Ten years ago, the bar scene in Taipei was quite different from that of today. Lounges and clubs were big but lowkey spaces (that also placed an emphasis on mixology) were extremely rare. I remember being introduced to Mono Mono at the time - no visible entrance, just a dimly lit sign underneath a tree illuminating the stone paths that led to a nondescript door in the back. This was my first encounter with a hidden bar in this city, which have since then, become a thing. Coveted for its unique ambiance, subtle exclusivity, and knowledgeable team of mixologists, these hidden bars are a must-visit.

Bar Pun

Just being able to locate the entrance to this establishment might stump you for a quick minute. But once figured out, you emerge from the darkness and into a sleek and sophisticated-looking space. PUN is illuminated from underneath and the mixed drinks never looked so good. The seated area is in the back, complete with plush armchairs to create an atmosphere of cool intimacy for you and your closest friends.

While the bar has its fair share of classics, do venture beyond those and try their signature cocktails -- including an egg white earl grey brandy (elegantly dubbed “Jon Snow”) and a gin-based soda with floral notes. Fried chicken and pork-belly are also available for ordering from the kitchen. It gets pretty packed on the weekends so do call ahead for reservations.

Pro Tip: Come for the cryptic entrance, Jon Snow, cool factor

Mozi

This bar might be the most textbook definition of what a speakeasy is. Located behind a bookshelf of a functional barbershop, Mozi is a fun and inviting space that gets rowdier as the night goes on. Perfect for after work gatherings, Mozi has a decent food selection ranging from real foods such as mushroom risotto and pork knuckle spaghetti, to bar essentials such as crispy chicken thighs and french fries. They even have luwei, which is an ideal late night fix.

Don’t be fooled by their extensive food menu -- their cocktails are still what they’re known for. Depending on the occasion, you can sometimes expect a Woody (or another Toy Story favorite) to appear in your drink of choice, or an Old Fashioned served in a Chinese style tea cup set. Their bloody mary, a rare find at cocktail bars (or any bars for that matter), is a must-try. Reservations allowed for both bar and seated areas.

Pro Tip: Swing by for a haircut, after work shenanigans, Bloody Mozi

Le Kief

A quiet space hidden behind a makeshift tailor shop, it requires you to pick up the rotary phone and dial a number to reveal a door leading to the bar. Once inside, there is a small bar and a bigger seated area to the left. Dimly lit, Le Kief is more subtle in its atmosphere, playing soft indie music in the background with lit candles at each table.

An incredibly sexy bar to take your date to, Le Kief has a wide array of cocktails served in sleek and tall stemmed glassware. Its varnished wooden ceiling, tiled table tops, and unfinished walls give off a rustic yet cool vibe that make you feel right at home. While they have their classics, Le Kief is actually known for their delicious sangrias. For those who prefer a non-alcoholic nightcap, there is a good selection of freshly squeezed juices and teas.

Pro Tip: Head over for the sangria and mood lighting

Hanko 60

Located in one of the most bustling and youthful neighborhoods of Taipei, Hanko 60 in Ximending is a watering hole that marries the local Taiwanese elements (in ingredients and ambiance) with a cocktail bar outfitted behind the facade of a retro movie theater. The interior immediately transports you back to the romantic era of Taiwanese cinema, complete with neon signs and movie paraphernalia.

All of their drinks have either a Taiwanese twist (Bubbly Long Island, Winter Melon Mojito, Ramune Mule) or cinematic themes (Dream of the Red Chamber, Casper, Movie Street). There is even a Ju-on inspired vodka cocktail! If you’re feeling adventurous and are looking for something beyond your typical cocktail/speakeasy bar, be sure to check out Hanko 60.

Pro Tip: Come if you're a cinephile, bored of Old Fashioned’s, enjoy dramatic presentation

Ounce

The OG of speakeasies in Taipei, Ounce has since relocated from their old home to a new one on Xinyi Road, this time behind a bodega-like cafe that also sells simple mixed drinks (gin/vodka sodas, etc). Press a button and push the door to enter a dimly lit but warm and inviting space that is ideal for intimate conversations with friends and even bartenders.

Their playlist is always on point while their bartenders, some of the best and most skilled in town, personalize classic cocktails according to your specification. If you are looking for a quality Old Fashioned or a classic Negroni -- look no further. Never one to disappoint, the bartenders at Ounce know how to impress and bring out the best and most complementing flavors within a cocktail.

Pro Tip: Stop in for a nightcap, any classic cocktail, and a decent playlist

MUD

A personal favorite for get-togethers, this underground bar has a cool, industrial feel with its unfinished walls and ceiling. Mismatched armchairs surround small tables to create a cozy atmosphere. MUD’s bartenders adds a freshness factor to their extensive list of signature cocktails, using ingredients such as rosemary, lemongrass-infused gin (that tastes just like a chilled tom yum soup), kumquat, and cilantro.

Often packed on even weekdays, MUD also has resident deejays that spin at the DJ booth at one end of the room, offering live music to a laid-back space. Entrance/exit can be reached at the side of the amba Taipei.

Pro Tip: For lovers of live music, being underground, and tom yum soups

The Key Company

This wouldn't be considered a traditional “speakeasy” but it is a) hidden and b) a bar so it technically fits the bill. It’s got some bar essentials - a generous selection of wines, Taihu beers on tap, and whiskeys (Balvenie, Ardbeg). But what sets this place apart is its killer dishes from the kitchen. The roasted whole spring chicken and grilled beef are both must-tries. This is a great place to grab a late dinner and a drink (or two) with friends.

Located in Dongqu, The Key Company is in a prime and central location to kick off the night’s festivities. The cheekiness of the establishment can be seen in its entrance - answer celebrity trivia to get in the door and also its bathrooms, where there is usually a poll across the toilet judging which celebrity you deem is hotter (a white marker is available for you to cast your vote).

Pro Tip: Check this out when you’re in Dongqu, feeling hungry, and thirsty for beer and wine

Kashoku

Though the door is located on the first level, Kashoku is actually on the basement level. For whiskey lovers -- rejoice! This is a discreet bar known for their selection of Japanese whiskeys, as well as scotch and bourbons. For the non-whiskey drinkers, fear not. Kashoku is well-stocked with Japanese gins, from Suntory’s Roku (botanical with hints of cherry blossom) to The Kyoto Distillery’s Ki No Bi, Ki No Tea, and Sen no Suzu, all of which have yuzu and tea notes.

This is a non-gimmicky, modest and cozy downstairs space that prides itself on whiskey and gin cocktails. Come alone or with a friend, the bar is a neighborhood bar that sees familiar faces on even weeknights.

Pro Tip: Drop in if you enjoy Japanese whiskeys and gins, simplicity