Is Brooklyn the new Manhattan? No, that will never happen. It is definitely a very slightly cheaper place to go drinkin’. And slightly hipper.
Brooklyn is probably the second most name-checked of the five boroughs. Originally known as the kings county, and composed of tiny little burgs, Brooklyn was further expanded and annexed primarily in the 1950s. It broke off into many more little neighborhoods.
Now each of those neighborhoods have their own distinct flavor and reputation, and those flavors are reflected in the tastes of the neighborhood drinking holes.
Here’s a guide to the Best Bars in Brooklyn where you can drink like the king of the county!
Overall Best Bars: Top 5
Here are the Top 5 watering holes throughout the five boroughs, the ones worth trekking too even if it’s not your neighborhood. They represent the best each entire borough has to offer. Make it a point to hit these joints.
YOURS SINCERELY – Yours Sincerely calls itself “tasty AF” and you know what that means. Most of the major local media, including New York Times and Village Voice, agree. The beers are draft only, no bottles, delivering on their commitment to sustainability. But not just beers – the cocktails are on draft too – that’s the twist you don’t want to miss!
WESTLIGHT – Westlight is in Williamsburg just over the bridge from good ol’ Manhattan island. And that’s why it has such a beautiful view of the skyline. Which is why it’s known for being the best rooftop bar in Brooklyn and maybe all five boroughs. Which is why you simply must enjoy a cocktail there at dusk.
MOOD RING – The first theme bar on the list. Moodily lit to complement the cosmic atmosphere and all the drinks are astrologically inspired. To complete the retro vibe, they have a photo booth alongside a laserific dance floor. The place to be for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
DICK AND JANES – The best-kept secret in Brooklyn. Well, maybe not best-kept, but definitely the best “secret” bar in Brooklyn. Tiny so as not to attract attention or get too overcrowded and loud, Dick and Jane’s is accessed through an unmarked door in roaring twenties speakeasy style. You just gotta feel the vibe, know what I mean? Inside, cocktails are prepared with a mixologist’s precision.
MAISON PREMIERE – Maison premiere is not just a cocktail bar, it’s also an oyster bar! Inspired by Absinthe Bars in Paris and New Orleans, Maison boasts the largest selection of Absinthes in the country. The cocktail list includes dusted-off classics from bar manuals of yore. The centerpiece is a meticulously assembled Absinthe Fountain. Maison Premiere is one of the highest-regarded cocktail bars in all of New York City.
Best Of The Hoods
In this section, let’s zero in on each of the distinctive neighborhoods and their particular best bars so you can make a whole day of each neighborhood.
Williamsburg is the hippest and probably most recognized section of Brooklyn. It’s where all the cool artists migrated when lower Manhattan got too expensive. Now it is an expensive place in it’s own right. Which is a good thing because it forced other neighborhoods to meet the overflow of demand for Brooklyn living, leading to a thriving borough.
Two of the spots on the Top 5 list are in Williamsburg. And there are many, many others great places to check out. You might need two days.
If Westfield is too packed to breathe in the fresh skyline air, which can and often does happen, try Lemons rooftop bar in the Wythe Hotel. Lemon’s is more unstuffy and mixes delicious summer cocktails. Best Happy Hour is also on a rooftop – at Night Of Joy, which usually lives up to its name.
For a real indie rock stamp of approval, try Four Horseman. The proprietor is none other than James Murphy, lead singer of LCD Soundsystem. Sometimes Murphy himself will spin some wax in this intimate and cozy natural wine bar.
For the exact opposite, try Skinny Dennis. It’s honky tonk, baby! The atmosphere is appropriately divey and they have a weird coffee and liquor concoction to keep you partying on overdrive. Cheap beers, too! Plus live honky tonkin’ tunes.
Finally, for live music not of the country genre, try St. Mazie’s. It’s a classic bar and supper club like in days past and besides live music, they have a comforting drink and food menu. The specialty is bourbon cocktails designed to warm your soul.
Book It To Bushwick
Bushwick is also home to two of the top fivers on the list – Yours Sincerely and Mood Ring. Yup, Bushwick kind of became Williamsburg 2.0. So it hosts a ton of other cool places as well. In alphabetical order:
At Booby Trap, the theme is, well, boobies. But it’s not tasteless, just a little bizarre and mostly fun and kitschy. It’s not your everyday dive bar, but you are encouraged to take a dive there.
Dromedary Tiki Bar practically has fun in it’s title. This is where you can really get your tiki tiki toe on. There are a few tiki themed bars in Brooklyn, but Dromedary’s is the most aloha-ist!
Finally, Bushwick has its own view of the skyline, coming from a different angle and should not be missed either. The best rooftop bar in Bushwick is called Our Wicked Lady. The space is also a home for Brooklyn’s artistic community, hosting rehearsal spaces, artists studios and live shows.
Carroll Gardens, Naturally
Carroll Gardens is a dose of homeyness in the middle of the big borough. Low-key and pretty, this small, primarily Italian American neighborhood is perfect for a pub stroll.
