The setting doesn’t scream tropics: a highway-facing stretch of Atlantic Avenue, sandwiched between Brooklyn Christian Center and a plumbing-supply company. But for its cocktail newcomer Diamond Reef, Attaboy’s Michael McIlroy and Sam Ross padded the dimly lit, wood-paneled room with enough potted plants, palm-frond wallpaper and splashes of turquoise that it’s easy to forget the barren, traffic-heavy street just outside. The inside is so awash in good vibes that once you exit, happily buzzed on drinks fit for the isles, you notice the soft neon glow from the bar’s jewel logo illuminating the previously jarring neighboring buildings. Diamond in the rough, indeed.
ORDER THIS: Although not traditionally tiki, there are definitely island-leaning ingredients (pineapple, curaçao, orgeat) on the pared-down yet playful cocktail menu. The rum-based Scorpion Kick ($12) tastes like a modern daiquiri, the usual lime and cane syrup updated with the earthy, heady notes of crème de cacao. To really get into the tiki spirit, you must try the Penichillin ($12), a frosty riff on the famed cocktail Penicillin at Attaboy: With a strong Scotch base and punchy ginger, lemon and honey notes, it’s several notches above your typical frozen drink.
GOOD FOR: A hassle-free alternative to Attaboy. Sure, the notoriously small Lower East Side speakeasy has been on your drinks bucket list for years, but its unmarked entrance and doorman aren’t particularly conducive to pop-in–anytime visits. At Diamond Reef, you get Attaboy-quality cocktails with no wait and no fight for seats (for now). The 1,300-square-foot barroom features wraparound banquettes that are primed for casual group get-togethers.
THE CLINCHER: The bar’s backyard is the stuff of New York dreams: upbeat retro tunes (the Isley Brothers’ “Summer Breeze,” Marvin Gaye’s “A Funky Space Reincarnation”) flow through the space, which is littered with white and turquoise tables and swinging benches. Set beneath bright string lights, the weekday-heavy crowd—mostly gaggles of friends and casual dates—is proof of the bar’s impending summertime popularity. Let’s hear it for the boys.