Probably it was when we first read The Bell Jar, at about age 13, that we realized one day we would grow up to be drinkers. It’s all thanks to Esther Greenwood, really, who described discovering, at long last, that vodka was her drink because “it didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.” Powerful and godlike? Sign us up. That was many years ago, and while we wouldn’t necessarily say that vodka is our drink (that would be bourbon, thank you), we still like the way drinking makes us feel. And these are our favorite places in Brooklyn to get the feeling we love so much.
Best Wine Bar:
June Wine Bar
This new addition to the Cobble Hill drinking/dining scene is a more than welcome addition: Excellent small plates of food, inventive cocktails, and a beautifully designed space are all matched with a thoughtful, exciting all-natural wine list, which includes plenty of options for the wine-connoisseur and newbie alike.
231 Court Street, Cobble Hill
Best Secret Cocktail Bar:
Erv’s on Beekman
Tucked into a little corner near the Prospect Park Q stop, Erv’s serves up inventive, delicious, reasonably priced drinks in a cozy space.
2122 Beekman Place, Prospect-Lefferts Garden
Best Bar for a First Date:
Skip the romantic candlelit cocktail bar and grab a drink at the picnic tables in the back of Hot Bird—if things go well, you can get close by the firepit, and if they don’t, there’s plenty of room to politely distance yourself.
825 Atlantic Avenue, Prospect Heights
Best Theme Bar:
A boob-themed bar sounds like a strip joint in disguise, but this Bushwick number is more fit for a wacky board-game night than a bachelor party: The decor is kitschy, the drinks are cheap, and the board games make for a fun night out.
308 Bleecker Street, Bushwick
Best Bar to Bring Dogs:
Bar Great Harry
DOH dictators be damned, owners Ben and Mike Wiley remain open and affirming to Brooklyn’s canine contingent, who happily roam free around the bar stools and pinball machines (and are equally welcome at the Wiley’s other establishments; Glorietta Baldy, the Owl Farm and Mission Dolores).
280 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens
Best Happy Hour:
Feel like you’re far, far away from Brooklyn in this wood-paneled corner bar in the Windy T, and indulge in their long happy hour (3–7pm), during which you’ll get $4 well drinks and $1 off draft beers like Ithaca Flower Power and Other Half Veldrijden Love.
1241 Prospect Avenue, Windsor Terrace
Best Bar to Bring an
No matter where they hail from, your family members will find a little bit of home at Kilo Bravo in Williamsburg, which serves cocktails inspired by each of the 50 states (Ohio’s “Blue Collar Sidecar,” New Jersey’s “Turnpike”).
180 N. 10th Street, Williamsburg
Best Bar Snacks:
There’s a reason Extra Fancy has become a favorite after-service haunt for choosy industry types — they serve killer cocktails; interesting and affordable wines, ciders, and drafts; and a formidable assortment of late night bites, including Surf & Turf Patty Melts, Szechuan Fried Chicken, Smoked Haddock Chowder with French Bottarga, and sorghum butter-slathered Griddled Cornbread.
302 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
Best Dive Bar:
Not every old-man dive bar is a welcoming place for non-old-men, and stepping into the Alibi can certainly feel like you’ve made a wrong turn. A pack of grumpy-looking, inevitably smashed regulars at this old-as-hell Fort Greene bar will give you the old once (or three times) over. Our suggestion is to simply nod in response (most of them are harmless and just looking to lift some cash off you in a game of pool) and know exactly what you want to order when the curmudgeonly bartender asks. Pratt kids wander in once in a while, but thankfully never succeed in completely watering the place down.
242 DeKalb Avenue, Fort Greene
Bed-Stuy’s favorite old-school dive is a neighborhood staple–family photos, baby portraits, and Obama icons dominate behind the bar. There’s something about it that resembles a backyard, but is more like a smoky, open-air garage filled with rusty lawn furniture, car parts, and barbecue paraphernalia. It’s dingy and dark and womb-like inside, and usually quiet, with the low hum of a fan and tiny staticky TVs the only thing going for the place until someone drops some quarters into the jukebox filled with soul, funk, and neighborhood hip-hop legends.
432 Franklin Avenue, Bed-Stuy
Diana Perry, The Bearded Lady
The Bearded Lady is a great cocktail spot, and Perry is one of the friendliest, most creative mixologists around. Ask for a drink built around a specific flavor profile or a liquor, and Perry can deliver not one, but a couple interesting variations.
686A Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights
This tri-cornered playland stands in stark relief against the still-derelict sprawl of industrial Bushwick. The cozy yard is outfitted with twinkly lights, fruit trees, adult-sized swing sets, and tables fashioned from stumps.
