Want to get into the Continental Club? It's quite simple: Schmooze your way passed the iron-willed bouncer guarding a Tiffany Blue door, and you've overcome your first hurdle. Your next mission is to locate the second door at the bottom of a steep staircase in complete darkness, then you're finally in. Covert, sexy and sophisticated, this decadent lounge dug out from beneath Bar Amá in Downtown's Historic Core might just be CIRCA 93's (The Room, Barcopa) swankiest establishment. The centerpiece of this mid-century subterranean lair is a full wrap-around bar tended to by a talented and friendly staff (don't let the doorman fool you). This is by no means a speakeasy—just a good old-fashioned cocktail club, complete with first-class service and a menu of 15 twisted tried-and-true classics by booze whiz John Lasker (The Association). The highlight is undeniably the Gordon's Cup ($13)—an elevated gimlet with dry gin, fresh lime juice and crushed cucumber, gussied up with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Sip on that and you'll forget how long it took you to get inside.
Great for: An intimate outing designed with the sole intention of getting sloshed—in a respectable way, of course. Low lighting sets a seductive mood, but also prevents patrons from seeing exactly what they're drinking, though I suppose that's all part of the club's charm. The Continental takes its member's only airs seriously, so make a reservation, dress smart and hope the bouncer approves. As exasperating as that may seem, it's a thrill for those who manage to get inside.
The scene: The club's posh and oft-challenging demeanor attracts a polished crowd that ranges from middle-aged in the early evenings to full-on hipster around midnight. Those with money to burn can purchase a private liquor locker, securing hedonists with 60 days worth of cocktails from the bottle of their choice, plus a table for their party.
The playlist: Over the course of the evening, lighting dims and jazz turns to house music with a sound system that hosts a slew of rotating DJs. On those late-night occasions, the Continental becomes that kind of club. Good luck finding a place to dance.
The bartender says: The trick is to come just after dinner, when the place is empty and cocktail connoisseurs can enjoy the craft experience without being bothered by some obnoxious dude sporting his sister's jeggings. You know the type. The bar also gets rented out quite a bit by Hollywood bigwigs, so plan ahead.
Drink this: Swills here are spirit forward and not too stuffy, despite the club's demeanor. Look closely at the menu, and most of them are drinks you already know. The Perfect Manhattan ($13) comes impressively close to its lofty name, a stirred libation of rye, both dry and sweet vermouth, bitters and scorched orange oil (a fancy way of saying burnt peel). Beware: It's not for lightweights. Then there's the St. James ($14)—a shaken concoction of rum, lime juice and pineapple syrup, and adorned with star anise. In other words, it's a daiquiri—but a delicious and refreshing one at that.
|Venue name:||The Continental Club||Contact:|
116 W 4th St
|Opening hours:||Daily 7pm-2am|
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I came to The Continental Club for a party, and think that this is probably the way to do it - with a large group, plenty of alcohol and no shame. If you come by yourself looking for a craft cocktail to be sipped slowly and in peace, it's not going to happen. But with a group of friends, a couple drinks and some decent jams from the DJ, you'll be having a great time. I think? I don't remember much.