San Domingo Julep at Maison Premiere
Oysters at Maison Premiere
Thanks to the efforts of tongue-clucking Prohibitionists, no spirit in history has more sinister associations than the anise-flavored liqueur known as absinthe. So you’ve got to hand it to Maxwell Britten, the chief barman at Maison Premiere, who dedicated his entire menu to the misunderstood hooch. In dismantling the green stuff’s enduring fictions—no, guys, it’s not a hallucinogen—Britten created the year’s most appealing new barroom, earning your votes over boîtes both classic (the Beagle, Bourgeois Pig Brooklyn) and avant-garde (Booker and Dax). You flipped for the spot-on staging, referencing New Orleans’ French Quarter with creaky wooden floors, a languid soundtrack and icy platters of oysters. But it was the drinks, of course, that really caught your eye: 30 international varieties of absinthe, served as a milky mixture with sugar and water, or worked into studious cocktails like an unusual frappe, bolstered with cream, pine liqueur and crème de cassis. It takes a master to turn the tides on a vilified spirit. At Maison Premiere, absinthe finally got the booster she’s been waiting for. 298 Bedford Ave between Grand and South 1st Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-335-0446, maisonpremiere.com)
Pilar Cuban Restaurant and Bar
The name of this family-run restaurant in Bedford-Stuyvesant comes from Ernest Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, which he used for fishing trips in Cuba. One peek at the menu reveals this eatery stays true to its Cuban roots. Start with chicken, spinach, cod or beef empanadas ($9 for two) or plantain chips stuffed with shrimp or skirt steak ($12). For entrees, there’s a classic pressed cubano sandwich ($14) served with more plantain chips, arroz con pollo ($15) or ropa vieja, skirt steak with tomatoes peppers and onions ($19). You might want to sample a side of yuca fries ($6) or some house-made chorizo ($5), too. Sip on cuban soft drinks like the pineapple-flavored Jupiña or the yerba mate–spiked Materva. If you need a caffeine fix, they’ve got you covered there too: the cafe con leche especial is a sweet combination of Cafe Bustelo espresso and condensed milk.
Venue says: “Serving modern versions of classic Cuban food, from an updated and elevated approach, in a sun-lit, Havana-inspired space”