This new underground speakeasy in downtown Macon requires a reservation and special code
Chelsea Hughes is best known for her Asian-inspired restaurant in downtown Macon.
Kinjo Kitchen + Cocktails at 497 Second St., Suite A, is a nod to big city restaurants. The progressive, mid-century modern restaurant is fast-paced and fun.
But Hughes also has a reverence for all things antique.
“At my roots, I was raised in a family that really respected and appreciated and found beauty in all things antique,” Hughes said. “My dad spent the majority of his life collecting antique furniture and refinishing it. We would go on treasure hunts and antique stores for depression glasses as kids: my sister and I.
“So, I have this reverence for things that are old and the place that they serve sort of in our society and how fascinating it is for us to kind of go through these different cycles of like what’s on trend right? So I wanted to create a space where we can sort of pay reverence to that and at the same time, everybody loves feeling like they are part of an exclusive something.”
With that in mind, creating an “underground speakeasy” in the heart of downtown Macon is something Hughes said she’s wanted to do for about 10 years.
The Black Cat
In late April, Hughes opened Black Cat Liquor & Libations, an upscale cocktail bar secreted away below Kinjo. Reservations are strongly recommended for this intimate space that requires an entrance passcode, business-casual attire and that its guests are 21 and older. This unique parlor seats 31.
For Hughes, Black Cat is sort of like stepping back in time.
“When you walk down the stairs, you’re greeted with a two-tier crystal chandelier and these vintage looking gold sconces, and the first thing that you hear is Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong or just some really, really classic ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s kinds of jazz,” she said. “Once you turn the corner, you realize that almost everything in the space are antiques.
“I spent six months sourcing antique furniture and mirrors and paintings and pictures and I mean just all sorts of decor. I have antique books lining the walls. It really just takes you back to a place — even if it doesn’t really honor the true sense of what a speakeasy used to be because it was a hole in the wall where you would go drink bathtub gin, right?”
What Hughes said she’s trying to capture is an emotion in which experiencing the Black Cat isn’t about coming to sit down and grab a quick drink.
“It’s more about enjoying the conversation with the person that you’ve invited while you wait for this exceptionally crafted, perfect cocktail — the likes of which you’ve rarely tasted in terms of a lot of different elements: the presentation, the dilution, the chilling, the spirits that we’re using, the garnish,” Hughes said. “Everything about this is an experience that you won’t forget.”
Guests can expect to find Hughes behind the bar, at least initially as she gets it off the ground and trains others to make the cocktails. In addition to owning and operating the restaurant, Hughes is a highly skilled bartender.
“I like to encourage people to come with an open mind,” Hughes said. “I have 45 cocktails on my menu. Most of them are classics.
“And I also like to encourage people to treat this as a very different experience. You’re not going to get a drink in three minutes. It’s going to take a little bit longer so please be patient with us with the understanding that when you get your drink, it’s absolutely going to blow your mind.”
The three most popular cocktails, she said, are Shutter Island, the Great Gatsby and The Last Goodbye.
Shutter Island, for an example, is essentially a pineapple lemon Mai Tai with a “tremendous number” of house-made ingredients including house-infused pineapple rum, house-made Orgeat and a house-made oleo-saccharum, Hughes said.
To make reservations, find and click on the Black Cat icon on the Kinjo website and follow the instructions. Once reservations are booked with Resy, guests can expect to receive a password in a text 30 minutes before their reservation, Hughes said.
“We’ve been so busy that you have to have that reservation,” she said.
Black Cat hours are 6 p.m. to midnight on Thursday and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Email email@example.com for information about private parties/events.