Gear up for a concert or an event (or wind down with a nightcap) at these great finds near the new arena.
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Sure, Jay-Z has opened a club at the new Barclays Center, and a parade of gargantuan sports bars is sure to follow soon. And you can find no shortage of hipster watering holes packed with fedora-clad twentysomethings in the surrounding neighborhoods. But where to go for a good pre- or post-event drink? Look no further.
The city’s old-fashioned cocktail-culture renaissance extends well beyond Manhattan stalwarts like Death and Co. or Milk & Honey. This narrow, dimly lit Prospect Heights bar, lined with subway tiles inside and out, stands up to any of them with specialties like the Whizz Bang, made with scotch, dry vermouth, house-made grenadine, orange bitters, and an absinthe rinse, or the St. Charles Punch, with port, cognac, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice. If it’s any indication of the bar’s cred, consider that the owners recently opened a spin-off in Austin, Texas, as well as in another hotbed of discriminating drinkers: Tribeca. Weather Up: 589 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn
Stone Home Wine Bar
Around the corner from the Brooklyn Academy of Music and just a few blocks from the Barclays Center, this often-overlooked Fort Greene wine bar (and excellent restaurant, by the way), with an entrance below street level, is easy to miss. The low-key, civilized, and refreshingly un-trendy vibe is a nice antidote to the Brooklyn hipster scene, and the knowledgeable servers are excellent guides to the 200 mostly European bottles. Grab a seat at the long cherrywood bar, or, better yet, in the intimate garden out back. Don’t skip the charcuterie. Stone Home Wine Bar: 87 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.624.9443
Wolf and Deer
A few blocks south of the Barclays Center on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue, Wolf and Deer is a year-old venture by the owner of Miriam (a nearby Israeli restaurant) and a metalworker, whose artistry includes the U-shaped bar here. A canopy of wineglasses and beer taps fashioned from copper and deer bones round out the look. The bar’s 80-bottle wine list far surpasses its seating, which tops out at about 30, but it’s the tightly edited cocktail list that’s the main attraction. The Secret Garden (vodka, St. Germain, lime, cucumber, and mint) makes for a great pre-game drink (happy hour goes until 8 p.m., seven days a week). For cooler nights, try the James and the Giant Peach (bourbon, peach nectar, maple syrup, and lime). See you there. Wolf and Deer: 74 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.398.3181
Blueprint became Park Slope’s first high-end cocktail bar a little more than a year ago and has somehow managed to remain one of the neighborhood’s best-kept secrets. Its stained-glass windows, wooden tables, and dim lighting make it feel like a Manhattan transplant, standing out from the rowdy sports bar next door. Drinks are made with fresh herbs, spices, juices, and house-made bitters, and the menu comprises roughly half Prohibition-era classics—such as the Pisco Sour and the Sazerac—and half Blueprint’s own concoctions. Order the Oaxacan (mezcal, lime, buckwheat honey, and cinnamon) and take it out back to the quaint patio. Blueprint: 196 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.622.6644
The Brooklyn Inn
A few blocks farther from the arena than the other choices on this list, the Brooklyn Inn is one of those classics that feels as though it hasn’t changed in more than a century—which, in this case, is quite accurate. Creaky floors, a gorgeous antique bar imported from Germany in 1870, and a distinctly literary vibe transport you immediately to the Brooklyn of old, the Brooklyn of Walt Whitman. Giant windows looking out on the tree-lined residential streets of Boerum Hill, combined with the warm wood interior and a properly poured pint, make it one of the city’s greatest winter bars. When you start shooting pool in the back room with one of the regulars, you might even forget about your concert or game tickets. The Brooklyn Inn: 148 Hoyt Street, Brooklyn, 718.522.2525