The 2011 Brooklyn Bar Awards 

We are coming up on a time of year when, sorry, you will simply no longer be allowed to drink at home, alone, while sitting on your couch. At least not exclusively, anyway. You're going to have to stand up, put on some pants, and get yourself out to the many, many excellent drinking establishments Brooklyn has to offer. You'll be faced with countless choices and a wide variety of drinking situations, each of them with their own specific criteria. It will be complicated and scary, but we're here to help: Behold, the best bars in Brooklyn.




Best Happy Hour

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Washington Commons

434 Park Pl, Prospect Heights
Augment the happy-hour specials ($2 off all drinks from 3 to 8pm seven days a week) at this low-key bar on a corner of Washington Ave by ordering food from neighboring Zaytoon's or Chavella's and call it a cheap date. In the backyard full of picnic tables and actual trees, you'll forget you're in New York.

RUNNER UP:
Soft Spot, 128 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg
Sure, you won't find fancy specialty cocktails or obscure Belgian brews here, but the two-for-one deal on all beers and well drinks every single day until 8pm still fills up this narrow Bedford Avenue bar on a nightly basis.

Best Sports Bar

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Pacific Standard

82 4th Ave, Park Slope
Love sports but hate the idea of hanging with popped-collar Brohams pounding Buds? This Park Slope tavern is significantly more low-key, sporting two giant projection screens playing whatever the crowd wants, provided a Cal Bears or Oakland A's game isn't already on. Choose from 18 different craft beers on tap, half of which hail from the Golden State.

RUNNER UP:
Mulholland's, 312 Grand St, Williamsburg
It can be weird to walk along Grand Street and hear loud cheers coming from a bar playing a Duke-North Carolina game but that's what you'll get at Mulholland's.

Best Beer Bar

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The Diamond

43 Franklin St, Greenpoint
Fancy beers are served with a smile at this almost hidden gem. Located far enough from the closest G train stop to maintain the feel of a low-key, private club, this shuffleboard mecca serves a robust chili, meat-and-cheese plates and other simple food for pairing with the rotating selection of reasonably priced microbrews. Settle in with regulars at the half-circle bar, and in the airy backyard, watch out for flying rubber ring quoits.

RUNNER UP:
Spuyten Duyvil, 359 Metropolitan Ave
The rustic interior and continental back patio are pleasant places to stay for as long as it takes to sample your fill of the hundred-odd boks, blondes and Entire Butt Porters on tap, cask and bottle. The menu gets a jump on the Kingdom of Belgium's inevitable severance, with separate entries for Flemish and Wallonian brewskis.

Best Cocktail Bar

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Dram

77 S 4th St, Williamsburg
This South Williamsburg bar's staff reads like a who's-who of expert mixologists: Jason Littrell of Death & Company, Mayur Subbarao of Mayahuel, Frank Cisneros of Prime Meats and more, all given the freedom to be creative and do their own thing, resulting in some of the most innovative cocktails in the city.

RUNNER UP:
Clover Club, 210 Smith St, Cobble Hill
What's to love more—the palpable devotion to classic cocktails, adorably delicious snacks (deviled eggs! pigs in a blanket!), or the camaraderie created by sipping from a communal punch bowl at this swanky but unpretentious spot? And just in case you needed one more reason to look forward to spring: rhubarb puree, when in season, with prosecco, Aperol and a splash of strawberry.

Best Whiskey Bar

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Char No. 4

196 Smith St, Cobble Hill
$1 Kentucky Gentleman shots, $125 dollar Black Label Maker's Mark shots, or one of the other nearly 300 different shots available at this leathery den of thick-cut bacon smoke—take your pick, and soak up that weekend hangover with cheddar bacon grits at the classy Southern-influenced brunch.

RUNNER UP:
Dram, 177 S 4th St, Williamsburg
While you can find just about any kind of liquor at this specialty cocktail spot, the 50-strong whiskey collection is particularly impressive, boasting rare finds like Middleton Irish Whiskey and Black Maple Hill small-batch bourbon from Kentucky.

Best Garden

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Hot Bird

546 Clinton Ave, Prospect Heights
The communal benches on the walled-in patio of this Prospect Heights bar are a great place for socializing, fueled by pitchers of the 12 different craft beers on tap. In between chatting up new friends, make sure to take a few bites of the artisanal street food dreamed up by Alan Harding, the man behind the equally awesome Gowanus Yacht Club.

RUNNER UP:
TBD 224, Franklin St, Greenpoint
This former warehouse dominates a mellow Greenpoint corner with its minimal chic aesthetic and dozens of picnic tables in the relaxed garden. Grab some banh mi sandwiches with your $3 happy hour microbrews and don't leave until the first frost.

