221 Smith Street, Cobble Hill
From its terracotta tile awning and adobe facade to the cathedral pew-booths and fireplace filled with glass prayer candles, Leyenda, a new “cocteleria” in Cobble Hill, takes its design and menu inspiration from Central and South America—specifically, from cocktail queen Ivy Mix’s time spent bartending in Antigua, Guatemala. Mix co-owns the spot with her mentor, Julie Reiner, the celebrated craft mixologist behind Flatiron Lounge, Pegu Club, and Clover Club. With turquoise bar cabinets, a breezy patio, and a salsa soundtrack, the bar brings a subtle south of the border vibe to Cobble Hill.
Aptly named head bartender Mix is a former Bennington College art student who’s become a powerful force in the Brooklyn cocktail scene, and is perhaps best known as the founder of Speed Rack, a national speed-cocktail competition for women. She spent much of her early twenties in Guatemala, Peru, and Argentina, falling in love with local cuisine. At Leyenda, she’s created a killer cocktail menu heavy on the liquors of Latin America: tequila, mezcal, rum, pisco, cachaça. Standouts include the smoky Tia Mia, which translates to “My Aunt,” named for an Antiguan friend of Mix’s (and an anagram of Mai Tai). Made with mezcal, toasted-almond orgeat, lime, Jamaican rum, and orange curaçao, it’s garnished with a fuschia orchid blossom. There’s also the poetically named Feelings Catcher, which catches all your feels with infusions of guava and grapefruit, and the Sonnambula (“Sleepwalker”), refreshing and citrusy. The menu is illustrated with Catholic iconography (Virgin Marys, glowing Christs) as well the types of glasses used for each cocktail (why don’t more bars do this?). The food menu, devised by chef Sue Torres, offers a gourmet spin on Latin American street food; try the ceviche, citrus tequila shrimp arepas, goat picadillo tacos, and pupusas stuffed with beans, cheese, and chicharrones.
On top of its artful menu, what makes the spot so classy is that its geographical inspiration is in the details. Unlike many themed bars, it has no overdone or heavy-handed references; it doesn’t feel like a pan-Latin theme park. But also, the dark gray walls and a yuppie-leaning crowd don’t quite let you forget that you’re still in Brooklyn.