Thu Aug 7 2008
Photograph: Roxana Marroquin
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Cobble Hill did not need Julie Reiner. Before Manhattan's cocktail doyenne unveiled Clover Club, her Victorian-style drinks den, Brooklyn Social's nattily attired barkeeps met Smith Street's cocktail quota just fine. Reiner's arrival, however, does speak to the seismic shift occurring in the borough's bar scene. Where once dives and alehouses thrived, spots like Weather Up and the Hideaway now dispense serious tipples—with prices to match. But it's a worthy expenditure at Clover Club, where you'll find some of Brooklyn's most superlative cocktails. Like its Manhattan sibling, Flatiron Lounge, the Club evokes an old-timey aesthetic. Here, it's expressed in intricate tile work, curved leather booths, marble tables, vintage sofas and a functioning fireplace. The centerpiece is the 19th-century mahogany bar, where vest-clad mixologists stir and shake throwback potions, handily defined in the novel-like menu (there are 32 drinks total). The regal bowl of Pimms Punch ($42 serves four to six)—a fruity elixer of Pimms, gin, ginger, lemon juice and mint, along with strawberries and cucumber—is ladled with a certain amount of pomp into dainty teacups. More complex is the cloudy, amber-colored Black Maamba, a heady cocktail of rye, Pommeau de Normandie (apple liqueur) and herbaceous green chartreuse, presented old-fashioned-style in a double rocks glass. The Improved Whiskey Cocktail, meanwhile, lives up to its name, with an oversize ice cube competing for space with a brawny blend of rye, maraschino liqueur, bitters and absinthe—as the ice dissolves, its aromas emerge. But not all drinks were so captivating. The Scotch-fueled Highland Smash suffered from the addition of too much honey, while the Gin Gin Mule (gin, ginger, mint and lime) required more assertive spice. Also needing a boost is the short food menu, which mixes highbrow caviar-and-shrimp toast with kitschy deviled eggs and juvenile wienies in a blanket. For a place pushing drinking as a grown-up pastime, that's kid stuff.