The Brooklyn Bar Guide for Every Occasion

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If you live in Brooklyn you probably feel like you’ve turned down picklebacks in every conceivable watering hole in the borough. If you’re visiting Brooklyn, you’re probably blown away by the sheer number of places to consume alcohol in a social setting. Either way, refer to this guide to figure out where you want to go for pretty much any occasion. But don’t drink picklebacks—it pretty much guarantees other people won’t make out with you.

Start the night
Soda Bar
629 Vanderbilt Ave
No website
Prospect Heights

Even though The Soda Bar in Prospect Heights used to be an ice cream parlor, it now looks and feels like one of your friend’s apartments, as in kind of run down but who cares because they have a back patio. This place has a good happy hour and decent prices after that. Burgers and fried food guarantee you’ll have something proper in your stomach. (Photo: Flickr: Paul Lowry)

The Subway Bar
527 Metropolitan Avenue
No website

I’m from a land where most bars have veterans from the last four American wars looking down female patron’s shirts from the cracked barstools, so I don’t throw the words “dive bar” around loosely. However, The Subway Bar (right off the Lorimer L stop) in Williamsburg qualifies. There’s no food, no happy hour, and the bathroom is gross. But you’re there to prove you can hang, so hang.

Bring your dog
The Gate
321 5th Avenue
Park Slope

One time I came here with a beagle and it had one of those toys called kongs that you shove a treat inside so the dog can obsessively lick it and be distracted into behaving. Well, another one of the dogs managed to stealthily steal the beagle’s toy while I was drinking my version of a kong, (pint of beer) and did not notice that the beagle was dog bullied. We left without ever finding the kong or the thief. I still like The Gate and it’s an easy way to meet other dog owners and debate the best local dog parks and other boring stuff only dog owners want to talk about.

The Manhattan Inn
632 Manhattan Avenue

Mixologists, right? Sometimes you need someone who knows the right proportion of candied ginger to Jameson. That person is a mixologist. Because if you asked a bartender to make you a Corpse Reviver #2, they would sigh audibly and embarrass you in front of your friends. Seriously though, bartenders who won’t make mojitos? That’s like a babysitter who doesn’t change diapers. Anyway. The mixologists at The Manhattan Inn will happily concoct something special for you while you listen to the sweet sounds of a live pianist and not a bartender who thinks he’s better than you because you’re on the other side of the bar.

Drink outside
Gowanus Yacht Club
323 Smith Street
No website
Gowanus and Carroll Gardens border

The name Gowanus Yacht Club is a hilarious joke because, obviously, it’s probably not even that safe to canoe on the polluted Gowanus Canal. The bar isn’t open in the winter because the whole thing is basically picnic tables underneath some aluminum siding on a vacated piece of asphalt. Drinks outside during the day is a national summer pastime, and this is the place to do it. Eat cheddarwurst and drink cans of cheap brew without being ironic about it—you should at least try, Brooklyn. (Photo: Flickr: Wikimedia Commons)

First Date
Black Mountain Winehouse
415 Union Street

Aww, you guys met on Where did you go for your first date? Obviously, you went to Black Mountain Winehouse because it has an intimate setting, romantic fireplace, and friendly waitstaff. Plus, house wine for under seven dollars a glass? Aww, you guys, he got the dreaded red teeth from drinking Merlot and she still liked him. So cute.

Last Date
147 Front Street

Eeh, you guys met on And you thought he’d be a good guy to date because he’s in finance and could therefore afford to grow up and get married and buy a brownstone in Brooklyn for you and your future kids? Well, probably meet him at Rebar. One, it’s close to the city so he won’t freak out about having to take a car service all the way back to the Upper West Side. Two, the bar is stocked strongly with draft beers and attractive bartenders, so your whole night won’t be a waste. Three, the back of Rebar is a maze of hallways and private rooms and the bathrooms are somewhere back there by a screening room, so you can just hide out/slip out the back and never have to listen to a date tell you that they “play hard and work harder” ever again. (Photo: Flickr: Dumbo NYC)

Black Rabbit
91 Greenpoint Avenue

Black Rabbit has “the world’s nerdiest trivia night” every Tuesday from 8 to 10pm. So if you love bar trivia then scoot on over for bonus shots and a $25 bar tab to the winner. Personally, I feel like bar trivia brings out the worst in everyone but that’s because my older brother constantly cheated at Trivial Pursuit for Juniors when we were kids. He probably still does. (Photo: Flickr: Open Privacy)

Shake it
81 South 6th Street

Bembe doesn’t just do a small corner of the bar where a few brave souls are grooving along to a Katy Perry song on the jukebox. No. Bembe has completely insane live Brazilian music with bongos and cowbells. Everyone dances until 4 am. It’s the kind of place where you’d feel uncomfortable if you weren’t dancing with a caipirinha in your hand. Go there and dance.

