50 best New York bars: Williamsburg

As New York bars go, you can't do much better than Williamsburg—one of the richest nightlife hoods in NYC.

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  • 50 best New York bars: Huckleberry Bar

     

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    50 best New York bars: The Commodore

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    50 best New York bars: The Counting Room

  • 50 best New York bars: Barcade

     

  • Photograph: Michael Kirby Smith

    50 best New York bars: Sputyten Duyvil

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    50 best New York bars: Donna

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    50 best New York bars: Dram

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    50 best New York bars: The Shanty

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    50 best New York bars: The Drink

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    50 best New York bars: Maison Premiere

50 best New York bars: Huckleberry Bar

 

Huckleberry Bar

The name says it all: To be a huckleberry is to be the right one for the job, and Huckleberry Bar is just that. Owners Andrew Boggs and Stephanie Schneider have created an experience that will satisfy any boozer’s desire: choice beers, an ace wine selection, serious cocktails and respectable eats. Every detail, down to a DJ who adjusts the soundtrack to fit the crowd and hour, is tailored to give you what you want. Acquire an intimate table in the expansive room and call for a glass of punch or a house drink such as the Greenbriar, made with oloroso sherry, peach bitters and Lillet.

  1. 588 Grand St, (at Lorimer St)
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The Commodore

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

With its old arcade games, Schlitz in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, this Williamsburg gastrodive offers the city’s best cheap-ass bar eats. The “hot fish” sandwich, for one, is a fresh, flaky, cayenne-rubbed catfish fillet poking out of both sides of a butter-griddled sesame-seed roll.You'll be thankful it's available after a few rounds of the Commodore's house drink—a frozen slushy pina colada.

  1. 366 Metropolitan Ave, (at Havemeyer St)
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The Counting Room

  • Critics choice

This spacious, stylish watering hole offers two great bars in one: wines by the glass and half bottles on the ground floor, and cocktails and spirits in a basement lounge. The wine list upstairs, with a focus on small, all-natural producers, features a well-priced collection of offbeat finds. Downstairs, you can sip classic and original drinks like the assertive Reverend Horton Heat, a tall bourbon refresher with smoked lemon juice and sweet maple syrup. Pro tip: Come by on Mondays to check out bartender Maks Pazuniak's experimental cocktail series "Something Like This." Starting at 9pm, you can sample innovative and off-kilter sips that riff on specific themes both straightforward (a tribute to drinks chronicler Charles H. Baker Jr.) and abstract (apocalypse-inspired, dark-hued libations), all matched to a playlist.

  1. 44 Berry St, (at North 11th St)
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Barcade

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Prepare to geek out at this temple to beer and vintage arcade games: first at the 35 classic quarter machines (Donkey Kong, Contra), then at the ever-evolving beer selection detailed on a chalkboard above the bar. Owner Paul Kermizian stocks only American beer, with 75 percent of his haul hailing from the Northeast. But despite constant lineup changes, he manages to maintain remarkable stylistic balance—on the 24-tap draft list, you might see a crisp Victory pilsner alongside a diverse trio of stouts and a yeasty black ale from New Hampshire’s White Birch Brewing. Bimonthly events include tap takeovers that give patrons access to the full range of offerings from a single producer.

  1. 388 Union Ave, (between Ainslie and Powers Sts)
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Spuyten Duyvil

  • Critics choice

The pared-down lineup of six drafts and one cask here speaks to owner Joe Carroll's reverence for beer. "With too many lines, the beer can sit around and get stale," he says. Spuyten's minimal draft offerings, as well as its 100-plus bottle list ($5--$45), are focused mainly on tiny European breweries. Sample old-world rarities like the thick, sherrylike Samichlaus lager from Austria or cellar-aged Cantillon lambics of various vintages ($15--$30). The cozy interior is chock-full of flea market finds, most of which are for sale. There’s also a tasty bar menu of smoked meats, pâtés, cheeses and terrines.

