Hidden one floor below rooftop club XVI on 48th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan is Jbird, a secret cocktail lounge with an incredible view of the Hudson river and Gotham’s stunning Midtown skyline. In the making since March, the intimate-sized venue is about 1,000 square feet, and its 19 tables accommodate 60 guests.
“It took us a few months to put it all together,” says Jamie Hinojos, who co-owns the hideaway with Josh Kaiser. “All of the work and design was cosmetic, though. We didn’t alter anything structurally. We just added to what was there,” such as the two ethanol fireplaces, which have an impressive effect. Because they’re ethanol powered, no smoke, wood or gas is necessary, and they burn all night long.
The innovative flickering flames are part of the overall vibe of "Mad-Men"-meets-nouveau-speakeasy the duo was aiming for.
“We basically wanted comfort, with big couches and banquettes and chairs you can sink into with an amazing drink and relax,” Hinojos says.
With warm tones and a somewhat masculine feel, the space resembles a modern twist to an old cigar bar.
The concept is a departure from the flashing strobes and bottle-service presentations nightlife veterans are used to.
“Josh and I have worked in countless nightclubs and opened up a number of our own,” Hinojos explains. “We just got burnt out on bottle service. Cocktail culture is big again, and we were impressed by the level of sophistication and seriousness that goes into these crafted drinks. Instead of another club, we decided to go this route.”
There’s a noticeable culinary aspect to the libations, the bulk of which feature custom-made syrups and infusions. Among Hinojos’ favorites — although he notes they change weekly — are the Hudson Breeze Fizz, made with apple brandy, London Dry Gun, pomagrante syrup and baked apple froth and soda water, and the Jbird Swizzle, with Jasmin flower-infused rum, Don’s spices, lime, pineapple, blueberry syrup, orgeat and bitters. Marshall Altier and Jason Littrell of Death & Co. were tapped to create the delicious drinks, which sell for $16 each.
While there is no bottle service at Jbird, there is a list of “splits” of wine and champagne. And if clients really are seeking that bottle on their table, all they have to do is walk upstairs to XVI, where it is offered. Because the only entrance to Jbird is through a back staircase in XVI (and there are no signs or mention of the secret lounge), some denizens will stumble upon the space by luck, and others will come through a pre-set reservation they've made online.