New Yorkers, now is the season for securing a cool seat indoors with a well-deserved drink at one of these eclectic watering holes. The classic cocktails of Mad Men fame are all here, but unusual combinations—featuring everything from cucumber to jalapeño-tinged cocoa powder—also made the list for your imbibing pleasure.
Dutch Kills | 27-24 Jackson Ave., Long Island City | 718.383.2724 | dutchkillsbar.com
Suspenders, secluded booths, and bartenders whipping up cocktails with the grace of dancers are the hallmarks of Dutch Kills, a speakeasy on a deserted stretch of Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. You might start with one of six basic offerings listed on a chalkboard behind the bar— a Stanley with rum, gin, lemon and grenadine, or a Rum Runner with Grand Marnier, for instance—but the magic happens when you let the bartender run wild. Name an ingredient or two and a type of liquor and in minutes, a beautiful work of cocktail art will appear before you, chilled with hand-cut ice that looks too pretty to let melt.
Sip on this: The Old Maid, a refreshing take on a traditional Mojito with muddled cucumber playing off the mint, lime, sugar and gin. Or the King’s Fizz, a creamy combination of soda, egg white, orange bitters, white rum, lemon and sugar that resembles a liquid creamsicle.
How to get there: Take the E,V or G train to 23rd St.- Ely Avenue/Court Square or the 7 train to 45 Road/Court House Square.
Littlefield | 622 Degraw St., Brooklyn | 718.855.3388 | littlefieldnyc.com
At first glance, nondescript Littlefield in Gowanus appears performance-focused, a place where music and arts play starring roles. But classy cocktails figure prominently, thanks to WD-50 mixologist Tona Palomino’s truly mouthwatering menu based on seasonal ingredients. Equally cool is the venue’s unique warehouse space, which measures 6,200 square feet and epitomizes green design with its landscaped courtyard, recycled construction materials, and wind power.
Sip on this: The Lavender Sour, a delightfully tart mix of plum wine, violette liqueur and lemon juice, or the subtle Acai Aishii with Veev acai spirit and a touch of pear.
How to get there: Take the M or R to Union St.
Huckleberry Bar | 588 Grand St., Brooklyn | 718.218.8555 | huckleberrybar.com
Perhaps the swankiest watering hole off Lorimer Street in East Williamsburg, Huckleberry Bar boasts gorgeous cocktails inside a dimly lit, luxe interior. Try out the tempting array of classics and seasonal drinks created by Stephanie Schneider and Andrew Boggs, alums of Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke. Huckleberry also hosts dance-themed Monday night movies this fall, and has an impressive menu of small plates like charcuterie and sandwiches—anyone for Homemade Focaccia Grilled Cheese with Shallot Marmalade?
Sip on this: The peppery Merrill Beth Nisker, with El Jimador Tequila, Del Maguey Mezcal, succulent peach syrup made in house, and touches of lemon, lime and bitters, all topped off with a jalapeño-infused cocoa powdered rim for an addictive bite.
How to get there: Take the L to Lorimer St.
Fort Defiance | 365 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn | 347.453.6672 | fortdefiancebrooklyn.com
Like its owner St. John Frizell, the writer and former bartender at Pegu Club, Fort Defiance is striking, with cocktails that are straightforward but memorably mixed. The dinner menu features a Muffuletta sandwich, a nod to Frizell’s native New Orleans, and small plates like Deviled Eggs. Breakfast and lunch are also served inside the charming, street corner bar. “There was no place in Red Hook to get a cup of coffee, sit down and read the paper,” Frizell explained, though Fort Defiance is so much more than a morning hangout.
Sip on this: The Prescription Julep, circa Harper’s Monthly 1857, combines cognac and rye whiskey and is generously garnished with mint. Frizell’s Watermelon Gin Punch is frothy and smooth, a twist on Fine Cooking’s July 2008 recipe.
Cost: Julep $10, Gin Punch $8
How to get there: Take the G to Smith and 9th Sts.
Beco | 5 Richardson St., Brooklyn | 718.599.1645 | becobar.com
This Brazilian bar and eatery, a nod to traditional São Paolo botecos, is just a short walk from McCarren Park and attracts a jovial crowd with its authentic grub and friendly vibe. Co-owner David Giddings, who helped transform the former garage, is quick to offer guests an irresistible basket of Pão de Queijo, fluffy balls of Brazilian cheese bread served piping hot alongside Brazilian beers and cocktail varieties. [Try this YumSugar recipe for Pao de Queijo with how-to photos.] “The best passion fruit comes from New Zealand or Brazil,” Giddings told me, and the bar insists on serving only the best in their signature Caipiroska.
Sip on this: The warming Batido de Coco is just right for fall, brimming with coconut milk, condensed milk and Cachaça, and finished with sweet, shaved coconut. The Caipiroska with muddled fruit, sugar and vodka is a favorite, especially Beco’s signature passion fruit version.
How to get there: Take the G to Nassau Ave. or the L to Lorimer St.
Want to explore spots beyond Brooklyn and Queens? Check out our Long Island Drink Like a Local Guide.