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
Bars in Red Hook
Before gastro fanatics hunkered down for a two-hour wait at Pok Pok Ny or cocktail nerds made the pilgrimage to Fort Defiance in Red Hook, seasonal bar Botanica beckoned Brooklyn locals to a quiet corner in the ’hood for its produce-driven libations and stunning Venetian-inspired room. But though the April-to-October spot gained fans from the borough, it never quite made its way onto the lips of culinary sophisticates. That may soon change (or should, at least): This past spring, one of those local admirers, Michelin-starred chef Saul Bolton—who discovered the Red Hook gem on a trip back from Fairway—rebooted the food and drink menus, with plans to keep the joint open year-round. Bolton, a pioneer of Brooklyn’s now-surging food scene, already had his hands full with his restaurants Saul, the Vanderbilt and (coming this fall) Red Gravy. But he was so charmed with Botanica that he tracked down owner Dan Preston, who also presides over the glass-windowed chocolate factory and distillery Cacao Prieto housed in the same 1846 Dutch building, and convinced Preston to let him take over operations. With Bolton’s own team in the kitchen and behind the bar, the gorgeous spot—easily one of the city’s best-looking watering holes—finally has destination-worthy food and cocktails to match the dreamy setting. DRINK THIS: Bolton installed his head barkeep at Saul, Dan Carlson, behind the stately copper bar at Botanica. Carlson’s breezy nine-drink list hits all the notes of today’s cocktail t
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.
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.
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.
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.
When pioneering drinks legend Sasha Petraske died unexpectedly at the age of 42 in August 2015, cocktail-loving New York mourned the loss of one of its most influential barkeeps. With speakeasy Milk & Honey, which opened in 1999, Petraske almost single-handedly reignited Gotham’s obsession with Prohibition-era cocktailing and inspired a wave of like-minded drinkeries. Following Petraske’s passing, his erstwhile protégé and Middle Branch partner Lucinda Sterling, along with longtime cohort John Bonsignore (Little Branch, Middle Branch), sought to carry out his final act, seeing through the construction of this sleek Red Hook boîte. The bar honors Petraske’s storied career the best way it can—with great cocktails. ORDER THIS: Expertly balanced drinks ($12) from Sterling, who taps into Petraske’s mantra of harmony in cocktails. (The bar takes its name from a William Butler Yeats poem describing a bird balanced in flight.) Her take on a Blue Devil features floral gin and maraschino liqueur but swaps out the usual curaçao for a cobalt-colored butterfly pea flower extract to lend the drink its deep-violet hue. Meanwhile the bar’s pisco sour is a textbook example of the Peruvian classic, with shaken egg white providing a wonderful froth to tame the rustic bite of grape brandy. GOOD FOR: A snug evening in a tucked-away corner of Brooklyn. Even as Red Hook has welcomed destination-worthy food-and-drink spots (Hometown Bar-B-Que, Red Hook Winery), the harborside district manages to
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.
Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef's Table
Tompkins Square gains a notable addition in Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table, a tiny (19 stools in total) resto with what’s sure to become an outsize presence in minds of the city’s many oenophiles, thanks to a carefully curated wine list that changes almost daily and excellent sommelier service. Four industry vets—chefs Josh Ochoa and Andy Alexandre and two full time sommeliers, Alexis Percival and owner Patrick Cournot—work in conjunction behind a 3,000 pound cream-colored concrete bar, producing small shared plates that pair nicely with the long list of food-friendly wines. Ruffian has already carved out a reputation for esoteric vintages, and even offers a few cloudy orange wines by the glass in response to the ever-increasing trend toward Georgian varietals. The food menu changes almost daily to incorporate the freshest ingredients available at green markets around the city. The constant flux of menu options amounts to what ultimately feels like a boutique experience—no two visits will be exactly the same. There is some sense of cohesion, though. The menu tends toward Eurocentric cuisine no matter the day; on a recent visit, warm vegetable dishes like roasted golden beets ($12) and a cauliflower soup ($10) were accented with Mediterranean flourishes, while the chicken liver pâté came with pickled grapes ($18). Like everything else at Ruffian, the food, while delicious, seems to exist only to complement to the superior wine selection, which leaves the most lasting impre
Venue says: “Now open Sundays from 3pm-10pm! Happy hour from 3PM-5PM; $10 glasses of wine and small plates from $6-$10.”