Bars in Red Hook: Where to drink in the waterfront neighborhood

Stumbling distance from the water, you'll find a prime catch of Irish pubs, dive bars and cocktail havens—many with decks or outdoor areas.

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If you've made it all the way to Red Hook, you should reward yourself with a drink. Lucky for you, options range from two fine cocktail havens to an Irish pub with a roof deck. Then there's Sunny's, a beloved neighborhood bar that—while closed by flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy—is aiming to reopen in summer 2013. Tie one on and worry about how to get home later.

RECOMMENDED: Red Hook neighborhood guide

Sunny’s

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

This unassuming wharfside tavern has been passed down in the Balzano family since 1890. On weekends, the bar buzzes with middle-aged and new-generation bohemians (the latter distinguished by their PBR cans), and the odd salty dog (canines, not sailors). Despite the nautical feel, you’re more likely to hear bossa nova or bluegrass than sea chanties warbling from the speakers.

  1. 253 Conover St, between Beard and Reed Sts
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Fort Defiance

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The serious take on tippling offered at Fort Defiance is rare in isolated Red Hook, but the cocktails rank among the best in the borough. The Journalist, made with gin and vermouth, is as clean and crisp as a classic Manhattan. A Prescription Julep is an extra-potent mint julep featuring cognac and rye, poured over hand-crushed ice. If you live in the ’hood, this could be your new local spot (it opens at 7am on weekdays, serving coffee and breakfast). The frontier pricing—most drinks are under $10—helps justify the trek for the rest of us.

  1. 365 Van Brunt St, at Dikeman St, 11231
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Brooklyn Ice House

  • Price band: 1/4

The splintered-wood walls and mismatched furniture are holdovers from Pioneer Bar-B-Q, the grizzly eatery that last occupied this Red Hook space. Owner Trevor Budd’s beer-bar pedigree (he is a Ginger Man vet) translates to 30-plus affordable brews, from the $2 Carling Black Label to chocolatey Aventinus from Germany (a $7 steal). For those missing Pioneer, the same smoker still pumps out excellent barbecue—pulled pork piled on soft buns (two for $5) is a delicious reminder of the departed haunt.

  1. 318 Van Brunt St, at Pioneer St
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Brooklyn Botanica

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Though this Red Hook bar is still a work-in-progress (note the tough-to-spot entrance), the easy vibe and inventive drinks list are, thankfully, fully formed. Fresh fruit can be found in cocktails like the blueberry gimlet (muddled berries, vodka and lime juice), and absinthe makes an appearance along with champagne in the sparkling Death in the Afternoon. As for food, the small-plates program has yet to arrive. Brooklyn Botanica may still be evolving, but the bones are there for a beautiful local bar.

  1. 220 Conover St, at Coffey St
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Rocky Sullivan’s

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Insane rent sent this Gramercy-area Irish pub scuttling to Red Hook’s former Liberty Heights Tap Room space, a sprawling, roof-decked haunt with a view of the waterfront. While Rocky’s still serves brick-oven pizzas, also offered at Liberty, and brewed-next-door Sixpoint Ales, Irish touches such as draft Guinness and Celtic hip-hoppers on Friday nights turn this distant destination into a Gaelic roadhouse worth the journey.

  1. 34 Van Dyke St, at Dwight St
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Red Hook Bait and Tackle

A piece of tape marking Hurricane Sandy floodwaters is the only sign that this neighborhood dive took a hit from mother nature. Rocking a hunting-lodge vibe—taxidermied critters line the walls—the pub boasts eight draft brews, including Rockaway Brewery's ESB and Kelso's IPA. On Fridays and Saturdays, post up at the bar—crafted from a fallen tree—to watch live musical acts.

  1. 320 Van Brunt St, at Pioneer St, 11231
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B61

  • Price band: 1/4

The bar is named for the spotty bus that connects this just-off-the-beaten-path ’hood to the rest of the borough. Manhattanites unnerved by the location can take comfort in the bar’s amenities, including towering ceilings, a 30-foot-long walnut bar and giant windows that frame the Gotham skyline like a painting. The large back room has a pool table and comfy couches (hosting the occasional local pooch). Famished bargoers can start or finish the evening upstairs at the haute Mexican eatery Alma.

  1. 187 Columbia St, at DeGraw St
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Moonshine

  • Price band: 1/4

A cheery little dive near the BQE quickly became a local chill-out spot due to its cheap drinks (canned PBR for $1.50, Stella drafts for $3 and well drinks for $4) and big, comfy couches. Roadhouse-style entertainment comes in the form of a pool table, a vintage Ms. Pac-Man and a kick-ass jukebox.

  1. 317 Columbia St, between Hamilton Ave and Woodhull St
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