Blue Collar isn’t some podunk dive bar as the name might suggest. A curtained doorway leads to a classy little throwback lounge decked out in mirrors, red leather, framed Hollywood icons and plenty of mid-century vibe. It's quite a transformation from Sheddy’s, the humdrum wine pub that previously occupied the space. Settle in for a night of heavy cocktail drinking to the soothing tempo of Elvis and Frank Sinatra. With Oldfield’s alum Aaron Stepka manning the program, you can expect stiff swills made with house-made ingredients and a top-class team who take the craft seriously. Be forewarned: There are no menus here, just expert bartenders who make both classic and inventive concoctions. If you like a particular libation they've whipped up, ask them to write the recipe down—they'll then save it in their rolodex under your name for a future visit. Only then will you have become a true Blue Collar regular.
Good for: Low ceilings and intimate digs make this an excellent destination for a quiet, after-work escape, or refuge from the crowds at the Grove around the corner. Curl up in a plush divan with a masterfully concocted libation, like your usual whiskey sour—or maybe something more adventurous, just this once. The real action is around the marble-topped bar, where you can watch your cocktail being meticulously fixed by a pro. Reservations are recommended, and you might want to catch a cab. Parking can be an unpleasant experience.
The scene: The crowd is a mix of 30-something regulars arriving straight from work and partying booze hounds who’ve stumbled into the place. And then there’s the occasional slacks-and-button-up types here to impress. The common trait: They’re all just looking for a good time. But while Blue Collar is casual, it’s not uncivilized. Patrons keep it classy—and pretty much to themselves.
The playlist: The ‘50s tone is accented by a soundtrack of upbeat oldies, everything from Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons to Stevie Wonder. If the drinks don’t put a smile on your face, the tunes surely will.
Bartender says: The staff has memorized the entire spirit list from memory and never flinch at a cocktail request. Name a preferred spirit and flavor profile, and you’re in for a treat. Don’t worry—if it’s not to your liking, they’re happy to make you something else. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is getting your recipe into the rolodex, so give it your best shot—let your imagination run wild with flavor potential, and let the folks behind the bar wow you with something wholly original to come back for again and again.
Drink this: The best sip of the night was an Agave Bravo ($13): a barspoon of agave nectar, both reposado tequila and mezcal, plus a few dashes of Angostura bitter all stirred together and poured over a big rock, garnished with a flamed grapefruit peel. You can bet this perfectly balanced boozer (definitely on the smokier end) made the rolodex. Another winner was the rum Manhattan ($16) that one of the bartenders whipped up when I told her I wanted something dark and smooth. A proper twist on the classic, this drink called for orange bitters, maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth and, wouldn’t you have guessed it, rum. Here, the bitter outweighed the sweet. This is the type of place where two people can order the same base spirit (whiskey) and get completely different drinks: one that leaned on citrus and another that made a convert out of a cucumber hater. The latter combined whiskey with Aperol and smashed cucumbers, and the end result was utterly refreshing—and also a tinge floral.