Best Kitchen

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The Vanderbilt

570 Vanderbilt Ave, Prospect Heights
It's technically "bar food," but don't expect burgers and fish and chips here. Owner Saul Bolton, of the Michelin-starred Saul in Cobble Hill, gets inventive at his spacious cocktail spot with small bites such as blistered shishito peppers and chicken liver crostini, as well as bigger plates like the boudin noir sausage served with duck fat potatoes (a steal at only $12).

RUNNER UP:
Dokebi, 199 Grand St
Once you're a couple pitchers deep in the dimly lit backroom bar of this Korean barbecue, joint, there's no need to move elsewhere for your cravings: just start ordering the pork belly tacos and vegetable pancakes—so good that they are, frankly, wasted on the intoxicated.

Best Wine Bar

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Mauzac

136 Dekalb Ave, Fort Greene
The staff at this cozy spot overlooking Fort Greene Park, named for the Mauzac grape, is happy to offer tastes and explanations to help you through their affordable and eclectic wine list. Stay classy and absorb all of that education with a cheese and charcuterie plate at the copper bar.

RUNNER UP:
The Counting Room, 44 Berry St, Williamsburg
Quirky naturalist winemaker Thierry Puzelat's French Malbec is just one of the hard-to-find wines you'll find at this sleek, two-story wine bar, which also serves a substantial menu of gourmet comfort food.

Best Live Music

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The Rock Shop

249 4th Ave, Park Slope
Concrete floors, cheap drinks in plastic cups, and no VIP section—this is the real deal: a sports bar with burgers, wings, a rooftop patio and live music from the former booker for Bell House and Union Hall. Opened just in time for last year's CMJ by the owner of Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge.

RUNNER UP:
Don Pedro, 90 Manhattan Ave, Williamsburg
Dark, dingy and cheap, this East Williamsburg spot is one of the best spots to catch hot Bushwicksburg bands without having to pay $8 a beer.

Best Jukebox

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Lady Jay's

633 Grand St, Williamsburg
The jukebox at Lady Jay's definitely reflects the bar it's in: a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll. Sam Mason, chef and host of IFC's Dinner with the Band, keeps things jumpin' in his faux-honky tonk bar with everything from the Misfits and Otis Redding to Loretta Lynn and John Prine.

RUNNER UP:
Sharlene's, 353 Flatbush Ave, Prospect Heights
The mixes in the jukebox at Sharlene's—with playlists ranging from Texas Bluegrass to 60s New York to Manchester Glam Rock—are so exhaustingly considered you'll want to pull up a chair. You're in luck; someone already thought of that! Settle into the designated perch, cheap drink in hand, and play DJ to the refreshingly diverse crowd.

Most Attractive Staff

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Blackout

916 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint
This sleek Greenpoint bar is owned by the people who run Oak, which is quite possibly Williamsburg's hippest clothing boutique, so it's no surprise it hires fashionable, attractive bartenders who look like they stepped straight out of a Crystal Castles video. They might dress in all black, but don't worry, they're actually pretty friendly.

RUNNER UP:
Hotel Delmano, 82 Berry St, Williamsburg
Those who dig the retro look will find their nirvana at this Williamsburg speakeasy, where the stunning staff impresses with bowties and vintage dresses.

Best Quiz Night

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Pete's Candy Store

709 Lorimer St, Williamsburg
Every Wednesday, people sprint here after work to make sure they get a seat for the Quiz-Off, which kicks off at 7:30pm. Questions, which cover everything from science to pop culture, are just hard enough to be interesting but not so obscure as to be frustrating. First prize is a $25 bar tab.

RUNNER UP:
Habitat, 988 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint
Come for $3 happy hour craft beers and stick around for Quiz Night (every Wednesday from 7 to 11:30pm). Brush up on topics ranging from pop culture to wordplay—not only is your honor at stake, but winners drink for free! There's plenty of banter (aka shit talk) and the occasional round of free shots.

Best Readings

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Franklin Park Readings

618 St. John's Place, Crown Heights
Big names like Rick Moody, Jennifer Egan, and Pulitzer Prize finalist Colson Whitehead mix with up-and-coming local writers at this series held the second Monday of each month. Series curator Penina Roth keeps it diverse, hosting authors from the 'hood, Haiti, Panama, China, and Nigeria. No cover.

RUNNER UP:
Goodbye Blue Monday, 1087 Broadway, Bushwick
Every last Friday of the month at 7pm, Amy King and Ana Bozicevic host Stain of Poetry at the charmingly ramshackle Goodbye Blue Monday, where an eclectic group of poets, humorists and artists give readings.