  1. 359 Metropolitan Ave, (at Havemeyer St)
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Donna

  • Critics choice

This breezy, rum-soaked drinkery, secreted away near the Williamsburg waterfront, is charming, refined and a little subversive—an enchanting nook that feels worlds away from the industrial streets outside. The cocktails alone could coax aficionados from their habitual perches, but it’s the transporting staging that seals the deal—a fever-dream vision of Central America that takes its inspiration from Spanish-colonial cathedrals, Art Nouveau parlor rooms and the sailor’s flophouse that existed on this site in the 1800s. Rum anchors the cocktail list from bar manager Jeremy Oertel (Dram, Mayahuel), who expresses the colonial theme with drinks that match tropical ingredients (pisco, Mexican Coke) with old-world amari and liqueurs (Ramazzotti, yellow Chartreuse). The OJ-splashed Brancolada elevates that tiki warhorse, the piña colada, with herbal and minty Branca Menta—the result is at once sophisticated and dangerously easygoing, like a Ph.D. student gone wild on spring break. Stick around for bar snacks such as a patatas bravas–style dish of chili-dusted baby potatoes, smashed on the plancha and paired with a smoky ancho-chili relish.

  1. 27 Broadway, (at Dunham Pl)
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Dram

  • Critics choice

This airy Williamsburg bar is New York’s first truly progressive cocktail joint—a casual mixology haven with stools to spare for drinkers of all persuasions. The lighthearted but well-executed menu changes according to the whims of Dram’s precocious barkeeps. The Mighty Tux is a botanical balancing act, with crisp gin, bittersweet maraschino liqueur, and both dry and sweet vermouth lending body and depth. There are classics, too—like a beautifully integrated Sazerac—but you can also take your boozing cues from the neighborhood dudes draining $4 Porkslap ales or sipping from a smart collection of international wines. It’s this egalitarian tack that keeps the place packed—whether or not its patrons appreciate Italian bitters and Kold-Draft ice cubes.

  1. 177 South 4th St, (between Driggs Ave and Roebling St)
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The Shanty

  • Critics choice

It was only a matter of time before Brooklyn’s DIY spirit and cocktail revivalism spawned the urban distillery—a throwback to NYC’s industrial past, when the town ran deep with locally made hooch. While the trend has been percolating for the past few years, it’s finally found its poster child in the New York Distilling Co., a collaboration between Brooklyn Brewery cofounder Tom Potter and booze guru Allen Katz. The partners brought the link between spirits and mixology full circle, launching a serious cocktail bar under the same roof as their working distillery. Ogle the shimmering copper still where they craft their intriguing portfolio of spirits—two complex and unusual gins, plus an in-the-works rye whiskey made entirely with New York State grains—then sample the proprietary hooch (as well as booze from other producers) in a range of signature concoctions. We like the Sneaky Sour (Tito's vodka, lemon, Carpano Antica, juniper-coriander syrup, egg white; $11), a sly recruitment tool for gin agnostics, simulating the spirit's juniper notes without overwhelming the drink's tight balance of sweet and tart flavors.

  1. 79 Richardson St, (between Leonard and Lorimer Sts)
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The Drink

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

This maritime tavern trains its focus on the communal pleasures of punch. Frank Cisneros (Dram) is behind the nightly punch-by-the-glass specials as well as large-format bowls for groups, including the Crusade—a fruity marriage of Old Monk Indian rum, citric rooibos Earl Grey tea from South Africa and a boatload of spices. Tea-stained navigational charts on the ceiling and nautical bric-a-brac rachet up the seafaring spirit, but the prices are a draw for landlubbers as well. Even the most basic well drinks ($6) deploy quality spirits such as Rhum Barbancourt, while five wooden taps dispense pedigreed suds—like Maine’s Geary’s Pale Ale—for just $4.

  1. 228 Manhattan Ave, (at Grand St), 11206
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Maison Premiere

  • Critics choice

The majority of NYC's N'awlins-inspired watering holes choose debauched Bourbon Street as their muse, but this gorgeous salon embraces the romance found in the Crescent City’s historic haunts. Belly up to the oval, marble-topped bar and get familiar with the twin pleasures of oysters and absinthe: two French Quarter staples with plenty of appeal in Brooklyn. The mythical anise-flavored liqueur appears in 19 international varieties, in addition to a trim list of cerebral cocktails from barkeep Maxwell Britten (Freemans, Jack the Horse). A San Domingo Julep mellows rich Venezuelan rum with gomme syrup, while the Carondolet deploys gin, orange-flower water, citrus and Maldon salt—a fine match for briny beau soleils. In warm weather, a small garden maintains the romance with creeping vines and an outdoor oyster bar.

  1. 298 Bedford Ave, (between Grand and South 1st Sts), 11211
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