The Gong Show: Where Free Shots Are Served With Each Bang


The focal point of Orchid Lounge isn’t the decor—though the profusion of silky red pillows, cherry blossoms, and Japanese paper lanterns doesn’t hurt. Nor is it the infused vodkas (including ginger, vanilla, and cinnamon), the inventive cocktails with ingredients like fresh Thai basil and lychees, or the well-chosen range of sakes and wines. It’s not even the strange and mildly terrifying Chinese liquor with real snakes in it, sitting menacingly behind the counter (it tastes a bit like brandy). No, the real draw to this swank Asian-inspired lounge is a giant gong.

Whenever the bartender hits it with a giant mallet and howls, “Free shots!” you know you’re in business. This happens on a regular basis—often several times in a single night. The shots are generously sized samples of the signature cocktails; on a recent night, everyone got some of the spicy, sweet Ginger Candy ($8)—complete with tiny but potent chunks of fresh ginger.

It’s an entertaining gimmick, on par with Capone’s in Williamsburg, which offers free pizza to attract throngs of hungry hipsters. Who knows how long it’ll last, but for now, you can finally feel like you aren’t getting ripped off every time you go out.

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