Brooklyn, it’s not a bad place for a bar. You might have a regular place, somewhere where the bartender knows your name, has your drink ready almost as soon as you walk in. Or maybe, like me, you frequent a rotating cast of watering holes, knowing a number of your bartenders by face, but not by name, yet. And just maybe, you've visited South in South Park Slope, and found yourself in conversation with an engaging woman behind the bar called Rosie, who knows how to spin a yarn.
Rosie Schaap, who, if you haven’t visited South, you may have heard on This American Life, or read her “Drink” column in the New York Times Magazine, estimates that she has spent over thirteen thousand hours in bars. This estimate, scratched out on a cocktail napkin, is how she opens her new book Drinking with Men, a beautifully written paean to the camaraderie found in a bar, and a battle cry of sorts for those, especially women, who achieve the holy grail of becoming a “regular” at a public house. A bar, Schaap writes, is “like a community center, for people—men and women—who happen to drink.”
It is a particular type of bar that attracts Schaap, nothing too pretentious, or too divey. “I dislike any bar—in or outside of Brooklyn—where the music or TV is too loud to encourage conversation, or where the bartenders are blasé and unwelcoming, or where people are only talking about cocktails, or where there's just not a distinctive, discernible spirit of the place,” she told me via email.
South, the bar where Schaap bartends one day a week, is none of the those things that Schaap dislikes. "It's mainly a beer-and-shots bar, nothing fancy or complicated (though you can get an excellent Manhattan)," she says. It is part of a thriving South Slope bar scene, where even Schaap admits “I can hardly keep up with all the new bars.” Recent openings include Skylark, Owl Farm, The Monro Pub, and Black Horse Pub, which is according to Schaap, the “best place to watch English soccer in Brooklyn.”
I discovered in the pages of Drinking with Men that we share a love of soccer, albeit two different teams with a bitter rivalry. Rosie visits Black Horse regularly to watch her beloved Tottenham Hotspur FC. I also attend Black Horse--and as an Arsenal fan endure some mild teasing from the owner, a dyed-in-the-wool Spurs fan--and Schaap sums the atmosphere up perfectly: “There’s no intense factionalism, no one is excluded, and, as you suggest, any teasing is undertaken in a spirit of fun, not meanness.”
Schaap doesn't hail from the U.K.--she is Jewish-American and the daughter of the sportswriter Dick Schaap--but in her memoir we learn about her habit of claiming a different heritage. "You may have also heard that the Irish do drink, and prodigiously," she writes. "So for, this and other reasons, by the time I entered college I had become Irish."
If you do pick up a copy of Drinking with Men, Schaap welcomes readers to visit her in her natural habitat. “I’d love it if people stopped by to chat about the book over their pints.”
Next week, you can catch Schaap reading from Drinking with Men on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at her beloved South—“I just hope I can keep my emotions under control” she says—then heads north to Williamsburg on Thursday, Feb. 7 to read at Pete’s Candy Store.
Rosie’s Favorite Brooklyn Bars (Other Than South)
- The Brooklyn Inn is a longtime love—it’s so gorgeous, like a perfect, central-casting ideal of a corner bar.
- For warm, fuzzy weirdness, I love Freddy’s (and usually stop in to unwind after my shift next door at South).
- Shayz Lounge in Greenpoint is a solid local with fun, welcoming regulars, and good Guinness.
- Quarter Bar makes a mean Manhattan, and has a lovely garden.
Join Rosie Schaap on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 8pm for a reading at South, co-presented by Park Slope’s Community Bookstore. There will be a drink special of a pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson for $7. North Brooklynites can catch Rosie the next night, Thursday, Feb. 7 at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg, where she’ll be reading with Ben Schrank as part of the bar’s reading series.
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