Nestled in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens is a small neighborhood lined with quintessential brownstones, perfectly manicured gardens, and a myriad of mom-and-pop shops. Although it only takes up around 40 city blocks, this traditionally Italian-American neighborhood is filled with boutiques, butcher shops, cafes, and restaurants that create an ‘old New York’ feel. The community’s nightlife is especially intriguing, made up of the swanky speakeasy, the old-fashioned saloon, and the modern pub. We profile 10 must-visit bars in Carroll Gardens.
Travel back in time at Brooklyn Social. This low-key saloon, which was once an Italian social club, feels like a portal to the past with its dimly lit setting, red tin ceiling, slowly revolving ceiling fans, and dark leather furnishing. A private room equipped with a couch and pool table sits toward the back, and beyond that is an outdoor patio where guests can enjoy a drink and light conversation in a relaxed atmosphere. The bartenders dress sharply in dark shirts and ties, and expertly crafted great-tasting cocktails are available at affordable prices. Although customers never have to worry about a line to get in or a cover charge at the door, they should be wary of the bar’s cash only policy. When it comes to getting a feel of the old neighborhood, Brooklyn Social surely gets it right.
Michael Vacheresse, owner and head bartender of Travel Bar, brings over two decades of fine dining and bartending experience to this casual yet elegant spot. Vacheresse’s hand-selected beers, wines and spirits are not few in number; the menu includes over 24 cocktails and a wide selection of white, red, and dessert wines. Among some of his specialty cocktails are ones with eccentric names and ingredients, like ‘Courtney’s Dilemma’, made with aloo vodka, a house-made sour mix, and cherry herring. There’s also ‘A Billion and Five Can’t Be Wrong’ (Hong Kong baijiu, barley tea, and Regans’ orange bitters), and the ‘K-Class Ticket Margarita’ (cimarron blanco tequila, cucumber and sriracha). Travel Bar is aptly named after Vacheresse’s collection of vintage cases and bar utensils gathered from his extensive travels through Asia and Europe. He ultimately combines worldly knowledge with professionalism and quality to bring heartfelt service to Brooklyn.
This dimly lit, speakeasy-like saloon has a Prohibition-era appeal. A heavy arch door opens to reveal a skinny bar furnished with dark wooden tables and barstools that scrape against a worn, wooden floor. Over 130 brown liquors are available for customers to enjoy, as well as a large selection of various beers, fine wines, and three-year-old cheddars. Ironically, The JakeWalk was named after a medical affliction associated with drinking ‘jake’, a patent medicine made with Jamaican ginger extract. This alcohol-based concoction was popular in the 1930s because it skirted laws that banned the consumption of liquor. However, jake caused drinkers to experience ‘a very peculiar stiff-legged, often jerky gait’ as a result of toxins. The opening of this bar and restaurant in Carroll Gardens was meant to celebrate ‘our good fortune to live in an age where we need never resort to drinking patent medicines to give us a little lift after a hard day’s work.’
This cozy little bar is arguably better stocked than its name would suggest. Although small in size, miniBAR offers numerous inventive cocktails, eclectic beers, and a well-edited wine list. A warm and friendly ambiance is set with brick walls, tin ceilings, mellow tunes, and cool artwork. The bar’s knowledgeable staff expertly mixes delicious cocktails that are never adulterated, and they even happily help guests choose the right drink to suit their unique tastes. Overall, this is the perfect place to have drinks before dinner or to spend the night catching up with old friends in a more quiet, intimate setting.
Brooklyn’s most famous tiki bar has all the ingredients for a fun time; a beautiful outdoor space, plenty of board games, and cheap, strong drinks. The decor consists of bamboo-covered walls, elaborate tiki masks, and Polynesian trinkets. Zombie Hut is famous for its shareable concoctions like the ‘Scorpion Bowl’, which combines Bacardi 151, brandy, and juice to create a fiery mix perfect for four people. The ‘Frozen Zombie’ is another shareable treat with heavy doses of sugar and rum. While the place does get packed with a lively crowd on the weekends, patrons can anticipate a quieter and less crowded bar on a weekday evening and enjoy a game of Jenga or Apples to Apples with companions.
Bar Great Harry is renowned for its extended list of excellent beer options. This relaxed pub is good for enjoying a casual brew with friends and family, and it is even dog-friendly. The open front doors provide unobstructed views of Smith and Sackett Streets, and several pinball machines at the back make for fun entertainment. Bar Great Harry provides a rotating list of craft beers on tap and in bottles. The carefully selected draft roll is updated several times a week, and guests can keep up with the changes on the bar’s blog.
Sitting on the corner of Union and Henry Street is Bar Bruno. This quaint little restaurant and bar was built to ‘evoke a time when life was simpler, food was honest and the neighborhood cafe served as a meeting point’ for locals. The venue is modeled after European and Mexican cafeterias of the 1960s, and it features a sidewalk cafe, where customers can sit and enjoy a refreshing hibiscus margarita or cold michelada. Inside, guests can get comfortable at one of the handful of tables or hunker down at the L-shaped bar. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of Bar Bruno’s brunch specials, which include $5 margaritas, mimosas, and Bloody Marys.
Union Grounds is known as Carroll Gardens’ home for sports. The bar’s ample supply of high definition televisions, as well as cable and satellite packages, provide the ultimate viewing experience for sports fans. The owners, who go by the names Mike and Tyler, opened the spot in 2012 with the goal of providing locals with the chance to request and watch any game they’d like. As a result, customers can expect to find the ‘NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, all major college athletics, all major English premier league, MLS, Spanish Premier, and Bundesliga matches’ readily available for their viewing pleasure. Union Grounds offers a variety of appetizers and light fare to enjoy along with a wide selection of beers, cocktails, and house wines.
This trendy dive bar offers Southern comfort food along with cheap drinks specials. Guests can enjoy a juicy burger made with a half-pound of black angus ground sirloin while indulging in what is arguably the best Bloody Mary in town. Abilene has an ever-changing list of draft beers. Its cocktails are also reasonably priced, and they sport some inventive names that align with the bar’s Southern spirit. The ‘Kentucky Lemonade’ consists of Makers Mark, triple sec, lemon-lime soda, and of course, lemonade. The ‘Mayfield Mule’ features Jim Beam Rye, fresh lemon juice, and ginger beer. Guests may sit outside to people-watch or get comfortable indoors where a relaxing mix of indie and roots music plays over subtle chatter.
August Laura opened its doors in May 2016 and has already made its mark in the old neighborhood. This Italian cocktail bar features a list of five classic Italian drinks and five original drinks. The cocktails on the list include an Amaretto Sour, a Negroni riff called the ‘Cardinale’, a Rossini, and a classic Americano. A small selection of bar fare is also offered and include small plates of pancetta, onion dip with pretzels, gouda and grilled cheese. August Laura is a sleek, slender space that pays homage to the old Italian-American neighborhood of Carroll Gardens. The expertly mixed drinks and warm and accommodating staff provide a one-of-a-kind experience.