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It’s a school night, and my drinking companions and I have offices to be at bright and early tomorrow, but there’s something about the Secret Society Lounge that triggers the desire for extended conversation. Basking in the room’s sepia glow, we’re all convinced we’ve stepped through a portal in time, into a gentlemen’s club from a more civilized age. The cut-crystal coasters, built-in bookcases, and a Victorian-style brocade carpet all further this fantasy.

A small, dark den, measuring probably 20 feet by 20 feet, the lounge (a quick jaunt up the stairs from Toro Bravo, on NE Russell Street) is splashed in a rich shade of mocha, and the cocktails served from the bar seem well-suited to the vintage surrounds. Consider the Pegu Club, a pre-Prohibition concoction conceived of in tropical climes. Aviation gin is artfully blended with a sweet wave of orange curaçao and lime juice. “Tastes medicine-y,” one of my fellow tipplers complains. “If this is medicine,” I counter, “I could use a booster.”

Next, we order a round of drinks that contain absinthe. The recently legalized “green fairy” works best in a Death in the Afternoon, Ernest Hemingway’s drink of choice back in his bullfighting days. The sparkle from the champagne and the absinthe’s brooding licorice brightens our night out considerably.

Check out The Secret Society in A Year in Drinks

The Secret Society was also featured in our Best Bars 2010 cover story.