Team Dutch Kills, which lured serious drinkers all the way out to Long Island City, Queens, when its cocktail saloon opened in 2009, opted for a far more bustling backdrop—right off Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue—for its follow-up: But despite such a crushingly hip setting, Richard Boccato and his crew don’t fall prey to the preciousness or pretensions of its Brooklyn-bar brethren. A handful of nautical touches (a pirate painting hangs on the wall, the concave curves of which themselves resemble the inside of a ship) add character to the modest room, but any swashbuckling kitsch is curtailed by sleek finishings (leather booths, glazed walls), a crowd made up of thirtysomething loungers (on a recent night, one bargoer looked like the impeccably dressed love child of Carrie Brownstein and Björk) and, of course, some formidable cocktails.
ORDER THIS: The pink-hued Inimitable Cocktail ($13) is a worthy summer sipper with Old Tom gin, Peychaud’s bitters, fresh lemon juice and cherries forging a tart, crisp palate. The Dragon’s Breath ($13) is another meticulously made—but no-frills—drink: Served in a Nick and Nora glass, it packs in a lot of flavor; fruity calvados, dry vermouth and apricot liqueur offset the vinegary heat of hot sauce and pickled walnut.
GOOD FOR: A second date you want to impress without being overbearing. Small tables up front, perfect for two, are ripe for subtle knee bumps and getting-to-know-you gab, especially around 9pm when the lights dim and candles are lit. Stick to the menu’s section of low-ABV cocktails ($11)—a cognac-stirred Velvet Glove, sweet with a dollop of crème de cacao, say, or a red-wine–and-raspberry Bismarck cooling over crushed ice—to calm the nerves without making a fool of yourself in front of your potential paramour. But don’t plan on drinking and dashing if things don’t pan out well—though the bartenders are amiable, it can take 15 minutes to get a round.
THE CLINCHER: You’re in the hands of thoroughbred mixologists who look after every detail of your drink, from hand-cut ice to house-made syrups. Whether you want to have a lingering moment alone or need a place to bring your visiting parents, you’re in safe hands here.