Food & Drink

The 10 Best Craft Cocktail Bars in Brooklyn

Nicole Franzen / Sauvage

While Manhattan may be populated with one too many stuffy, speakeasy dungeons, Brooklyn is all about fun. This budding borough’s bars offer easy drinking cocktails with a sense of whimsy and excitement—most of which don’t cross the $15 barrier. There’s tiki-inspired cocktails meant to transport you to warmer places, cocktails on draft, esoteric liqueurs, exotic amaros—if you can dream it, you can drink it. Here, the best craft cocktail bars in Brooklyn.

Fresh Kills

This newly opened cocktail den in Williamsburg is brought to you by beverage mastermind Richard Boccato, the man behind game-changing stalwarts PKNY (RIP) and Dutch Kills. It has already earned a reputation for its top-notch concoctions. Unlike it’s darker, more solemn sibling in Long Island City, Fresh Kills is set in a bright and vibrantly colored, lofty, open space. Expect meticulously crafted cocktails that riff on the classics, fresh seasonal ingredients, hand-cut ice from sister company Hundredweight, and quality, local booze.

Karasu

Tucked away behind Walter’s Foods in Fort Greene (you literally have to walk through the restaurant to get to a hidden door at the back) resides this Japanese izakaya-inspired cocktail lounge. With cocktails by Thomas Waugh of ZZ’s Clam Bar fame and snacks from ex-Shuko chef Yael Peet, this bar doesn’t miss a beat. The intoxicatingly delicious, cold-brew coffee spiked Dippermouth with crème de banane, bourbon and nonino (a black walnut liqueur) is a must order. As is the sashimi. And the rib eye. Oh, and that cocktail with honeydew melon. Just order everything.

Bearded Lady

This funky bar in Crown Heights has a '70s Venice Beach vibe. It’s light, airy and welcoming, with eye-catching yellow vinyl stools, a bright blue floor, and a horseshoe shaped bar. During the day, the bar really shines, with its ultra laid back atmosphere, rotating selection of boozy slushies and the best nachos this side of L.A. Cocktails are cheap, inventive, slightly tropical and beachy.

Yours Sincerely

A self-lauded “cocktail laboratory,” this Bushwick bar’s entire menu is on draft. Drinks are divided between carbonated and flat, served in lab beakers, and come with an unprecedented level of cocktail geekery. Plus, the annotated menu is designed to help indecisive drinkers navigate their way to the perfect cocktail for their palate.

Sauvage

Inspired by European cafe culture with sleek, hand-crafted Art Noveau stylings, this bar is a welcome addition to Brooklyn’s cocktail scene. The cocktail menu is designed by Will Elliott, the head bartender at their sister bar, the James Beard award winning Maison Premiere, and it features beverages that are unique works of art. The focus is on aperitifs, with over 200 small batch, esoteric liqueurs, amaros and vermouths lining the shelves. Their Martini made it onto our list of the best cocktails of 2016 and is an astounding interpretation of the classic.

Leyenda

From cocktail pioneer Julie Reiner and bartender Ivy Mix, this cocktail lounge in Carroll Gardens focuses on pan-Latin spirits, cocktails and cuisine. The menu, which earned Mix the title of Best American Bartender at Tales of the Cocktail, is divided into highballs, stirred cocktails and up-drinks. Behind the bar, the roster of spirits is idiosyncratic and staggering; bottles include some of the finest and rarest rums, cachaças, tequilas, mezcals and small batch agave spirits.

Donna

Set on the outskirts of Williamsburg, this grand, whitewashed cocktail mecca focuses on modern tiki-inspired libations. Most notably, it’s famed for the Brancolada, a brilliant amaro-inspired slushie variation on the Piña Colada with minty-fresh Branca Menta and dark rum at the base, coconut cream, fresh pineapple, and orange juices. With a section of the menu dedicated to Daiquiri variations and an expansive selection of rum on the back bar, Donna is a pirate’s wet dream.

Grand Army

If you haven’t tried one of Damon Boelte’s cocktails at this Boerum Hill bar, you need to—immediately. Inventive and without any pretension, the cocktails (and the bar) have a laid-back feel, with inspiration from the classics and Boelte’s native Oklahoma (he once created an entire menu of cocktails inspired by the Sooner State’s parks). This is the type of bar that you can frequent daily, and the cocktails deliver every time.

Long Island Bar

Without bartender Toby Cecchini, the Cosmopolitan would not exist, Sex and the City would not have had its cocktail muse, the ‘90s cocktail revival may never have happened, and there would be no Long Island Bar. Inside, the bar maintains the look of the original diner that occupied the space, with subtle improvements and sweeping 1940s style elegance (it is also eerily similar to the bar in The Shining). The all-star staff consistently turns out some of the best cocktails you’re likely to ever taste.

Fort Defiance

A quaint, neighborhood bar and restaurant with serious cocktailian street cred, this Red Hook mainstay was the brainchild of writer, bartender and Charles H. Baker aficionado, St. John Frizell. Not only are bartenders well-versed in the classics, there’s also a dense, everything-you-could-want backbar, the best pâté known to man, and house drinks which are sure to become standards in the future.