“We’re here to see the mayor.”
We got the secret phrase right. The phone booth door opens and a flapper girl peels back heavy blackout curtains to reveal a distant era. The music flips from hardcore hip-hop to a jazzy piano cover of Adele’s “Hello” — then you realize that it’s actually coming from a guy playing about six feet above your head. He goes by the name Jimmer and he takes requests.
Despite its dim interior, the Gaslamp’s goal to be a conduit for conversation is clear. You’ll forget you’re in the middle of sleepy Kailua town as you focus on the cocktail in front of you and the company of the people you’re with.
I’ll spare you some of the details — they’re better left for you to discover — but I will note what makes the Gaslamp worth a trip over the Koolaus: the cocktails.
Bartender Clark Dean may be soft-spoken but boy, do his cocktails sing. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Dean moved up and down the California coast mixing drinks and tending bar before arriving on Oahu. His menu reads like an atlas. Instead of classic recipes, Dean stimulates the palate with unique inspirations from across the map. Think Kikori whisky twisted with yuzu and jasmine tea in the Buddhas Kiss, and a Creamsicle-like concoction touched with genever (Dutch gin) called the Lions Den (both $14).
From its location to the details in each of the cocktails, layers of the unexpected make it hard to compare the Gaslamp to anything else, which for a new bar is sort of a blessing.
If none of the dozen or so cocktails and punches tickle your fancy, you can have the bartenders make you something custom. Prices vary with the ingredients, but expect to pay a little more than the signature drinks. If craft beer is more your speed, there are about 15 including some highly allocated brews.
Note: You'll need to email firstname.lastname@example.org a week in advance for reservations. You’ll receive a secret password to gain access to the secret lounge. Don't even think of sharing it outside your group: Every party gets a custom password. The secret is strong with this one.
The Gaslamp Somewhere in Kailua Wed - Sun 6 p.m. - late