How the Dark Secret Lounge merges cocktails and pampering sessions

The ultimate answer to the question: What happens after you get your nails done?

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By Olivia Sylvia Estrada

Dark Secret Lounge is shaking up the nightlife scene as we gradually move away from the pandemic and welcome back regular partying. It is a posh bar at night and one of Manila's favorite salons for nails and eyelash extensions in the morning, known as The Secret Lounge. 

The official launch took place on March 25 at Grandia Place, Mother Ignacia St., Quezon City, which is the third branch of The Secret Lounge. This branch is the first to transform from a salon to a bar at 8 p.m.

The event also served as a formal introduction of Dark Secret Lounge’s different partners, including beauty queens Celeste Cortesi, Rabiya Mateo, and MJ Lastimosa. Other co-owners are host and content creator Ady Cotoco, fitness influencer Jesh Javier, and Atty. Angel Hernandez. Guests included models Jullian Culas and Jach Manere and artists Lou Yanong, Shanaia Gomez, and Jae Miranda.

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What you see and what’s kept secret
Set up like a luxurious villa in a tropical resort, Dark Secret Lounge provides the right type of exclusivity without being too intimidating. Neon signs that say "The secret is out..." and "Spill your darkest secrets" serve as easy content backdrops and give the place its distinctiveness. A black book of secrets also makes its rounds, so you can write any secret anonymously or find out a few juicy tidbits scribbled in earnest between shots or salon sessions.

The bar is located on the first floor of The Secret Lounge/Dark Secret Lounge, with high tables for those who want to dance on their feet. Comfy couches and chairs with fluffy pillows are perfect for those who want to chill the night away. The second floor is where the La-Z-Boy chairs are set up for salon customers during the day, but it can also be where you take a seat and relax while having a drink.

"It's called the Dark Secret Lounge because everything fun happens in the dark," says Hernandez.
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Signature drinks
Founding co-owner Guiden Faith Amalay shares, "I always knew there was potential for this salon-to-bar concept. Our salon clients would bring their boyfriends along with them, and whenever I was around or my other co-founders, we would offer them something to drink like whiskey. We made sure the interiors would be a place anyone would feel comfortable in."

Benjamin Sadac, another founding co-owner, said the bar is a way to expand on their vision. "Dark Secret Lounge is our way of creating a lifestyle and an experience. People always ask, 'After you do your pampering, what's next?'" 

The answer comes with signature cocktails, each of which reflects the personalities of the partners. A must-try is G-Spot, a mix of bourbon whiskey, coconut, lemon, and spicy mango. It's Amalay's personal concoction, something she made with a bartender at the nearby watering hole of The Secret Lounge's first branch in Bonifacio Global City. Amalay also recommends DSL Secret Drink, which she describes as the bar's take on iced tea and can be ordered sans the alcohol.

Ady Cotoco, who says Dark Secret Lounge is his first venture as an entrepreneur, shares that the Godfather Sour is his own twist on the Amaretto Sour. "In every bar, I order the Amaretto Sour, but this one has something special to it, which is what I really like."

Cortesi has yet to create a drink of her own for the menu but loves the Purple Heart, a gin-based cocktail with sweet blue pear, lemon, topped with an egg white froth.

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Friendships and hardships
When asked whether the other branches of The Secret Lounge will also convert into a Dark Secret Lounge, Amalay says it is definitely in the works. After constantly adapting through the pandemic, the bar is a dream come true for Amalay, who started the business in 2019 as a way to work through crushing debt. She says much of the success comes from hard work, but also from the friendships they have made along the way.

Cortesi credits her interest in the business to her friendship with the founding partners. “Benjamin has been a friend of mine for a long time. It was a no-brainer for me to be a part of this. I am glad they gave me a chance to do so and work as a team,” she explains.

It’s not hard to believe that The Secret Lounge and Dark Secret Lounge are where more friendships and opportunities will be born. Both the salon and the bar are open for reservations and packaged services day and night. Events at the bar will include Wine Wednesday and Single Saturdays.

You can get your nails and lashes done in the afternoon, just in time for drinks when the sun goes down, without needing to move locations.