The Clover Club 210 Smith St, Brooklyn Rating: 3L's
Remember the good old days on Smith Street, when all a bar needed to be successful was a maritime, zombie or campground theme and $5 Brooklyn Lagers? Maturing Brooklyn gentrifiers with fatter wallets have finally outgrown such playful gimmickry, graduating to the classic cocktail parlor — which, at the moment, is enjoying a citywide revival. And stepping up to the trend is Julie Reiner of Flatiron Lounge — her new venture, Clover Club, may be Brooklyn’s most elegant bar.
Clover Club sits only a few blocks from The Jake Walk, Smith Street’s other new dabbler in pre-Prohibition cocktails. Only Reiner has taken the early-20th century experience even further: think fabric-lined walls, plush leather booths and vest-and-tie bartenders, all illuminated by mini-chandeliers. The décor’s inspiration is a monstrous 1892 mahogany bar (salvaged from a Pennsylvania mining town), which makes whiskey bottles look obscenely classy and probably cost more than my Honda Civic Hatchback. And just in case you weren’t sold already, the pulse of classic jazz completes the atmosphere — enough to conjure the rat-tat-tat of stray tommy-gun fire and make you wish New York would suspend its smoking ban, just this once.
Drinks-wise, skip the modest beer and wine list to spend a moment digesting the fact that you’re about to spend $10 or $11 on a cocktail in Brooklyn. The menu reads like a college course in vintage American booze, complete with Sours and Daisies, Bucks and Mules, Juleps and Smashes, Swizzles and Royales. Explaining the distinctions would take all day — assuming I could remember them — but let’s just say there’s a lot of gin, sugar, bitters and fresh fruit involved. A few miss the mark — avoid the New York Sour — but others, like the Southside Fizz and Bramble, justify the nostalgia, and surprisingly aren’t too sweet.
Clover Club also offers a brief but considered small plates menu. The medium-rare Lamb Burger with goat cheese is worthwhile, as are the Molasses Glazed Chicken Drumettes with Roquefort dipping sauce ($9) — and for the extreme gourmand, CC offers an American Caviar Service ($40). Even fancier is the parlor room in the back, decked out with ornate Victorian furnishings, a marble fireplace and fresh roses on every table.
In true Smith Street style, Clover Club’s biggest flaw is its tendency to feel contrived. Still, the nabe’s newest addition is worth giving a chance. Hopefully a few months of wear, tear and drunken professionals spilling fish eggs on the furniture will give it a homier, more natural feel, living up to its self-proclaimed “lavish yet inviting” intention.