1. Red-Headed Stepchild aka Floppy Disk Repair Company
With cocktails named Anal Sunday and The Carpet Matches The Drapes, you can expect an interesting experience. With red lighting, framed chainsaws on the wall and a set of swings at the bar, this quickly became one of my favorite, quirky bars. It's located next door to HandleBar. By the way, the Anal Sunday is one of THE best Pina Coladas I've ever had and have to get at least one on every visit. You know how much I LOVE my Pina Coladas.
HOW TO GET IN: Requires a code. The code is changed monthly and you have to know someone to get on the exclusive list to receive it. But if you drink next door and are nice to the bartender, they may give it to you.
2. Garage Bar
This tiny venue features a round bar, great bites and delicious drinks. For those not wanting alcohol, there's an extensive mocktail menu. They serve one of my favorite drinks in town - The Indian Paintbrush - which won this bar bragging rights as The Official Drink of Austin and features Dripping Springs Vodka. The ambiance is swanky with velvet curtains, dim lighting and a secluded seating area in the back - perfect for groups.
HOW TO GET IN: Get there early as it fills up quickly due to it's size. No special requirements other than knowing where to go. It's located at the base of an actual garage and you can see the cars going down the ramp. Look for the neon Garage sign with the large arrow.
3. Here Nor There
This is very much an exclusive bar that you need to make reservations for. If you are lucky enough to get in, you'll be greeted with a welcome cocktail before being assigned to your space. You'll be seated at the bar where you can watch the mixologists do their thing, on the comfy, velvet couches or in one of the 2-person booths complete with velvet curtains. My favorite space is the plate room that is covered with copper platters. Oh, and just because you get a reservation, doesn't mean they won't change it to accommodate a VIP member. Also, no photos are allowed, although they have now allowed check-ins and tagging via Instagram. But if you ask nicely and DON'T use a flash, they may allow it. They also have recently started offering mixology classes; they fill up fast and are very entertaining and educational.
HOW TO GET IN: You must request a reservation via their app. EACH person attending must be listed on reservation request. IF approved, you will be sent a code to enter with location address.
4. Firehouse Lounge
One of the BEST Old Fashioneds ever served here! This is one of the places where I will cheat on my vodka with whiskey. The bartenders are amazingly friendly and fun. Reasonably priced cocktails, but no food served. You'll find large seating areas, a stage that features live music, bartender karaoke, or drag queen contests, DJ Booth, and a gorgeous wooden bar that is THE tallest bar ever. I seriously have issues getting up on the bar stools they're so tall! (#shortgirlproblems) This is a must stop before a night out or after to keep the party going.
HOW TO GET IN: Housed in a hostel located across from the Driskill Hotel, look for the sliding bookcase that serves as the door into the bar area in the lobby.
5. Midnight Cowboy
THE original secret bar, this hip place is housed in a former brothel and is said to be haunted. Located on Dirty Sixth, this place is the epitome of a speakeasy. Booths located in the hallway have curtains that you can close for more privacy and there's a small patio area in the back with the soft glow of the Baths & Massages sign. Black leather seating, exposed brick and tin ceilings take you back to the days of Prohibition. Drink program is updated seasonally, so you want to go often to experience their new cocktails. We had some made table-side that was an incredible experience. While photos are allowed, no phone calls nor laptops are allowed.
HOW TO GET IN: You must make reservations via the website and your reservation is limited to a 2-drink minimum and a 2-hour stay. Large parties (8+) cannot be accommodated. Walk-ins are sometimes available - look for the lit Vacancy sign and for Harry Craddock on the buzz list.
6. J Stephens
Just around the corner from Firehouse Lounge, this has become one of my favorite places. Named after the Texas Comptroller that died in an "automobile accident" (questionable), the drinks are named after his life journey and the place is definitely haunted by Mr. Stephens! You can see the articles on the wall and read up on it yourself. Great DJ and a fun place to hangout with friends. Be sure to ask the staff for the stories of strange happenings since it's opening.
HOW TO GET IN: The entrance is located in an alley way behind 6th Street and can be found around halfway down by the red light about the door.
7. Dumont's Down Low
If you are a whiskey lover (or want to be), then this is the place for you! Okay, so this isn't a full-fledged secret bar, but it is hidden and definitely has the speakeasy feel. Full of overstuffed lounging, exposed brick and numerous whiskey barrels, it's an extremely comfortable place for you to hang out while trying new whiskeys. Not a whiskey drinker? Not to worry, they also serve beer, wine and other select spirits.... Yes, vodka of course.
HOW TO GET IN: Walk down the stairs along the whiskey barrels. Hint - You'll find them in the Warehouse District next to the former Academia.
8. Milonga Room
Located on the east side, this secret bar tucked underneath a well-known restaurant. I love it because of all the vintage design and classic drinks. And it's romantic ambiance makes it a great date place. Small and intimate, you can also enjoy some great Argentinian food, adding to the mood. They also offer a variety of entertainment ranging from live music, belly dancing/burlesque and even tarot card readings. Reservations are highly encouraged due to space limitations.
HOW TO GET IN: Reservations can be made via text, by checking with the hostess at the restaurant to see if there is availability or self-reserve through website.
9. Small Victory
Look for a concrete spiral staircase leading up to a narrow bar. Seating is booth like, or at the bar and is known for some very cool cocktails... particularly their martinis. Offering small plates and wine as well. Dim lighting, knowledgeable bartenders and a relaxed atmosphere make this a drink destination.
HOW TO GET IN: Entry is through a glass door that looks like to leads to nowhere, attached to a garage. Look for a red "V" on the door. UPDATE: I was notified that there is now a sign plate next to the door on the wall between the door and the garage.
This is by no means all of them around town and no doubt, there will be more coming up. To see photos of the bars listed here, hit up my Instagram. If you want to know more about these, slide into my DM and let's see about getting you in. I see a secret bar tour in the future!
CHEERS my vodka lovers!