For many of us, the bar/club experience usually involves straining to hear what a sloshed friend is saying while smiling and feigning comprehension as bad house-music blares on dull speakers. Enter candlelit lounge Shebeen. Not only does this place make boisterous talk audible, it also has quality sounds like progressive hip-hop, set-the-mood riddims, and even alternative rock for a mélange of twentysomething conversationalists dying for a little drunken tête-à-tête. Owned by two South African women—hence the name, which was used in South Africa to describe mixed-race speakeasies frequented during apartheid—the white-walled lounge has six wooden columns, two cream-colored sofas and a leather-bound table (for friends that want to chat en masse), and a long purple banquette with wooden tables and matching ottomans. The chill-out pad offers creative cocktails like a pulpy, melon-flavored cucumber sake martini (fresh cucumber, sake, Korean vodka, $9) and a lip-smackingly decadent banana mocha martini (banana puree, vodka, crème de banana, chocolate syrup, and chocolate rim, $9). As they’re deceptively strong, you may want to savor these drinks—especially if you care to remember who said what the next morning.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 13, 2004

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