Merging cutting-edge flair with homegrown roots, Brooklyn's drinking scene is worth a trip across the river if you usually stick to Manhattan. Two wineries (Brooklyn Winery, The Red Hook Winery) and three breweries (Brooklyn Brewery, KelSo, and Sixpoint Brewery) proudly call the borough home, while bars and lounges run the gamut from casual to chic. Whether you're sharing a punch bowl with friends at Clover Club, or kicking back with a margarita at Gran Electrica, there are plenty of top-tier drinks to be had in Brooklyn. Here are seven spots worth a visit next time you're in the borough.
Curated by James Beard Award nominee Alex Halberstadt, the wine list at Red Hook's Fort Defiance is stellar, with a nice selection of Italian and French boutique wines; at least half are offered by the glass. The cozy storefront has just 10 tables, and features chandeliers and icy-blue walls. The food menu includes a Ploughman's lunch, Creole red beans on toast, and burgers (sourced from a Manhattan butcher shop) on brioche buns.
Insider Tip: Check out the weekend brunch: Eggs from family farms in Pennsylvania can be found in dishes like "the Charleston" (two poached eggs with collard greens on top of cheddar-chile skillet cornbread).
Locally famous for its punch bowls, Julie Reiner's Clover Club hosts a swanky, retro ambiance complete with a fireplace, exposed-brick walls, and distressed-wood flooring beneath its non-descript storefront on Smith Street in Cobble Hill. Choose from two punches, or check out one of the many other cocktails on deck: There's a wide assortment of royales, Collins, cobblers, sours, and fizzes, all with quirky names like Black-Eyed Susan and Welcome to the Dollhouse.
Insider Tip: Catch live music on Wednesday nights.
The Red Hook Winery
Belly up to a stylish granite countertop at The Red Hook Winery's tasting room (also home to the winemaking facility and barrel room) along the dock overlooking the Hudson River at Pier 41. Choose from a list of 50-some wines, all made with New York grapes, or opt for a flight of three ($5). The wines are created in partnership with well-known Napa Valley winemakers Bob Foley and Abe Schoener, along with Brooklyn native and owner Mark Snyder. Schoener's shining glory at The Red Hook Winery is a line-up of eight, skin-fermented wines (also called orange wines), including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Insider Tip: A barrel tasting and private tour ($25) includes six wines; tack on $10 for a cheese platter.
Beer fans flock to Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg, where the options on tap come from across the country, with craft beers from Wisconsin (Lakefront Brewery), Brooklyn (Brooklyn Brewery), and San Diego (Green Flash Brewing Company). Plenty of Flemish, Japanese, British, French, and Swedish beers are available by the bottle, too, not to mention Sri Lankan brews.
Insider Tip: Extend your stay by ordering a cheese or meat plate, leaving you time to sample more beers.
Margaritas take a sophisticated turn at DUMBO's Gran Electrica; there are four to choose from, including the Margarita de Remolacha, made with fresh beet juice; and the Margarita de Toronja Picante, served with spicy grapefruit salt. Of the six wines by the glass, two are New York wines (a Pinot Noir from Finger Lakes and a Sauvignon Blanc from North Fork). Complement your beverage with eats like ceviche and pork-shoulder meatballs.
Insider Tip: If it's warm outside, head to the courtyard in back, featuring string lights and ivy-covered walls.
Stonehome Wine Bar and Restaurant
Because it's easy to miss Stonehome Wine Bar and Restaurant, look for the mosaic sign hanging above a flight of stairs at this Fort Greene spot. Open for dinner only, the bar pours six Bordeaux wines by the bottle, including a 2000 Chateau Cordeillan-Bages Pauillac, and lesser-known Pacific Coast wines from Buty (Washington State) and Peter Franus. The bulk of the wine list comes form Italy, with 29 wines by the glass that will please any picky palate and inspire DIY flights.
Insider Tip: Keep an eye out for the cheese, which includes artisan selections from Vermont, New York, Wisconsin, Italy, and Switzerland.
Tiny Maison Premiere seats only a handful of people at a time, largely inspired by New Orleans' French Quarter's bars and cafes. Wash a variety of raw-bar items down with absinthe, cocktails, or wine. Absinthe panna-cotta with juniper meringue is a favorite at this Williamsburg drinking hole, and with suggested dessert-cocktail pairings like the Amaro Flip (Amaro, rye, whole egg, cream, nutmeg and chocolate bitters), the final course becomes the the main event.
Insider Tip: Drop in from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, or 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends, for $1 oysters.
The boutique 93-room NU Hotel pours the Brooklyn Winery's best at Misdemeanor, its bar and restaurant. This is the only spot in the borough to enjoy the Brooklyn Winery's offerings, numbering around a dozen, including a stainless-steel aged Riesling featuring Finger Lake grapes and a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. You won't leave hungry, as the menu features unique tapas like shrimp wontons and bite-sized empanadas.
Insider Tip: On Wednesday evenings, live jazz from the Fatum Brothers fills the hotel's bar.
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living and American Way. In 2006 she co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.
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