Before science began systematically demystifing the world, there was the potential for magic in everything. And no one was more deeply steeped in the endless possibilities of the world than the Victorians, who serve as the inspiration for the steampunk "Alice in Wonderland" that is Hendrick's Emporium of Curiosities.
The visit begins by entering through a curtain as if into a night circus. Instead it opens into a cozy sitting room and the first Hendrick's Gin-based drink of a basic tonic with a cucumber twist. Amid skeletons of tiny dinosaurs posed next to barely smaller taxidermied chicks and, inexplicably for a windowless room, plants, dapper gentlemen discuss the issues (and gossip) of the day - and should you answer their questions correctly, will reward you not only with the first of the evening's Hendrick's Gin cocktails, but a spectacular passage into the emporium beyond.
Billed as a "cheery defiance of the mundane," the hall is part speakeasy, part night circus and part Victorian attic, with the promised "unusual" crammed into every corner.
Decadent touches of flower needlepoints share a wall with hinged portraits, all sitting above taxidermied turtles and a toy rabbit banging the drums and cymbals stuffed in a wire cage. Get closer to it all, and mingle with the assortment of odd fellows and women in tiny brown tophats - curiosity is rewarded in uncommon ways.
Sip the assorted Hendrick's cocktails, including the unmissable Benevolent Bog, at tall tables held up by jacks and springs or in one of the cozy salons of facing chairs and barely two-person couches scattered about the room.
Before your exit, make sure to visit the wishing well tended by a beguiling woman with a bucket of roses, which she does not part with lightly. Her "well" is in fact a punch bowl - perhaps the wishing is accomplished by whispering in her ear?
Hendrick's Emporium of the Unusual
Through Oct. 4
75 Ninth Ave.
RSVP at www.hendricksemporiumny.com