Best Daytime Drinking Spot

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Fort Defiance

365 Van Brunt St, Red Hook
Forget day-drinking in dingy Irish pubs; enjoying a lunch cocktail like the Tom Collins (gin, fizzy lemonade) made by former Pegu Club bartender and travel writer St. John Frizell in his sunny Red Hook bar/café is the much better option, especially when paired with a tasty muffaletta sandwich.

RUNNER UP:
Superfine, 126 Front St, Dumbo
It's easy to forget about this established, cavernous space tucked under the base of the Manhattan Bridge, but there's nothing sleepy about the horseradish in the made-to-order Bloody Marys. In case that's not enough, live bluegrass at Sunday brunch will wake you right up.

Best Themed Bar

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The Drink

228 Manhattan Ave, Williamsburg
Ahoy mateys! The new nautical-themed bar from cocktail guru Frank Cisneros (Dram, Prime Meats) goes way beyond sailor paraphernalia, although it does have plenty of that. The drink of choice here is that old-timey maritime favorite punch, made with homegrown herbs and exotic spices, best enjoyed while a retro-looking musician turns out a few ditties on the piano.

RUNNER UP:
The Commodore, 366 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg
Apparently the 70s basement motif is working, because this bar is absolutely packed almost every night, mostly for the Southern fare from former Pies 'n' Thighs chef Stephen Tanner.

Best Games

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Black Rabbit

91 Greenpoint Ave, Greenpoint
Next time you're feeling beat down by unrelenting snow or rain, take are storative trip back in time to this neighborhood pub and give your life some purpose by kicking ass at Connect Four, Battleship, or Bingo Sundays. The cozy fire, hot toddies, comfort food, and free peanuts are good for the soul, and dimly lit booths with saloon-style doors are private enough for post-victory gloating.

RUNNER UP:
Union Hall, 702 Union St, Park Slope
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be Colonel Mustard with the candlestick? If so, stop playing Clue, head to Union Hall with its faux library décor, and play a real game—bocce, ruled by an actual Bocce League Commissioner—on one of the two raucous courts.

Best Dog Bar

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Lucky Dog

303 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg
There are dog bars, and then there are lucky dog bars, the kind of places where our four-footed brethren roam free and proud, chomping on bar snacks, licking up sweet, delicious craft beer spills and sniffing each other's butts. Sometimes, they even sit up on the stools and read the Daily News (never the Post). Lucky Dog is just such a place.

RUNNER UP:
Bar Great Harry, 280 Smith St, Carroll Gardens
There are plenty of sleeping dogs lying on the floor at this comfortable corner spot. Feel free to ask the cutie across the bar what his or her dog's name is; just don't offer to buy Fido a drink. That would be weird, and the cast of neighborhood characters will heckle you.

Best Date Bar

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The Richardson

451 Graham Ave, Williamsburg
What better way to break first-date ice than deliberating over drink choices? You learn a lot about a person from his or her preferred cocktail. Are you with a tough whiskey-swilling broad or a not-so-tough Cosmo-sipping man? Better to find out sooner than later at this romantic spot where everyone looks good under dim chandelier light.

RUNNER UP:
Zebulon, 258 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg
It's like being in a beautiful, cool bar in Marseille: Afrobeat, candlelight, cheese plate. Repeat.

Best Sexytime Bar

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The Woods

48 S 4th St, Williamsburg
Ha, "wood," get it? Honestly though, between the tightly dressed South Williasmburgers packing the dance floor on wild weekend nights, the romantic backyard with its hot taco truck, and the leather booths seemingly tailor-made for sweaty, between-songs make-out sessions, there's no sexier place to drink in Brooklyn in 2011.

RUNNER UP:
Nameless Bar, 597 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint
This unnamed intimate spot has an air of mystery and nooks aplenty for canoodling, from the thoughtfully designed basement bathrooms to the cozy couch overlooking the backyard, to what will likely be a very romantic tree-side pagoda under summertime stars. Oh wait, New York doesn't have stars. But you get the idea.

Best Bar for Babies

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Mission Dolores

249 4th Ave, Park Slope
Kids' birthday parties at an auto shop-turned-beer bar with plenty of liquor, too? Why not? It's Brooklyn! The spacious indoor-outdoor courtyard with retractable walls is kinda perfect for strollers, and there are 21 artisanal brews on tap and pinball machines if parents need to numb themselves from the madding crowds.

RUNNER UP:
Radegast Hall & Biergarten 113 N 3rd St, Williamsburg
Ever navigate one of them fancy jogging strollers through a crowded bar? Any new Brooklyn parent still realizing that they hereafter must drink at home (or in the park) will tell you: it's hard! Except at Radegast, with its wide aisles between family-sized picnic tables. Just tell junior you're taking him to Germany.

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