What’s better than going to a gin-based bar with some girlfriends in New York City? Going to a secret gin-based bar with some girlfriends in New York City.
My hostel dorm mate came back one evening and was talking about how she had gone to this really cool bar that served mainly gin-mixed drinks and could only be accessed through a secret door. Firstly, she had me at “gin”, as it’s my favourite spirit (Bombay Sapphire or Hendricks if you were wondering). Secondly, I was hooked when she uttered “secret”. I was so intrigued; I had to experience this bar!
A couple of nights later I rounded up the three new girls I had met on this trip and headed over to Bathtub Gin for one last drink on my final night in the city. It didn’t take much convincing, as we were all curious about this so-called secret bar.
Arriving at 132 9th Avenue in Chelsea, I never would have known the bar existed. I was standing face-to-face with a fully operational coffee shop called Stone Street Coffee Company with no indication of a bar anywhere in the vicinity. But my dorm mate insisted this was the place.
We walked into the coffee shop and a doorman (a bouncer in reality) first asked if we had any reservations. After confirming that we were on “the list” he reached out towards a section of the wall and, lo-and-behold, opened a hidden door that led us into the back section of the building, Bathtub Gin.
There was an air of sophistication in the place and I noticed I was suddenly standing much taller. Our waitress seated us at a booth and I couldn’t help but take in my surroundings.
Modeled after the bars during the prohibition era in the 1920s, Bathtub Gin is small, dimly lit, but charming. It’s decorated with black vintage-flowered wallpaper and copper stamped ceiling tiles, illuminated with wall sconces and table candles, and furnished with classic 1920s inspired love seats, complete with a large copper-coloured bathtub in the main room and bathtub shaped sinks in the restrooms.
Bathtub Gin takes its name from the process of steeping a mixture of berries, juniper and cheap grain alcohol for hours or days in a tub, a practice that was very popular at the time. While it’s the featured spirit on the menu, not all drinks are made exclusively with gin. You can also choose from a variety of vodkas, whiskeys, rums, and tequilas if gin isn’t your drink of choice.
But gin is my go-to drink, so I poured over the menu trying to decide which concoction I wanted to try. I finally settled on their signature drink, The Bathtub Gin Martini, served up with Plymouth Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, lemon oils, and topped with queen cerignola olives.
I’ve had my fair share of gin martinis in the past, but this tasted like nothing I had tried before. The lemon oils gave it a distinct flavour and I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not. The other girls opted for The Ultimate Gin & Tonic, made with Citadelle Gin and Organic Q tonic water, and were raving about it. At a price point of $15, it’s on par with the cost of martinis in the city.
The lure of Bathtub Gin being a “secret” bar, a sort of in-the-know establishment definitely gives it an edge. Even their website doesn’t indicate that you have to enter through a bakery, just an address. The 1920s prohibition-era theme makes you feel like you’re breaking the rules somehow and the limited number of seating gives it a bit of an exclusive vibe.
This is a great place to grab a drink after work with friends or a date, or your starting point for a night out on the town. There is food on the menu and reservations are recommended and essential for the Thursday-Saturday night crowd.