Sometimes you’re in the mood for a cocktail, but you’re not in the mood for a bar. It happens to the best of us, especially when you’ve been living in Brooklyn for a few years and the thrill of elbowing your way past a crowd of post-collegiate revelers with no fear of hangovers for a beer-and-shot-special has faded.
Fortunately for people like us, there is no shortage of grown-up restaurants that can easily double as watering holes. Bar Velo in Williamsburg is the perfect example of such an oasis. In the former Moto space under the elevated JMZ track, Bar Velo offers well-crafted cocktails in an aesthetically pleasing setting that hasn’t changed much at all since Moto closed in the fall of 2016.
The spirit of Moto lives on at Bar Velo because it’s under the same ownership, and really, it’s more of an update than a wholesale transformation. Owner John McCormick wanted to re-open the restaurant with a fully vegetarian menu, but the space itself is nearly indistinguishable, save some new cycling-themed design touches. The striking oblong bar that serves as the space’s centerpiece remains intact, and that’s where we recommend you settle in for some adult beverages in the company of adults. As a bonus, the round-edged bar means you can get away with a party of more than two and still include everyone in the conversation.
The cocktail list is brief but inspired, and McCormick has stubbornly resisted the trend of self-consciously cute titles, naming them simply No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and the No. 5–mezcal, Montenegro, Carpano and mole bitters–which I strongly recommend. One in my group thought it was a bit too heavy on the bitters (I, a bitter person, disagreed), but otherwise the No. 5 is smooth, smoky perfection. Also recommended is the No. 2, with Islay scotch, ginger, lemon, and burned rosemary, a perfect, complex balance of savory and sweet.
Sadly, we weren’t able to try the No. 3–whiskey, tomato, and basil–because the bar was out of basil. (Ok fine, we weren’t that sad, because it sounds a little crazy, but I’m still curious.) Pro tip: If you only have five specialty cocktails on your menu, it’s a good idea to make sure the essential ingredients are stocked at all times.
And from the “you learn something new every day” files: I first thought there was a misprint on the menu when I spotted a Tempranillo (the classic Spanish grape) listed as being from Italy. Although we weren’t able to extract much of an explanation from the staff, further research found that Tempranillo can and does exist in Italy. Who knew?!
Former Moto fans will be reassured to know that Bar Velo has preserved one of Moto’s best features–live music from nimble performers who fit into a tiny space by the door, Thursday through Saturday. Unwind with a cocktail and some live tunes the next time you’re in the neighborhood. In fact, the experience is worth going out of your way for. If you’re brave, please try the whiskey soup cocktail and report back.
394 Broadway (at Hooper Street)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
J,M Hewes stop, G Broadway stop