970 Flushing Avenue, Bushwick
A Vietnamese gastropub of sorts where the food is definitely third to drinks and incredible rooftop views of the Williamsburg Bridge. The roof is usually pretty empty even on warm days because most people come here for food and Bia does something at once amazing and infuriating by not allowing patrons to take food upstairs. The best part about it is the nakedness of the rooftop–it doesn’t feel like a restaurant or bar, but much more like climbing to the top of your pal’s building, albeit with a way better view.
67 South 6th Street, Williamsburg
Best Bar to Break-Up In:
The Black Rabbit
This Greenpoint establishment is brooding in an English pub sort of way (not an American-English-pub way, but like something you’d actually find in an old English town). There’s a fireplace and it’s sufficiently dark and seemingly open all the time. And let’s be real, breakups don’t wait till dinner time. It’s a great place to part ways because after the dumpee leaves the place tail betwixt legs, you can sit alone in peace and pretty much guarantee only other lonely people will walk in.
91 Greenpoint Avenue, Greenpoint
Best Bar for Yacht Rock:
King Tai Bar
Crown Heights’ newest addition to the bar scene features pastel walls, chrome diner stools, and a decidedly Miami Beach vibe.
1095 Bergen Street, Crown Heights
Best Catch It While You Can Williamsburg Bar:
God forbid anything happen to this longtime neighborhood hangout, a place where you’re guaranteed crunchy cheese snacks, pool, and cheap beer. We hope it never leaves. But given the way the neighborhood is going, it’s probably wise to cherish it a little, you know?
212 Berry Street, Williamsburg
Most of the city’s bars take karaoke much too seriously. Let’s be real, it doesn’t offer a chance to impress anyone, it’s just about making a fool of yourself and relishing in the burn of humiliation and well whiskey. Trash Bar (which may not be around for much longer, sadly) offers karaoke of the more honest variety, in a filthy dive bar setting particularly suited for acting out. Plus, the long lines mean you’ll get sufficiently drunk before your name is ever called.
256 Grand Street, Williamsburg
Best Bar for a Birthday Party:
Night of Joy
The big back room here makes it the perfect place to invite all your friends to celebrate the most important person in the world: You. Also, the fact that the bartenders make some solid drinks doesn’t hurt at all.
667 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg
Best Bar Trivia:
In no time at all, this new bar has established its trivia night bonafides: every other Monday, Meredith Heil (of Beerded Ladies’ Beer Geek Trivia) and Casey Du Pont (of Black Rabbit’s Nerd! Alert) host a night of New York City-themed trivia. Winners get a bar tab, and for correct answers to bonus questions, Livingston Manor offers free picklebacks made with house-brined pickle juice.
42 Hoyt Street, Downtown Brooklyn
The stand-alone fireplace at Dynaco, like most of its decor, is the result of creative reuse: When the bar’s owners were tearing down old closets in the bar’s back room, they discovered a hidden flue. The metal fireplace they connected to it is the toastiest in the borough.
1112 Bedford Avenue, Bed-Stuy
Best Combo Bar:
Once you’re done drowning your relationship woes in three fingers of bourbon, you’ll realize it’s actually all your fault, and make amends to your significant other with a lavish bouquet from Stems; Sycamore’s pop-up flower shop.
1118 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park
Best Bar Bathroom:
Happy Fun Hideaway
For a good time call Happy Fun Hideaway— bring your crew to this Bushwick bar, cozy up under the umbrella at the indoor picnic table, guzzle some frozen margaritas, and try not to stare for too long at the porn projected on the back wall. Actually, just go ahead and be on your worst behavior. Seriously, there’s always a party happening at this Bushwick bar, so don’t be surprised to see the bathroom line chug along remarkably slowly.
1211 Myrtle Avenue, Bushwick
Perhaps it’s an obvious choice, but Radegast has everything a good biergarten requires: a huge sitting hall, outdoor seating, good food, and, of course, a large and excellent selection of beers–a dozen imports on tap, and another sixty or
113 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg
Best Vodka Bar:
Masha & the Bear
Any Russian will tell you: No glass of vodka is complete without some food because no glass of vodka is ever alone. Since you’ll inevitably be drinking multiple glasses of the stuff–and with six varieties of Catskill Distillery’s wheat vodka on tap at Williamsburg’s Masha & the Bear, including two traditional varieties (horseradish, pepper and honey) and some less indigenous ones like mango– you’re gonna need some hefty servings of pelmeni (dumplings) and blini (crepes which are basically the equivalent of late-night slices in Russia). If you ask nicely the bartender might even have some dried fish you can chew on, which, believe us, will earn you some real street cred with the Slavs.
