Threesome Tollbooth, a supply closet in Bushwick that runs as a bar, is tiny—so tiny that bartender Jesse Sheidlower says several patrons have stepped inside and asked, “Where’s everyone else?”
“We had two people—very, very Upper East Side—who just came because they heard it was a cool thing to do in Brooklyn,” says Sheidlower. “But they stayed on their phones.” The experimental spot, inspired by a bar that once existed within a tollbooth, serves cocktails made with unique ingredients such as blackberry shrub and Chartreuse Elixir Végétal, a powerful herbal elixir made by monks. Readers William Shunn (who went in May with his wife) and James Ramsey (who went in October with his girlfriend) share their experiences.
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William Shunn: An email that morning told us the location of the rabbit hole. When we arrived, a tall man with lavender hair and round glasses motioned us down the breezeway between two industrial buildings—
James Ramsey: —behind an unmarked metal door in Bushwick that seems to be exactly where the streetlights fail to reach. I thought it could be an entrance to Diagon Alley.
WS: We walked through a side door and along a short maze of dark passageways, to the accompaniment of sounds and smells from the kitchen of an adjacent restaurant.
JR: It’s easy to forget what a layer cake this town actually is. All those places on top of old ones, in between them, left behind.
WS: The bar is the size of an elevator car in a small European hotel, decked out in belle epoque bric-a-brac. We used the bathroom because, once inside the bar, we’d be unable to leave. Jesse swung down a hinged bar top in front of us like the safety bar on an amusement-park ride.
JR: The whole thing is theatrical in a way that’s meant to heighten your senses—a sort of retraining to shift from large to small scale, from busy to hushed—opening you up to something that almost amounts to a confessional with a friend and a complete stranger.
WS: Ornate cocktail glasses perfectly complemented their contents: One cup was like a brass egg cradling something lemony and potent; one was etched crystal delivering a digestif.
JR: Year-old Boulevardier was used as an ingredient, plus homemade pickle juice and scorched bitters—a boozy omakase. Every experience, I’m told, is different, as the drinks are paced and mixed to jive with the mood and the people.
WS: The tiny room spun. The rabbit hole closed. The kaleidoscopic whirl faded like a dream.
JR: The magical candlelit world that felt like a womb for the last hour suddenly evaporated. Standing amid the orange sodium lamps and the Bushwick traffic, we felt a chilly gust go by. Was it really even there?