If you're the type of person who likes searching out the best cocktail spots in South Florida, there's a new speakeasy you might miss — unless you know where to look.
Behind a door marked "pantry" in a lively Spanish restaurant in Oakland Park, the newly opened Hidden Speakeasy offers guests a secret enclave to find expertly crafted cocktails.
The bar is the newest venture by Etapas owners Jay Oliveira and Christian Jacques. Both general managers at popular Fort Lauderdale Beach mainstays like Cafe Ibiza and Rock Bar, the pair decided to venture out on their own during the pandemic lockdown, opening a restaurant to showcase their love for Spain and Spanish food.
To that end, Etapas is a bustling enterprise with authentic Spanish cuisine.
When the restaurant opened in September 2021, Oliveira and Jacques brought a Spanish chef to work with Etapas executive chef Carlos Peraza, ensuring a truly traditional menu. In 2022, they opened a second restaurant to expand their vision with American Tapas Bar.
"Tapas is a concept that we all believe in. The tapas style of eating is how we all enjoy. When we go out, we like to order a little bit of everything instead of getting one large entrée," says general manager Tony Soberanis.
Local musicians perform nightly, often spotlighting local guitarist and singer-songwriter Hernan Fortuna or flamenco artists. They keep customers in their seats with daily happy hours from 4 to 6 p.m., half-priced bottles of wine on Monday, paella on Tuesday, ladies' night on Wednesday, and half-priced sangria on Thursday.
Oliveira and Jacques launched Hidden Speakeasy in the space to expand their vision and offer an elevated nightlife experience. The bar officially opened this month, offering a short menu of snack-like appetizers and desserts — think shrimp cocktail, cheese plates, or caviar service — that pair perfectly with the late-night libations.
"There are other speakeasies in downtown Fort Lauderdale, but not in the busy strip where Etapas is located. In our area, it's something that our guests really wanted," explains Soberanis. "A place to lounge and relax. We wanted to make that for them, our guests. That's who made us who we are today."
It's an upscale space where you can start or end the evening. Behind the door to Hidden, you'll find low lighting, dark leather couches, chandeliers, and low jazz music playing. The bar stays open late, offering guests an evening lounge where they can explore various drinks ranging from wines by the glass to classic and signature cocktails.
But don't just go for the drinks. Go for the skilled bartenders who've spent years perfecting their craft. The experience allows guests to explore the mixologists' crafty concoctions or ask them to create the perfect drink based on spirit and flavor preferences.
Soberanis suggests a few cocktails off the menu, starting with the "Hotoni-Spicy" margarita, a likely pick since this mix of tequila, mezcal, passionfruit liqueur, lime, and agave is named after him. He also suggests a selection from the menu's 1920s-era inspired libations: the "Clover Club," an old-fashioned gin drink with lemon juice, raspberry, and egg. Or the "Mystery Treasure" with tequila, lime, and agave served with a basil leaf and a butterfly pea flower-infused sphere with a sprinkle of gold dust for a visually intoxicating beverage.
"Our mixologists have years of experience of really honing their craft," says Soberanis.
Take Lukas Slavev, who brings 26 years of experience working at high-end restaurants in Europe and across the U.S. Or Henrique Delgado, who touts 18 years of bartending skills, including experience with high-energy brands like Hard Rock's Fortaleza and MCS Cruises.
"It's just something they have a huge passion for," sums up Soberanis. "Just going there and experiencing them is amazing. Want something extra special? They can make you whatever you like."
Hidden Speakeasy at Etapas. 4140 N. Federal Hwy., Oakland Park; 754-779-7554; eatapasfl.com. Sunday through Thursday 6 p.m. to midnight, and Friday through Saturday 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.