With the rise of social dining apps, such as Eatwith.com, it no longer seems unusual to enter a stranger’s home and pay them to eat a homecooked meal at their kitchen table with other random people. (If you can share cars with people, why can’t you share a love of cooking with someone in their kitchen?) Bouncing off the idea of social dining apps, and getting together in a stranger’s home, is Covert Cocktail Club (or CCC), a prohibition style gathering of people in a stranger’s brownstone house in Bushwick, Brooklyn. CCC started around 2016 by a NYC tour guide, named Mr. Levy, who was overly passionate about cocktails and unique liquors he discovered from around the world. (If you have ever been to the Aviary, you will see where his source of inspiration comes from. The cocktails are very complex and contain ingredients that your local liquor store will likely not even carry). Upon tasting one of his cocktails you will quickly realize that he’s spent years toying around with flavor profiles, memorizing recipes, and hand cutting ice. This man is no joke.
Although gaining in popularity now, CCC started off very slowly, with social media (mainly Instagram) as its only source main source of marketing. Pretty soon Punch, the online food and drink magazine, posted an article about the club and people started flocking to the reservation page. Then in February 2019, the NY Times posted an article about Mr. Levy and the experience and his site shut down with the number of viewers flocking to the page. Reservations can be tough to come by, but keep persisting, and you should be fine!
So…what exactly can one expect at CCC? It’s a two hour or so cocktail infused experience in a beautifully renovated brownstone in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Get togethers are held Wednesday evening through Saturday evening and cost $80pp. The max number of people allowed per evening is eight, as the host likes to keep things intimate. If you are lucky enough to snag a reservation (try contacting them directly), the host will immediately email ‘terms and agreements’ and obscure directions to his home residence (there’s no actual address, so it becomes a bit of a scavenger hunt). When you arrive, and finally figure out which house has the blue door and where the heck the “Covert Cocktail Club” sign is, you will be greeted very warmly by the host who is thrilled to have you join him. He will sit you down at the island in his beautiful kitchen, and hand you a cocktail menu for the evening while going over some house rules. After that he will ask everyone who they are, where they came from, what they like to drink etc. and pour everyone a welcoming shot to start. Within five minutes, you’ll feel as if you knew the host your whole life and that this was a catch-up session you greatly needed.
After the first ‘welcome’ shot, he will review the menu and ask everyone what they would like for their first cocktail, promising that if you don’t like it, he will happily pour you another. Be prepared for a boozy evening as these cocktails are not for the weak at heart! At this point in the evening it’s likely you’ve already become friendly with the other patrons and will likely want to try each other’s drink. Mr. Levy may even break out some of the interesting bottles of liquor he has come across in his travels and let you try some. After the second cocktail, he’ll bring out some food for you to nibble on which he’s made himself. His wife may even pop by and say hello (she’s super sweet).
By 11pm, you’ll have at least three drinks in your system and likely be a bit buzzed and probably feeling pretty awesome. Luckily Mr. Levy won’t kick you out at the 11pm mark (unless maybe it’s a Wednesday, we chose a Friday evening). I’ll be hard to leave when you feel like you’ve become best friends with complete strangers and just had some of the best cocktails of your life! Luckily, he’s nice about hinting your departure around the 11:30pm mark and you’ll leave begging for another invite back.
On the way out, he’ll promise it will be easier for you to get a reservation if/when you decide to come back. He’ll also tell you that the cocktails change seasonally and highly suggest you come during a different season, so you can try a whole new list of cocktails. Some of his cocktails, but world famous NYC cocktails bars like Aviary, Dead Rabbit, and Employees Only to Shame. It’s an experience worth checking out!