Cloister or jumping headfirst into deep waters with serious cocktails such as the Negroni and Vieux Carre.

Just tell them your preferred spirit, your preferred flavor notes and they’ll have delicious suggestions for you to try.

Often, in the middle of enjoying your drink, Curator’s “cocktail guy” Jericson Co or another member of the staff will approach you and ask how you’re liking the drink so far. From there you can engage in a conversation and ask about how the drink was made and what other palate possibilities are available beyond the set menu. Just tell them your preferred spirit, your preferred flavor notes and they’ll have delicious suggestions for you to try. If you’re looking for somewhere to let your hair down and unload all your joys and worries with a friend, the Curator is right there to welcome you.

The Curator is also expanding with its own research and development division called EDSA Specialty Beverages. A new office along EDSA is in the works, so followers can expect more mixology developments from the Curator guys soon. We’ll post additional information about this venture as soon as we learn more.

The Curator
134 Legazpi St. cor C. Palanca St.,
1229 Makati City
Tel (+63.917) 585.9005

Prohibition Liquor Lounge

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For those who long for a taste of the lavish parties, unapologetic decadence, and blinding glamour of the 1920s, they need only step inside the Prohibition Liquor Lounge of Dillinger 1903 to feel like a cast member on Boardwalk Empire. Don’t let the fire exit fool you, it’s really a gateway into a massive space with high ceilings, two large arcs, and a terrace overlooking Makati Avenue. Colored lights dance on the walls yet the music doesn’t deafen the ears. The large couches proclaim loudly that this is a lounge, so down that Don Papa rum, a cocktail or two, and some scotch whiskey and feel free to loosen up and relax.

 Prohibition Liquor Lounge
3rd floor Greenbelt 3,
Ayala Center,
1226 Makati City
Landline:(02) 621 6790

Have you visited any of these establishments? How was the experience? What’s your opinion about the current speakeasy trend in Manila as a whole? Share your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

Gela Velasco Gela Velasco Gela is a young adult slowly settling into her late twenties. She likes to make a mess in the kitchen when no one’s looking, dance till dawn on long weekends, and dream about beef on lazy afternoons. On some days she learns how to write good in graduate school. Her life goals include sashaying somewhat like Beyonce and to write a cover story on Leonardo di Caprio. FOLLOW
16 comments in this post SHOW

16 responses to “Behind Closed Doors: Pepper’s Guide to Makati’s Speakeasy Scene”

  1. kathy says:

    Informative! Doing “research” for this article must have been fun, huh? 😉

  2. kathy says:

    Informative! Doing “research” for this article must have been fun, huh? 😉

  3. Volts Sanchez says:

    I’ve been to Exit (love the vibe), Prohibition (k lang) and Blind Pig (meh).

    I do love The Curator, though. Just (and please trust me on this) don’t ask Jeric for shots.

    • gela velasco says:

      I take not asking Jeric for shots means ask for it if you want a little extra alcohol? :>

      • Volts Sanchez says:

        Yup! Shots give off a vibe that he doesn’t want The Curator to have 😉

        Best way to drink there: Let him know what you’re feeling, right at that moment. Let him ask you a few alcohol-related questions. Let him make you something amazing.

        Try the Top Heavy and the Columbiana. Oh my.

  4. Kristoffer Santiago says:

    Nice. Didn’t think there are other speakeasies aside from Blind Pig and Exit. Haha! Btw, it’s still so weird reading an article here and finding out it’s yours, Gela!

    • gela velasco says:

      Topheeer omggggg hiiiiii!!!! Haha get used to my face again theeen. Hehe! Exit is a fav but curator has that south vibe to it 😉

  5. Mark says:

    I tried Prohibition, it was really fun. The balcony is awesome.

    When they ask you if you would want to try the red rabbit, do we say yes? or some other cryptic reply? sorry, I’m a real noob with speakeasys

  6. YY says:

    Best “speakeasy” for me so far was Finders Keepers…I LOVE that place! Not super snobby (Blind Pig ugh) and Joe’s Meat Shack right outside is a definite win. Maybe they need more variety in their drinks list though — gets a bit boring. :p

  7. rftreyes says:

    An interesting tidbit about the guys at The Curator: They don’t serve vodka 😉 They never have, and I don’t think they ever will. Something to do with it being a cheat alcohol base where you can practically mix anything in it (I guess no challenge for them? Hehe)

    For Exit, there is this nice, citrus-refreshing drink that we always get: They call it De Rigeur. Always a pleasure to go here.

    Personally, though, Blind Pig still gets my vote. I like the shady vibe it gives. And of course, the peace and quiet you sometimes long 🙂

    – Ray
    for
    Lynne-Enroute.com

  8. […] alike in their special little space behind the Cyrano Wine Bar. Though it also moonlights as a speakeasy, The Curator remains a welcoming space—the kind you visit for a quiet start to your day. I […]

  9. […] when served together. Initially, the Curator was just a popup bar but they eventually got their own space behind the Cyrano Wine Bar.  Despite The Curator’s initial success, the three founders still […]

  10. earlycj5 says:

    Having just been at the Blind Pig again last night, and as a fan of whisky, I must point out that the Smokey Old Bastard is a Scotch-based drink, not Bourbon.

    Aside from that, great list. I find the Blind Pig to be more my style than Prohibition. Perhaps that’s because I’m an expat?

  11. […] counterpart Salcedo, with more local spots refining the selection in the area. Older haunts such as Blind Pig, Stockton Place, Yardstick, Your Local, Ba Noi and more, saw young upstarts Nikkei, Rural Kitchen, […]

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