771 Grand Street, East Williamsburg
Best Whiskey Bar:
The argument for Noorman’s Kil as Brooklyn’s best whiskey bar goes something like this: It offers more than four-hundred types of whiskey. What more do you need to know?
609 Grand Street, Williamsburg
Best Tiki Bar:
Sunken Harbor Club
Fort Defiance recently launched an all-emoji menu at Sunken Harbor Club, their weekly tiki pop-up. So you better be icon savvy, in order to successfully distinguish the White Zombie (three skulls) from the Planter’s Punch (frond, frond, fist).
365 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
Best Bar for Spotting a Sword-Swallower:
Conveniently located within the same premises as the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, the Freak Bar is a great place to unwind before a Cyclones game and talk shop with someone who hammers nails into their skull for a living.
1208 Surf Avenue, Coney Island
Best Bar to Read a Book:
Delicious, fairly priced cocktails; good background music; courteous, but not overly talkative bartenders; ample, but not obnoxiously bright lighting—these are all the things you need in a bar for it to be a good place to bring a book. Well, guess what? Miles has all these things, plus some killer grilled cheese options.
101 Wilson Avenue, Bushwick
Best Bar with Pinball Machine:
A great not-quite-dive on Flatbush, Sharlene’s has a solid beer menu, strong mixed drinks, warm pretzels, and a selection of pinball machines for those so inclined.
353 Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Heights
Best Sports Bar:
A favorite of our sports-obsessed photo director, 4th Down has everything you want in a sports bar: lots of screens (including two projectors), knowledgable bartenders, good beer (plus bucket deals), and a ton of fellow passionate fans.
750 Grand Street, East Williamsburg
Best Bar for After Jury Duty:
The Dining Room
Ugh, Downtown Brooklyn, amirite? It feels like there’s nothing here. Trust us, we know! But what we’ve discovered after working here for almost a year is that there are a few places to go to quench your thirst after a particularly trying day in DoBro. Best among them is The Dining Room, which has lots of good deals (try and stop by on Tequila Tuesday or Whiskey Wednesday) and solid, salty french fries.
56 Willoughby Street, Downtown Brooklyn
Best Bar for Live Music:
The back room at Williamsburg’s premier pick-up bar hosts a surprisingly eclectic range of shows from night to night. Just in the next two months, Reverend Vince Anderson and His Love Choir, Jessica Pratt, and the Juan Maclean, among others, will perform.
484 Union Avenue, Williamsburg
Best Irish Pub:
Technically, there’s nothing all that notable about Kitty Kiernans, save for its exterior coat of bright red paint. Which is precisely what makes the Bay Ridge standby the ultimate,
no-muss no-fuss Irish pub, along with its inky drafts of expertly poured Guinness.
9715 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
Best Bar with Free Food:
They have a popcorn machine from which you can scoop yourself baskets of buttery, salty, golden goodness. Case closed.
243 5th Avenue, Park Slope
Best Bar to Bring Kids:
Kids in bars are a controversial topic, to be sure, and our opinion on that matter goes something like this: Don’t take kids where they—or other patrons—will be uncomfortable. Such is the beauty of Soda Bar, which makes everyone feel welcome, and where adults can enjoy the afternoon/evening hanging out with other adults, while kids can keep themselves occupied by eating a BLT and just doing whatever it is that kids do.
629 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights
Best Bar for Daytime Drinking:
Brooklyn Ice House
If you have the luxury to drink in the middle of the day, it’s hard to beat Brooklyn Ice House’s assortment of dusty board games and 60+ beers, which, in warmer weather, can be enjoyed at one of the picnic tables or cracked-leather couches on the back patio. Or if you don’t, you can always sober up tout suite with frito pie, pulled pork sandwiches, and hot dogs wrapped in bacon and cheese.
318 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
Best Punch-Serving Bar:
Single cocktails are great and everything, but you know what’s even greater? A big bowl full of ten cocktails at once. Such is the beauty of a perfectly crafted punch, anyway, and there isn’t anywhere in Brooklyn that makes better variations on that theme than The Drink. Try the (Leona) Helms-A-Lee with friends. You won’t regret it.
282 Manhattan Avenue, Williamsburg
Best Designed Bar:
Half of Brooklyn’s most breathtaking restaurants and bars can be traced back to hOmE’s Evan and Oliver Haslegrave, but the bi-level Ramona in Greenpoint might just be their pièce de résistance, with a curved iron and oak staircase, a five-tier chandelier fashioned from copper water pipes, and a 35-foot Carrara marble bar, framed by wood salvaged from the Atlantic City boardwalk.