Meet girls
Lavender Lake
383 Carroll St

Maybe it’s the pleasant sounding name that makes girls feel really comfortable here. Or the bathrooms that have fancy soaps. Or the four sexy dudes that own it. Or the light wood beams reminiscent of a Norwegian lake house. Or the cocktails with lavender infused vodka. Or the back patio where we could just go outside and talk?

Meet dudes
191 5th Avenue
Park Slope

Maybe it’s the refrigerators filled with hundreds of different beers that make dudes hang out here? Or the gourmet meat sandwiches? Or the sort of intimidating beer nerds who fill up Growlers in house? Or the Pacman machine? Or the back patio where we could just go outside and talk? (Photo: Flickr: Bernt Rostad)

Drag Queen Karaoke
Hope & Anchor
347 Van Brunt Street
Red Hook

Friday and Saturday nights at Hope & Anchor are karaoke nights, hosted by a fabulous drag queen. What fun! Tell your whiny friends they can take a bus to Red Hook or pay for a car service, because the drinks are cheap! You’ll save money by hanging out in Red Hook you guys. And remember Hurricane Sandy? The area needs your support. Go sing!

Video Games
388 Union Avenue

Wait, you love video games? Really love them? Did you grow up with a semi-permanent indent on your right thumb from holding down the B button while playing Mario Kart on NES? Me, too. Barcade is where you can get drunk and play your favorite video games from childhood: Contra, Asteroids, Ms. Pacman, Paperboy, Centipede, they’re all there. When Barcade invests in The Simpsons game or Dr. Mario, I will secretly live in the backroom so I can play uninterrupted after the bar closes. (Photo: Flickr: Rob Boudon

Brooklyn Buschenschank
320 Court Street
Carroll Gardens

The brownstone that I live in used to have two fireplaces until the landlord ripped them out, leaving only the cement indications on the hardwood floors that something so primal and comforting used to exist in my home. So now I have to go out and search for bars with fireplaces. Brookly Buschenschank has a proper wood burning fireplace and plenty of space for everyone to enjoy it. Plus bratwurst.

Beer Garden
Greenwood Park
555 7th Avenue
Greenwood Heights

Greenwood Park finally opened last summer and is 13,000 square feet of beer garden next to a picturesque cemetery. The bar has an industrial vibe with all-important big bathrooms (lots of beer equals lots of need to empty your bladder) and bocce ball courts. Fair warning, you’re near Park Slope so there will be strollers. Fair warning, if you bring your children to a bar they’ll probably hear curse words so stop glaring.

559 Lorimer Street

I’m not an expert on gay bars. But I do know fun bars and Metropolitan has a lot of fun to offer: skee ball, photo booth, happy hour, pool table, dance floor, and bbq on Sundays. Sounds fun to me.

Ruby’s Bar and Grill
1213 Riegelmanns Boardwalk
Coney Island

Coney Island is accessible via the F Train. Ruby’s Bar and Grill is right on the boardwalk and plays incredibly loud music from the 80s and 90s. They just renewed their lease for another eight years, so you’ve got time to make it out there and eat fried clams. No excuses. (Photo: Flickr: EmilyDickinsonRidesaBMX)

Hotel Delmano
82 Berry Street

Hotel Delmano is the place to go to stand around and look cool and pretend you’re not checking out every person who walks in but you obviously are, because if you weren’t trying to get laid you’d have stayed home and played Ruzzle.

Take your parents
Brooklyn Ale House
62 Henry Street
Brooklyn Heights

Your parents want to go somewhere civil where the bartender doesn’t look like a high school student and they can a decent mixed drink and a quality meal. Brooklyn Ale House is that place. For Gods sake, haven’t they seen enough of Williamsburg already? Why won’t you just move back to the Midwest and have a baby?

End the night
Union Pool
484 Union Avenue

Yes, Union Pool. You’re probably rolling your eyes, but think about it. When you’ve spent a night imbibing, you want to end up somewhere where you know there’ll be a lot of other party people, that’s also close to the train. And there are good places to make out or eat tacos, depending on your mood. Just remember what I said about picklebacks. (Photo: Flickr: Rachel From Cupcakes Takes the Cake)

Bloody Mary
Black Swan
1048 Bedford Avenue
Bedford Stuyvesant

If you have a hangover, hair of the dog doesn’t really help, that’s a myth. However, the bacon, cheese, and shrimp that come tucked into your Bloody Swan at Black Swan in Bed Stuy will distract you from your hangover. Try not to think about the name Bloody Swan. Michelin recommended.

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