Brooklyn Botanica

Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

After an exhausting ride on an alphabet soup of mass transit to desolate Red Hook, we faced one final obstacle in reaching Brooklyn Botanica, the 'hood's first cocktail lounge: the inscrutable entrance. "Sorry, there's no handle yet," the bartender explained, ushering us through an unmarked door. Like the neighborhood itself, this former longshoreman's bar and parachute factory is still raw and unfinished—despite having been open for seven months. The front bar is appointed with lovely Venetian chandeliers, wide-planked floors and a flaneur-worthy wall of soaring industrial windows. But the spartan, couch-strewn back room and basement performance space (DJs spin, bands strum) are frat-house shabby. Though Brooklyn Botanica is a work-in-progress, the bar's easy vibe and inventive drinks list are, thankfully, fully formed. Following Sasha Petraske's East Side Company formula, the focus is fresh fruit and herbs (grown on the rooftop come springtime). The sweet, creamy Paddle Boat (bourbon, orange juice, framboise, white crme de cacao) is balanced by citrus astringency and grounded by warming bourbon. While the blueberry gimlet (muddled berries, vodka and lime juice) is bright and zesty, the spicy Gin Gin Mule (gin, mint, and a house infusion of ginger, peppercorns and sugar) is overwhelmed by clumps of herbs: A strainer would work wonders. As is the current fashion, absinthe makes an appearance along with champagne in the sparkling, aromatic Death in the Afternoon. Purists can sip several varieties of the wormwood elixir, including Switzerland's Kbler and 138-proof Grande Absente. The wines are ho-hum (though they're obviously not the focus), but the beers merit a closer look: Fourteen international brews include delicious oddities such as Germany's campfire-smoky Schlenkerla Helles and Italy's cocoa-flavored Birrificio Grado Plato Chocarrubica. As for food, purveyor problems have delayed the small-plates program until June. A real shame—we'd have loved some nibbles to neutralize the effects of so many exceptional sips. Brooklyn Botanica may still be evolving, but the bones are there for a beautiful neighborhood bar—hopefully one with a door handle.—TONY

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220 Conover St at Coffey St, Red Hook, Brooklyn (718-797-2297). Travel: F, G to Smith--9th Sts, then take the B77 bus to Conover St. Wed, Thu 6pm--midnight; Fri 6pm--3am; Sat 2pm--3am; Sun 2pm--midnight. Average drink: $10.