Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Carroll Gardens Gets a New Cocktail Bar

Until now the residential blocks of Carroll Gardens between the bars of Smith Street and Court Street (Clover Club, Jake Walk, Prime Meats) and Fort Defiance in Red Hook have been a desert for the cocktail thirsty. But the recent opening of Bar Bruno on the largely dry Henry Street fills that vacancy. Previously, this corner opposite the iconic Mazzola Bakery was occupied by a series of unsuccessful delis and cafes. The owner of the most recent coffee house, Cafe Marius, has take a year to convert the space into a restaurant and bar.

I had low expectations for the place, but my hopes rose when I surveyed the impressive back back. It wasn't the usual array of flavored vodka and blended Scotches, but an intelligently curated array of choice liqueurs and spirits nearly on par with the best bars in the area. A brief chat with the personable bar manager, J.T. Almon, shed some light on this happy circumstance. Almon is friends with bartender Tonia Guffey, who works the bars at Flatiron Lounge and Dram; the two grew up together in Orlando. Guffey consulted with Almon on the initial cocktail list and the selection of the back bar, and will later this year come in to train the staff.

Bar Bruno is wisely starting slow in their cocktail program; the opening list is a mere five drinks long. The presence of The Last Word shows an allegiance to classic cocktails. The other five are simple, but smart riffs on standards. Their version of a Hemingway Daiquiri is served on the rocks as a refreshing highball. A spin on a Gold Rush substitutes Dewar's for Bourbon, infused with chilis for a little heat. Their signature drink, the George Best, is an orange juice-laced riff on a Negroni. Best was a famous Irish soccer star; the joint has an odd soccer theme, with old photos of soccer teams on the walls. Cocktail go for $10. There's also a selection of beer cocktails and the usual beer and wine.

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