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The Invite-Only Absinthe Club Made for Gen Z

March 21, 2022

Story: Kenna Beban

photos: Brian Finke

Places

The Invite-Only Absinthe Club Made for Gen Z

March 21, 2022

Story: Kenna Beban

photos: Brian Finke

Bedroom 6, which started in a college rental, offers a very different look at drinking in one’s 20s.

In August 2021, Nicole DiGiacomo and Michael Fowler went on their first date: an invite-only absinthe experience on Manhattan’s Lower East Side called Bedroom 6. By soft candlelight and burnt sugar cubes, they let handwritten prompts guide their conversation.

What makes you feel like a kid again?
Describe your high school self in the third person.

That’s how Fowler learned DiGiacomo’s favorite smell: licorice, because her grandfather used to give her $40 every visit to buy the candy. Fowler learned that, if money weren’t an object, DiGiacomo would spend her days collecting chairs. And he learned that he wanted to marry her, which he did, five months later, on a beach in the Virgin Islands. 

In February 2022, they returned to another pop-up event to tell Rhys Osborne, Bedroom 6 founder, the good news. He was thrilled. Friendships, relationships, even business connections had been born from his homegrown absinthe experience. But this was the first marriage. 

Osborne, 24, is a shortish, solidly built man with wavy auburn hair, dark eyebrows and tattoo-studded forearms—the kind of guy who can read tarot cards, who likes to keep his nails trimmed and rings chunky. He grew up in San Diego, graduated from USC in 2020, and didn’t know, for a long time, what he wanted to do with his life. That changed during his junior year in college. After a few failed business ideas, he dabbled in interior design, which led him to flea markets, estate sales and troves of vintage furniture, which in turn led him to an antique absinthe fountain: brushed silver, two curved spigots, an upstretched “green fairy” figurine as its base. 

“It’s my favorite object in the world,” says Osborne. The fountain sat, unused, for months, until a party at his six-person college rental house. It was three years ago, just after he had turned 21. Osborne had a bottle of Pernod original-recipe absinthe on standby, and the partygoers wanted to try it; as he ran to fetch the fountain from his upstairs bedroom, he paused on the steps. “For a brief moment, I thought, ‘No, I want to bring them into my space,’” he remembers. 

The invite-only club has evolved from a college bedroom experiment to a bicoastal experience.

His bedroom was decorated with antiques and aglow in soft lighting. Aretha Franklin was playing. Osborne’s guests had been transported to an earlier era, with a 100-year-old absinthe ritual to accompany the experience—balancing a sugar cube on a tiny, ornate spoon, he lit the sugar on fire, caramelizing it. Then he opened one of the fountain’s spigots to dispense a single fat droplet of water at a time. The sugar slowly dissolved into an awaiting glass of absinthe, diluting the spirit into a cloudy, floral concoction. It was a far cry from the beer pong and tequila shots taking place downstairs. 

He brought in two friends at a time, performing the ritual as a sort of joke. But as the night went on, they realized how much they’d been longing for that sort of drinking experience: slow, personal, warm. And they realized how other people their age must be craving it, too. “It was, to this point, my absolute favorite night of college,” Osborne said. “Just sitting around with my roommates and our friends, drinking absinthe, two at a time.”

Griffin Osborne, Rhys’s brother, conducts the absinthe ritual.

Within a week, Osborne had created a private Instagram account: @bedroom6, after the labels on the home’s doors. Bedroom 1, 2 , 3… and Osborne’s, at the end of the hall, upstairs and to the left. Bedroom 6. He began inviting people to the experience. Guests tagged the account, and the resulting list of follow requests became Bedroom 6’s still-growing waitlist. 

“To this day, we have not hit zero on that list,” says Osborne. The experience has grown beyond his college bedroom to venue partners like Soho House and Sommwhere in Manhattan. Every few weeks, they hold pop-up tastings in New York City and Los Angeles, and have a longer-term partnership with L.A.’s Unlikely Florist. The original account and the New York City–specific one, @bedroom6nyc, have a combined waitlist of over 1,600 people. Once the company accepts a follow request, the next date and location is revealed to followers, who have access to sign up for a time slot with a group of two to four people. The concept’s following has grown entirely by word of mouth, a grassroots network of 20-somethings looking for an escape from their usual drinking habits. 

Bedroom 6 is designed to spark discussion that doesn't often come up in casual conversation.

“There’s a sort of loneliness that exists within all of that culture,” says Osborne. He speaks of a college experience familiar to many young Americans—frat parties, dark clubs, drinking as much as you can to party with people you barely know. “Everyone is all together, but they’re not actually together… Either you don’t remember any of the connections you made, or the next time you see them, it’s like, ‘Yeah, I guess I met you once … right?’”

Bedroom 6 sees itself as a remedy. It starts with an open mind, ready for a host to walk guests through the 20-minute ritual that spans absinthe’s history and traditions. “To start an education around moderation and intention with alcohol within our generation, absinthe is perfect,” explains Osborne. The ritual ends with guests closing their eyes and taking a deep breath in and out. “It’s the idea of being able to exercise presence at the same time as consuming.”

After the ritual, groups move to a table to finish their drinks. They’re greeted by a bowl filled with prompts written on brown paper, questions to ask the other members of their group that rarely come up in casual conversation. The same ones that eventually led to Fowler and DiGiacomo’s marriage. “Our mission … is just for people to realize that they’re not so different from the soul sitting next to them,” says Osborne. “If everyone’s stuck in their little box, Bedroom 6 maybe makes the walls a little bit thinner.”

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Kenna Beban is an aspiring journalist and senior at NYU. She grew up in the SF Bay Area, and has an eye out for stories about people rethinking how we eat and drink. You can find more of her work once she's graduated and has time to set up a website. For now, feel free to check out her photography on twitter @kennnakb.