At first glance, this Boerum Hill cocktail bar doesn’t look particularly lofty—through shaggy red Chilean-print curtains, you’ll find a curved wood bar, whitewashed brick walls and unfinished wood floors, with blue-painted stools adding small pops of color—but the talent behind the joint damn sure is. The all-star owners include Mile End’s smoked-meat savant Noah Bernamoff, Rucola’s Julian Brizzi, Prime Meats barman Damon Boelte and notable food photographer Daniel Krieger. Despite such heavy-hitting clout, the watering hole operates with a low-key, neighborly ease, though with microgreen toasts and coupe-glass quaffs instead of burgers and beers.
ORDER THIS: Boelte’s potent cocktails ($13) are inspired by old American railroad lines, like the Kansas City Southern, a smooth blend of bourbon mellowed by sweet turbinado syrup and mint sprigs, served in a silver mug over heaps of crushed ice. The orange-flower water, grapefruit and lime juices make the Trans-Siberian go down as easily as lemonade on a hot day, but the vodka and Aperol add a sneak-up booziness at the finish.
GOOD FOR: Your next cocktail-bar Instagram session. Boelte’s as quick to grab a flashlight—literally —to help you take a better iPhone photo as he is with a drink suggestion or ingredient primer. And the bar is full of picture-ready curiosities, from the Technicolor prints on the walls to the twee mignonette-filled eye droppers (salty ponzu, fiery jerk) that accompany the impressive selection of shucked-to-order oysters. Those eye-catching details are unsurprising, with lensman Krieger on board.
THE CLINCHER: Along with those beautiful bivalves, wd~50 alum Jon Bignelli turns out snacks that, though devoid of Dufresne-esque foams and beads, definitely show off those highbrow roots. Raw-bar items ($8 Santa Barbara uni, $9 Spanish cured mackerel) are joined by an economical spread of “fancy” toasts ($5 each), crowned with stuff like smoky, meaty boquerones with zingy salsa verde, and creamy shrimp mousse with pickled ramps and zucchini. It’s the soft spot between relaxed and refined, just like Grand Army itself.