We love speakeasies. We love the idea of a secret; what it means to have it; to hold it to yourself; to keep it tucked away in private, spared from the view of those who couldn't possibly discern it from any other bar.
We love the nostalgia the very idea of a speakeasy evokes; a subtle nod to the past, tiny hints and clues left along the way; the friends of friends, secret passwords, clever ploys and disguise; and beneath all of it, something forbidden.
But what makes a speakeasy worthwhile?
Lumos is the first bar outside of China that serves the wildly unique and versatile beverage known as Baijiu.
Is it the novelty of the secret itself, or is it the translation of that nostalgia; the vintage quality of its decor and atmosphere allowing those who know an escape into that different time; that taste of what was in a time that almost stands still?
And what of the drinks? Surely such bars should pride themselves on their Spirits, right? But are they 35¢ cocktails cool to the senses, yet skillfully watered down?
Or do we go for the heat of the hard liquor that leaves us with the thought that, "Yeah, maybe that should have been outlawed?"
At Lumos, an incredible Chinese speakeasy in Greenwich Village, you'll find all of this. Lumos is the first bar outside of China that serves the wildly unique and versatile beverage known as Baijiu.
Wandering down Houston Street, it's almost a little too easy to walk right by it. Of course, by virtue of it being a speakeasy, that's kind of the point, right?
But heading down Houston toward West Broadway, make sure to keep your eyes peel on the left for a tucked away stairwell leading to a black door at the bottom.
It's a very unassuming bar; a black hightop with wooden stools; dark in the way you crave privacy, yet not altogether cold. They serve small plates and appetizers, including some seriously amazing dumplings.
It's an intimate setting with hundreds of different types of Baijiu used to create a wide range of strong, yet extremely delicious cocktails,
And that's what separates this seemingly obscure speakeasy from the rest. Baijiu.
Baijiu is a wildly misrepresented alcohol. It's a Chinese grain alcohol packing as much heat as any Southern moonshine does, but fits seamlessly into an impossibly diverse range of flavor profiles and fresh cocktails.
You could try hundreds of different Baijiu cocktails and still be surprised by the complexity of their flavors. You can infuse Baijiu with other flavors quite easily, so the possibilities know few bounds outside of what you're open to.
Try Lumos' "Spring of the East" with Baijiu-infused rosemary, yuzu, grapefruit/campari bitter, rice wine, and pamplemousse rose.
Or, you could go venture into another spectrum and have a spicy cocktail with their "Goji," goji-infused Baijiu, mezcal, pink grapefruit, lime, agave, and orange bitters.
Want something sweet and refreshing? Try the "Red River" with Baijiu, vodka fair, watermelon, tarragon, combier, pink peppercorn, lime, and agave.
It's important to understand Baijiu before you have a bad experience. Because there are so many types of Baijiu, it's easy to stray from what you might actually like into something you had no reason to jump into.
That's another great thing about Lumos: They give you the context.
Whether it's from their highly knowledgeable bartenders that can talk through everything you need to know, or their private cocktail classes that go more in-depth and hands-on with Baijiu, Lumos won't ever leave you feeling as though you drank something you have no idea about.
Of course, just beyond the bar, there's also a small hallway leading to a secret back room. There they host a number of different events almost every week, many of which you wouldn't ever expect to find in a Chinese speakeasy.
Ranging anywhere from immersive, interactive theater with cocktails tailored to the experience, to weekly Salsa Nights every Thursday, to even something more risqué like their weekly burlesque shows, there's always something incredible happening at Lumos.
You just need to know where to look and who to ask.