Nothing reveals more about our souls than the bars we frequent. Sometimes the local canteen, no matter how much fun, can send the wrong signals. When you're looking to go home with more than a hangover, try these sexy spots.
For a secret tryst or a more raucous rendezvous check out velveteen bordello CIEL ROUGE (176 Seventh Avenue, 929-9758). A '70s coke-rock soundtrack (Steely Dan, Elton John) and fraying crimson decor add to the anything-goes whorehouse feel. Are we in a Parisian brothel or did we just cross the Nevada border? Depending on the hour, the clientele at this polysexual Chelsea lounge ranges from discreet couples holding hands in the back garden to carousing late-night characters looking for boozy bliss. They find it in a thick, cash-only cocktail book, with potent offerings like a stiff, luscious melon martini ($8) or a brisk, minty champagne julep ($7) generously served in a daiquiri glass. This salacious salon says: I am a sexually adventurous dreamer with a bad credit history.
Happening upon hidden HAPPY ENDING (302 Broome Street, 334-9676), with its yellow-and-pink "Xie He Health Club" awning, is akin to being whisked through a secret city passage. One second you're strolling down a desolate, ill-smelling downtown street, and the next you're standing in a smart hotel-like lobby complete with concierge desk. Head down the hall of this former Chinese massage parlor and you'll enter the funky main lounge, where stylish, connubial red-leather banquettes face the bar and DJ setup, and the ceiling flashes from purple to red like a hot-wired Lite-Brite. On busy nights, the hipsters head downstairs, where the old steam rooms have been transformed into tiled booths complete with Mandarin script. Of course, all this fashionable excess will cost you by way of $10 drinks. Fortunately, the Happy Ending martini (Sky Citrus, lychee, lemon, cassis) is a juicy affair, and the blood-orange gimlet (Sauza, blood orange, lime) an invigoratingly tart, icy potion. This clandestine club says: I love my limited-edition Adidas almost as much as I love bringing you here.
If location is everything, then PUNCH & JUDY (26 Clinton Street, 982-1116), a recent addition to the boutiques and bistros heralding the Lower East Side renaissance, has got it all. At least it seems to get all of it right. From the exposed brick, poured-concrete floors, and scarlet walls to the smoky crystal stemware that houses your big bouquet of red, this open-air wine bar spells connoisseur. And it's always a good thing when a place this sure of itself offers high-end libations at reasonable prices, like a $6 Ommegang beer that's brewed in the rich Belgian style or a $16 carafe (about three glasses worth) of a full-bodied but buoyant Bordeaux. Then there are the tasty pâtés, fromages, and crusty breads that, like the date you're wining and dining, make classic accompaniments. The low-set red theater seats and flickering candles add to the seduction. This gourmet grotto says: I have low self-esteem and a lifetime subscription to Condé Nast Traveler.
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