113 Franklin Street, Greenpoint
Best Bar for Art:
This Red Hook spot is great for SO MANY REASONS, but the one we’re going to single out right now is that it’s a great supporter of the arts due to the fact that it hosts frequent art openings and always has interesting stuff hanging up and perched all around the bar and backroom. What else can we say? It’s just the best.
253 Conover Street, Red Hook
Best Bar for Dollar Oysters:
Look, there’s a bunch of places in Brooklyn where you can get dollar oysters. And that’s great! It really is. But while most of those places only offer dollar-Bluepoints (the most basic of oysters), Mayfield offers creamy, delicate Malpeques as an alternative. Check it out.
688 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
Best Bar for Comedy:
Pete’s Candy Store
Pete’s Candy Store is old-reliable in a section of Williamsburg where condos (i.e. looming money towers) seem to be sprouting by the second. Thankfully, you can welcome the apocalypse with usually free weekly stand-up nights that bring more-than-decent comics on stage in the dark, cozy backspace. Grab a cheap drink, tip your bartender, and bid adieu to everything you once knew.
709 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg
Best Bar for Company Parties:
Royal Palms Shuffleboard
Is there anything more fun and, uh, team-building than low-stakes competitive sports? No! Especially when it’s not sports, but “sports.” Like shuffleboard! So get your boss to pony up the money to have your next company party here and have fun with your colleagues while sipping solid mixed drinks from mason jars. You know you want to.
514 Union Street, Gowanus
Best Bar Reading Series:
Curated by Penina Roth, the monthly reading series at this Crown Heights bar showcases many of the best authors writing today (a recent evening featured National Book Award-winner Phil Klay). It’s a can’t-miss event that’s aided by good drinks and food. Win-win-win.
618 St. John’s Place, Crown Heights
Best Bar That Feels Like a Log Cabin:
Sometimes you just want to forget that you’re an adult and pretend you’re still at sleepaway camp, right? Right. And there’s nowhere better to do it than at a bar with a log cabin-vibe where you can drink while making your own s’mores over a roaring fire.
179 Smith Street, Cobble Hill
Best Bar to Visit Before the
Styrofoam Cup Ban Takes Effect:
Turkey’s Nest Tavern
Patrons of this McCarren Park-adjacent dive will undoubtedly feel the effect of the city’s Styrofoam ban, when prices inevitably rise on the signature, outsized frozen absinthe margaritas, in order to offset the soon-to-be-mandated expense of using eco-friendly cups.
94 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Best Bar to Play Darts:
This Sunset Park dive has been around for decades and is a fascinating place to visit because of its healthy mix of old school Irish, more newly arrived Chinese residents, and everyone in between, with the one thing people have in common is that they’re all regulars here; plus, everyone has fun playing at the communal dart board.
6004 8th Avenue, Sunset Park
Best Bar for Beer Nerds:
Now two years since the heralded opening of this joint venture between Evil Twin Brewing’s Jeppe Jarnit Bjergso and chef Daniel Burns, still no one has yet to out-do Torst when it comes to craft beer credentials: Their draft list is consistently bonkers, with an impressive (and, it should be noted, pricey) selection of hard-to-find beers from all over the world, as well as a solid representation of the very best locals.
615 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint
Best Bar with a Confusing Name:
Denny’s Steak Pub
This Kensington dive bar’s name implies that it serves steak. But, well, it doesn’t! Confusing. In fact, it serves no food at all! But it does serve some pretty cheap booze, so check that out before leaving for some place that, you know, does serve food.
106 Beverley Road, Kensington
Best Bar to Become a Regular:
Old Stanley’s is exactly the kind of comfortable, affordable, everyman’s bar that quickly becomes your go-to neighborhood spot. The vibe is relaxed, the people are unpretentious, and the bartenders are friendly and attentive without seeming to rush you.
226 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick
Best Bar for Beer Nerds Who Don’t Want to Hang Out with Other Beer Nerds:
The Owl Farm
Make no mistake: this Park Slope spot is well known to even the nerdiest of beer nerds, who visit regularly to take in their many beer-related events, not to mention the 30 carefully chosen and ever-changing beers they offer on tap. But, it being owned by the Wiley Brothers (Bar Great Harry, Mission Dolores, etc.), it’s also just a really great neighborhood spot with ample seating and a decidedly more relaxed, lived-in vibe. Plus pinball.
297 9th Street, Park Slope