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Gimlets, Girls, and Glamour Abound at the Uptown Underground Beginning Tonight

A speakeasy vibe, burlesque, and classic cocktail menu set the stage for a retro revival in Uptown.

Scantily-clad ladies are just one of the marquee attractions at the Uptown Underground, Chicago's newest burlesque bar making its debut tonight. Located in the newly remodeled and refurbished basement of the preserved Uptown Broadway Building at 4707 N. Broadway, the Uptown Underground has been designed to serve as the home venue for the Kiss Kiss Cabaret performance troupe, along with other retro programming of an adult nature.

Once rumored to be a speakeasy run by Al Capone, the spot's provenance is one of vintage glamour and Prohibition-era nightlife. Scheduled to welcome a sold-out crowd of 200 on tonight's eve of 2015, the Uptown Underground's nostalgic aura extends directly to its distinctive bar program, which features classic cocktails such as old fashioneds, Manhattans, and gimlets.

Created and managed by longtime local bartender J. Ben Parker, an Ohio native with roots in Chicago's theater bar scene, the majority of the beverage menu's ingredients come from small batch liquors at the forefront of the local and regional craft spirit movement. He's betting that the patrons of the Uptown Underground will enjoy the retro-themed, locally-focused library of liquors when they attend the cabaret's shows, events, and performances.

Parker, who spent many years bartending at Lloyd's of Chicago, has brought Evanston's Few Spirits and Chicago's Koval vodka on board as two of the Uptown Underground's signature purveyors. Guests can also choose from an array of Midwestern-based craft beers such as Half Acre and 3 Floyds, or pick from rotating varieties of "moonshine" served on the rocks or in a mason jar.

"Humankind has only aced so many only so many things, and one of them is cocktails," Parker says. "If the drink didn't exist in 1945, we're not gonna make it." Attendees of the Uptown Underground can sip on Parker's throwback libations at the swanky 20-foot art deco bar, which seats 14, or during the Kiss Kiss Cabaret's burlesque performances. Expect upcoming programming such as magic shows, big band dance parties, and comedy showcases beginning in early January.

—Stephanie Sack

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