Bootlegger Jack’s Hidden Speakeasy
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“Everyone give it up for Ricardo’s birthday!” The DJ blasted out to the crowd inside a small, ’20s-style speakeasy on a recent Friday night. To the tunes of Pitbull and Stereo Love, the bottle-serviced table of revelers turned their shoulder bumping and head nodding into whole-body dance moves as an amped-up bartender joyfully and nonsensically rang a back-bar bell to keep the crowd hyped. Some tables clapped along, others continued their conversations.
But everyone was having fun at the drinking den that’s directly adjacent to the bathroom stalls below chef Willie Degel’s Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Astoria.
A vaulted door opens to a vintage-inspired space outfitted with crystal chandeliers, patterned wallpaper, fringe-lined lamps and a caged-off pipe room, lit up by multicolored, flashing beams (akin to a mad-scientist–themed haunted house). The cocktail list is small but mighty (and strong): Of the five options, the East of East is intensely aromatic, with raspberry vodka, muddled red grapes and oregano simple syrup, and the Astor is similarly treacly, thanks to gin and Campari lifted by syrupy apricot liqueur and honey drizzle. For a more balanced tipple, Hallet’s Cove’s bite from the scotch is smoothed over with a fig liqueur, orange bitters and honey.
As you stumble out of the bar, strike a pose in front of the bathroom’s very modern-day, touchscreen selfie mirror (which works just like an open-air photo booth), then upload the pics directly to your Instagram—they may be your only recollections of the night.