A highball glass overflows in Brooklyn

Picks of the cocktail craze, from the Park Slope Swizzle to Shady Lane

Forbidden Planet at Donna. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Forbidden Planet at Donna. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Gone are the days when Manhattan was the exclusive haunt of New York’s finest bartenders. Today, it’s just as easy to find inventive, cutting-edge cocktails in Brooklyn. And while no borough is immune to self-important, mustachioed mixologists (or their bar-nerd acolytes), many of Brooklyn’s drinking establishments hold their own on the craft cocktail front, without the buttoned-up trappings (or $17 price tags) of their counterparts across the river. The best of the bunch simply want you to have a good time, and furnish the means—the secluded back garden, the live jazz, the whiskey—to ensure it. Below, the 10 best drinks in the borough, from springtime gimlets to bright-green swizzles.

Donna: Forbidden Planet

Many spirit enthusiasts have yet to appreciate the nuance and subtlety of good rum, a strong undercurrent of the cocktail menu at Donna, an airy lounge with vaulted ceilings where the Williamsburg Bridge meets the East River. Head bartender Matt Belanger’s Forbidden Planet riffs on the classic daiquiri (rum, lime, sugar) with a wholly original base—Plantation 3 Stars Rum that’s been infused with genmaicha green tea, imparting a nutty, cereal-like flavor. Overproof rum, coconut liqueur, orgeat and lime give it a tropical twist. 

27 Broadway, Williamsburg, 646-568-6622donnabklyn.com

Park Slope Swizzle at Clover Club. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Park Slope Swizzle at Clover Club. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Dram: C.R.E.A.M.

Whereas a garnish is the last element in any cocktail, beverage director Tonia Guffey started with a vanilla-candied lotus root then built a drink around it. You’ll taste vanilla in the C.R.E.A.M., which unites Laird’s Bonded Applejack, Giffard’s high-quality vanilla liqueur, lemon and Pedro Ximénez sherry in a tall glass—like the best adult cream soda you’ve ever had.

177 South 4th Street, Williamsburg, 718-486-3726drambar.com

Clover Club: Park Slope Swizzle

Brooklyn’s standard-bearing Clover Club from mixology phenom Julie Reiner, one of the first big names on the scene, nails the pre-Prohibition aesthetic with an extensive menu that honors tradition while still breaking the mold here and there. In the latter camp: the Park Slope Swizzle stars kale, lemon and pineapple for a bright spring cocktail, kicked up with gin, aged apple brandy and almond-based orgeat. Green juice was never this much fun.

210 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens, 718-855-7939cloverclubny.com 

Rosemary's Chance at Tooker Alley. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Rosemary’s Chance at Tooker Alley. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Tooker Alley: Rosemary’s Chance

Herbs are a staple of warm-weather cocktails, but Rosemary’s Chance, designed by managing partner Del Pedro, takes it a step further. He shakes together gin and rosemary syrup (rounded out with Aperol, apricot liqueur, lemon and with egg white), then spritzes the finished drink with a rosemary hydrosol so every sip offers a heady, herbal perfume.

793 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, 347-955-4743tookeralley.com

Shady Lane at Huckleberry Bar. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Shady Lane at Huckleberry Bar. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Huckleberry Bar: Shady Lane

With its verdant back garden, Huckleberry Bar is among the borough’s most inviting sipperies. Concocted by Dave Perezcassar, the Shady Lane evokes a summer barbecue with the smoke of El Buho mezcal, the spice of Fernet Vallet and a cumin syrup, and barbecue-evocative Bitter End Memphis BBQ bitters going head to head with Lagunitas IPA.

588 Grand Street, Williamsburg, 718-218-8555huckleberrybar.com 

Aperol Spritz at Walter Foods. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Aperol Spritz at Walter Foods. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Walter Foods: Aperol Spritz

Some drinks are impossible to improve upon. Among them: the Aperol Spritz, served with particular aplomb at throwback bar-restaurants Walter Foods and Walter’s (in Williamsburg and Fort Greene, respectively). It may be the best afternoon sipper ever invented: a bright, refreshing concoction of rhubarb-orangey Aperol, soda and Prosecco. Is it summer yet?

253 Grand Street, Williamsburg, 718–387–8783; 166 DeKalb Avenue, Fort Greene, 718-488-7800, walterfoods.com

Extra Fancy: Tigers Love Pepper

Scotch might strike you as a fireside sipper, but wears a different hat in this refreshing tall cocktail from lively Williamsburg favorite Extra Fancy. The Black Grouse blended Scotch is a smoky, substantial base made refreshing with lime, ginger beer and bar manager Meaghan Montagano’s clever black pepper-hibiscus cordial—complex, a bit sweet, a bit spicy

302 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, 347-422-0939extrafancybklyn.com

Tigers Love Pepper at Extra Fancy. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Tigers Love Pepper at Extra Fancy. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Maison Premiere: Philadelphia Jack

Inspired in equal part by New Orleans and Paris, this 19th century-style cocktail lounge specializes in champagne and absinthe, but there’s not a bad drink to be had. Best in show: the Negroni-inspired Philadelphia Jack by head bartender Will Elliott. Like the gin-Campari classic, it’s a careful balance of bitter and sweet, light and powerfully herbal; the sum of its lesser-known ingredients (Malort, Suze, Cocchi Americano, and the complex botanical Liqueur de Sapin 40%) gives the resulting cocktail “a much more spiced and herbal spine.”

298 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, 347-335-0446maisonpremiere.com

The Shanty: Cave Creek

You’d expect distillers to know their cocktails, and the drinks at The Shanty, housed within the New York Distilling Company, don’t disappoint. Among their bottles on the market is Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, which revives a onetime American barroom favorite: rye sweetened with rock candy and flavored with sour cherries and citrus. In Nate Dumas’ Cave Creek, Rock & Rye shows off its cocktail side together with Pig’s Nose Scotch, pomegranate-based grenadine, lemon and Campari.

79 Richardson Street, Williamsburg, 718-878-3579nydistilling.com/the-shanty

Cave Creek at The Shanty. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Cave Creek at The Shanty. (Photo: Roxana Azar/New York Observer).

Long Island Bar: The Long Island Bar Gimlet

Its neon sign and art deco vibe show Long Island Bar’s 55 years of age, while its cocktails evidence the skill of Toby Cecchini, one of two owners who restored the joint in 2013. His namesake gimlet features a bright lime-ginger cordial, with fresh lime and the complex French gin Citadelle—an updated classic, just like the bar itself. ν

110 Atlantic Avenue, Cobble Hill, 718-625-8908thelongislandbar.com

A highball glass overflows in Brooklyn