I did not set out to find the drink of summer. Other than my enduring belief that frozens, in general, are it, my more practical opinion is that it’s all marketing, as brilliantly demonstrated in this 2018 Times piece about that year’s supposed Aperol spritz blitz. But still, it’s A Thing, even if 2023’s race to identify it has prudently smoothed.
Bar Vinazo opened on Park Slope’s 7th Avenue in May. It’s pale and narrow, but efficiently arranged with a few standard tables up front, tiny two tops fixed to the south wall, a long row of pleasanter bar seats an arm’s reach away and a roomy backyard appointed in ivy beyond. Self-billed as a Spanish wine bar, I aimed to start with one those on a recent visit, but the humidity outside set me toward cocktails while the white I had my heart set on—an apparently popular albariño ($18/glass)—needed to chill.
In that brief cooling period, for me and the bottle on deck, I choose from the trio of Vinazo’s gin and tonics. Its gardener variety ($16), aptly made with Isolation Proof’s small-batch, limited-edition, ramp gin, is a knockout. It’s lightly vegetal, pungent and savory but refreshing, and like little else I’ve had in a glass lately. Gardeners aren’t being ordered everywhere, for, as I know, they’re unique to this restaurant, but that is precisely why they better occupy the nebulous drink of summer space than something supposedly ubiquitous. Like the season itself, the gardener is elusive, ethereal and, according to the patient, hospitable staff, a little divisive; an entry level to acquired tastes.
A fair number of Vinazo’s menu items are curated, rather than scratch-made. Boquerones, sheep’s milk cheese and a tender but textured, fairly portioned to share at around eight slices, delicious lomo ibérico ($14-$18, respectively) are among those twenty snackier, assembled options.
The pros in the minuscule, exposed corner kitchen also make some solid plates from start to finish. A pile of dime-sized, deeply saline and near-silken octopus medallions ($26) are mellowed by a stack of firmly yielding potato slices beneath in a wonderful pairing of bold and mild flavors. And the croquetas de jamón y queso ($15/4) are comforting cylinders filled with a wonderfully melty Manchego.
Vinazo’s fideuà is also pleasant. Its short pasta’s answer to near-relation paella’s rice is winningly prepared to suitable doneness, even as its shrimp and cuttlefish hover around the common fate of being heated all together with the mix, rather than a little later, as the seafoods’ optimal quicker cooking times require.
Around three items per person are recommended, but personnel provide prudent guidance surprisingly absent the upsells I’ve increasingly seen elsewhere around town. It’s a polished operation, professional but still friendly, and a lovely place to wait for that ultimately quite nice albariño to reach its ideal temperature.
The Vibe: Intimate, casually polished and friendly.
The Food: Mostly small plates like boquerones, sheep’s milk cheese and a great lomo ibérico. Fideuà is among a few larger options.
The Drinks: NYC’s drink of summer in a leek-forward gin and tonic, plus more cocktails, wine and beer.
Bar Vinazo is located at 158 7th Avenue. It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-11pm.