Pubs don’t get classier than the Clover Club. An Old-Fashioned cocktail menu spanning generations of cocktails. A place to bring your Grandma for a Happy Hour like back in her day.
Across the street, Leyenda brings a little bit of Latin America flavor into the neighborhood with Mezcal and Pico cocktails designed to wash down the spicy food.
Zombie Hut is another tiki bar and the best in Carroll Gardens. Cheap drinks and board games await to help you wait out boredom. Zombie Hut encourages sharing, with monster drink specialties like The Scorpion on the menu.
Brooklyn Social is a former neighborhood Italian Social Club and the walls hold on to that energy. If you listen closely, you can still hear the godfather giving the order to whack Joey. And the cocktails are as sharp as the bartenders wardrobes. Plus, paninis!
Don’t skip a visit to Bar Great Harry. Multiple visits, actually, since their extensive craft beer menu is habitually rotating and the pinball games never stop being fun!
The Fancy-Schmancy Slope
Park Slope is the fancy neighborhood. So dress up when you’re hitting these upper class establishments.
- Wolf and Deer is a casual spot to enjoy a spot of wine and cheese and lose yourself in their literally literary library theme.
- Black Horse Pub feels more like an unpretentious, friendly local pub, carting a British flair to their typical pub fare.
- Union Hall is the place to go for live entertainment while you sip. It’s a huge space and hosts some of the best comedy and live music in the borough.
Finally, the aptly and cleverly named Brookvin. Brookvin is another wine and small plate charcuterie nibbler that is a great way to start off the night. Enjoy them in the garden! Bonus – it’s not just human friendly, but also man’s best friendly!
Just As Cool Or More
There’s no shortage of cool neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Here’s a quick overview of some more cool places to check out if you find yourself stranded in one of these Brooklyn hoods.
Bed-Stuy, the cool way to say Bedford-Stuyvesant, is arguably one of the more famous Brooklyn neighborhoods and it never goes out of stuy-le. When you hear Bed-Vyne, you might think wine but they also have a wide selection of craft beers. Swell Dive is exactly like it sounds – a swell dive with the weirdest mix in Brooklyn: Filipino Tex-Mex!
Greene Point is close to the waterfront and getting hipper by the second. Some tasty and classy joints include Black Rabbit, a cozy fireside setting that hosts trivia nights, and Goldies, which boasts a Las Vegas atmosphere, intentionally.
Red Hook is coming up, too. Brooklyn Crab is a rooftop bar with beautiful views of the waterfront and buckets of fresh crabs. Fort Defiance is an actual fort, built in 1776 and feels vintage while serving the traditional Americana food and drinks you would expect.
Dumbo is the artiest-fartiest neighborhood in the Borough. So it’s eating and drinking establishments have an artistic vibe. Looking for inspiration? Try Brooklyn Bridge Garden Bar. Or indulge in the two T’s at Roccos Tacos – Tacos and Tequila! They have a diverse selection of tequilas you’ve probably never heard of – and may never want to drink again!
A Couple More Worth Mentioning
Prospect Heights is underrated but full of surprises. Like the Bearded Lady. Or the place where everything is always hunky dory – Hunky Dory! Which, yes, is named after the David Bowie record. Or Weather Up, a Prospect Heights landmark speakeasy. Bar Meridian is new but welcoming.
Brooklyn even has a beach! It’s the world-famous Coney Island, setting for many a classic New York movie. The bars are similarly beachy and there are many! Sample, in alphabetical order: Coney Island Brewery, Freak Bar, Margarita Island, Paul’s Daughter, Ruby’s or the always reliable Tom’s. I can’t choose one so choose yourself or try them all!
Rando Good Times
Here are a few more places in random locations that are surely worth a visit to the neighborhood.
- Hotel Delmano, like it’s name, conjures a bygone New York atmosphere and serves seasonal cocktails, just like in the old days. Time travel back to Williamsburg to visit this way back machine.
- Long Island Bar in Cobble Hill is an homage to the Brooklyn that used to be, from the creator of the Cosmopolitan cocktail.
- Tooker Alley in Prospect Heights is local, low key, and customer focused. They will make you your favorite cocktail or invent something on the spot, catered to your tastes, plus Monday Jazz Nights!.
- Finally, Basik is exactly that. Basic. Beer, nuts, snacks, games, heck might as well have called it Cheers! Industrial chic in the middle of Williamsburg.
Speak Low, Speak Easy
This last section spotlights some secret spots. The trend of speakeasies in New York City started a few years ago and shows no sign of slowing down. In Brooklyn, the most well-known hidden joint is Townhouse 275 in Bay Ridge. It was the first and still craftiest mixological speakeasy in Brook Land.
If you can’t find it, look for FeatherWeight in Bushwick, Mezcaleria La Milagrosa in Williamsburg or Sunshine Laundromat and Pinball, entered covertly through a dryer machine door at 860 Manhattan Ave in hip new Greenpoint!
Now you know the hidden gems and the not so hidden gems. Crossing the bridge has never been so tempting.
Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.