638 Bergen Street, Prospect Heights
Call us killjoys, but we were not among those who reacted to news of the opening of a “dessert speakeasy” with excitement. There are a few reasons for this, but most prominent among them is the simple fact that we don’t need any kind of gimmick to attract us to a bar. We like to drink alcohol. We like to drink alcohol in places other than our home. And so we are not really such a hard sell when it comes to attracting us into a new watering hole. The only thing we ask, really, is not to be pandered to. We don’t like it when the owners of an establishment feel they need to coerce us to visit, like they don’t trust the inherent appeal of what they have to offer and instead care more about the publicity flurry that comes with announcing that a bar is, for example, boob-themed (or, say, a dessert speakeasy), rather than just a place to go get a solid drink and maybe a bite to eat.
All of which is to say, we were skeptical when we met a friend at Spirited for pre-dinner drinks the other night. Not just skeptical, actually, more like almost immediately regretful about the choice. The bar itself is beautiful, yes—full of dark wood, it has the building’s century-old original tin ceilings and Art Deco flourishes intact—but at 6:30pm on a Wednesday (and for the next hour or so) it was close to empty. And we think we know why: how can a bar function as an after-work or pre-dinner spot when 99 percent of the food on the menu is dessert? The central conceit, we realized, is absurd, and not just in the way that a boob-themed bar is absurd, but in a more disappointing way, because even when everything about a dessert speakeasy is done well (delicious confections and innovative cocktails) it still won’t wind up as a place you’ll want to go to very often, if at all.
But, you know, we were already at Spirited, so we figured we might as well get a drink. We wound up being really glad we did. We felt a little overwhelmed by some of the more elaborate concoctions and decided to stick with classics: a Rob Roy for myself, and a Vieux Carre for my companion. They were easily two of the most beautifully made drinks we’ve ever had; perfectly balanced with subtle and unexpected flourishes, these drinks made us immediate admirers of our exceptional bartender, Bhagaban Sahoo (he told us to call him Bhagi), who is not only a bartender at Spirited, but also the beverage consultant. Sahoo’s deft touch is unmatched as far as any other cocktail bar we’ve been to in Brooklyn (and we’ve been to many), and the excellence of his drinks made the cocktails we had later, at dinner, seem like dirty dishwater. So despite not really understanding the appeal of the whole dessert-only thing (or even the speakeasy thing… that seems like a trend that died half a decade ago), we would happily go back to Spirited for one of Sahoo’s cocktails. We just lament the fact that anyone would feel the need to sell the place on the virtue of a gimmick, when, in Sahoo, they have the real deal.