Have we hit peak cocktail craze? At the waterside end of Atlantic Avenue, on the border of Cobble Hill, a single block holds three craft cocktail bars. You may be wondering if the cocktail craze is on its way out, but based on the crowds we saw on a recent Saturday night, we’re still in the saturation point. This area could be a great one-stop-shop for dinner and drinks, as well as a great winter weather night out on the town since everything is on the same block. There is a chance, though, that you’ll be shut out. At least that was our experience when our post-dinner bar crawl was thwarted by private parties and temporary teetotalers celebrating the end of Dry January. If you meet the same fate at one bar, don’t despair—you can just cross the street to find another. Or if you are hankering for a less precious aperitif, walk down a block to Montero’s, which literally hasn’t changed since it opened as a longshoreman’s bar in 1939; the fussiest thing on the menu is a Spanish beer.
“Retro” restaurants have been identified as a major food trend for 2020, and Long Island Bar is nothing if not ahead of the trends. This restaurant was owned and run by one family for over fifty years. Then in 2013, Joel Tompkins and Toby Cecchini (who ran the now-defunct Passerby, one of the best bars ever to exist) restored and re-opened the space after it sat empty on the streetcorner for almost a decade. Stepping inside is like walking through a Formica, vinyl and bright neon sign time machine. Even the menu is short, simple, and right out of the fifties. They don’t take reservations, but it won’t take long to squeeze into a booth or a table in the back room. The lighting and acoustics are pretty perfect here; dim enough that everyone looks nice and just loud enough to feel festive. The thing to get here is the burger (either single or double patty) and with an extra $100 you can add on a bottle of champagne. The waitress may have thought I was crazy for ordering anything else, but the bucatini with clams is also incredible: peppery, briny and lemony. The cocktails Cognac French 75, White Negroni Sbagliato or Boulevardier have the right amount of novelty and normalcy. Long Island Bar, 110 Atlantic Avenue
The new bar Pips bills itself as a wine bar inspired by coastal Italy. Owned by the same team as Colonie next door, the decor has a similar, airy vibe. The space is dominated by a long wooden bar and accented by whitewashed walls. A nice wine list and some small plate options make this a sweet spot to catch up with friends. Their menu has a strong lineup of orange wines by the glass, chilled reds and old-world whites. Or stick with the cocktail theme and choose between five different kinds of negronis and order a cheese plate or small plates to nibble. On the night we went, we inadvertently walked into a private party and were encouraged to visit their sister-restaurant, Colonie, instead. Although we were able to get seats at the bar, my Spanish Spritz with Baines Pacharan, vermouth and cava tasted weirdly like oregano and my husband’s Cream soda with earl-grey vodka tasted too fussy. Next time, I’ll hold out for Pips. Pips, 129 Atlantic Avenue; Colonie, 127 Atlantic Avenue
If you like the bar, Ramona, in Greenpoint, then you’ll like its sister bar, Elsa. It’s usually easy to walk in on a Friday or Saturday night and order a Painkiller (rum, cream of coconut, pineapple, orange nutmeg) or a Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival (rum, grapefruit, black pepper, lime, bitters.) A well-designed space with a bar and a smatter of two-tops, it’s a perfect place for a date or a small group. Most nights that I’ve been, there has been no trouble finding a table and a refreshing cocktail. On the first weekend of February though, the bar was packed with groups coming off of Dry January, and without a reservation, the host suggested we keep returning back (“Another 40 minutes,” “Try in 20!”) in between sweeping up broken glass left by energized revelers. After the last try, we gave up. Elsa, 136 Atlantic Avenue
If you can’t get behind a cocktail bar that isn’t also a speakeasy, then Le Boudoir is for you. Hidden downstairs under the French restaurant, Chez Moi, this windowless, red room feels like a vampire lair. A beautiful room in the back has the capacity to hold large parties (perfect for a birthday party), otherwise, the hostess will (hopefully!) find you a comfortable seat on one of the velvet couches or booths. Here you can find alcohol ranging from absinthe (of course!) to applejack, mixed with a list of ingredients to various effects. A friend’s Mezcal and carrot puree concoction tasted like soup, but my gin and elderflower was light and refreshing. There is even a smoky drink made with duck fat. By this point, though, you may be over craft cocktails, even if this part of Brooklyn is not. Le Boudoir, 135 Atlantic Avenue