AUGUST LAURA

387 Court St at 1st Pl, Carroll Gardens

The Place: A quiet, cozy cocktail bar that matches quiet, cozy Carroll Gardens.

The Time: Tuesday February 28, 6:30pm. I have this book I need to read in preparation for my next project. Instead of chilling on my couch all night, I thought I’d get out of the house and head to a different neighborhood bar to get some reading done. I’d heard about August Laura somewhere, and since I love trying new cocktail spots, I figured why not take the G train 20 minutes and give it a whirl.

The Vibe: August Laura is right next to a funeral home, which is pretty confusing and odd, but all confusion is cleared when I step into this lovely little space that smells like baking cookies. It’s dark and romantic, but not packed with couples so I don’t feel so sad and lonely. I curl up at the corner of the bar and make myself at home. The bartender sits up on the back bar like a boss – and I find out soon that she is, indeed, the boss. The bartop itself is just a little too high; I feel like Alice in Wonderland where everything is too big. The music is on point, filled with plenty of Ray Charles. It’s peaceful and serene here, but it’s also a serious cocktail bar, with a ton of bar tools and a stacked army of bottles on the shelves. There are two women sitting at the bar as well, talking predominately about all the Oscar noms. One of the women says she slept through Arrival, and I’m like, thank god she didn’t say Moonlight otherwise I would’ve had to leap over this bar and tackle some sense into her.

The Bartender: Alyssa Sartor, co-owner and bartender extraordinaire. She’s wearing Ilegal Mezcal’s “Donald Eres Un Pendejo” shirt. I tell her I want one, she tells me where to get one. It’s a great relationship we’re building.

The Drank: The Cardinale, a negroni riff with gin, dry vermouth, aperol and rhubarb bitters. It’s a little lighter and a touch more floral than the traditional and totally delicious. I tell Alyssa I’m always on the hunt for a good negroni variation, and we agree that we don’t understand negroni haters. I also got olives. They come in a coupe glass. I am so happy.

Was I Hit On? No. However, I tense up a bit when an older man walks in the bar and immediately begins talking to one of the two women. They’re both regulars, and it’s friendly enough, until he starts talking about her husband. “He seemed like a good man, hold on to him.” “I’m trying haha.” “You have children? That’s the way you hold on.” THIS FUCKING OLD MAN interrupting these women’s nice night with his outdated concepts of gender roles and patriarchy. But she handles it excellently, soon saying “I’m going to catch up with my friend now, it was good to see you again” and he was like “ok I’ll just sit here quietly, pretend I’m not here” and made quite a big stink about pretending not to be there. I’m crossing my fingers he doesn’t try to talk to me next. But since this country is the way it is now, soon the two women, the old man, Alyssa and I are talking politics and about how much we hate the Cheeto-in-Chief and I’m just grateful we’re all on the same side.

Should You Drink Here Alone? Definitely. If I lived closer, I’d go all the time. August Laura is a lovely, delightful and delicious cocktail bar to take a date, bring a friend, or to drink alone. This is the future liberals want, I do believe.

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BELLE SHOALS

10 Hope St btw Roebling and Havemeyer Sts, Williamsburg

The Place: A relaxed, relatively new, Southern-style cocktail bar on one of the quieter streets in north side Williamsburg. (I know, I’ve been hanging in my local North Brooklyn a lot lately. I don’t go into Manhattan when I don’t have to.)

The Time: Wednesday October 5, 8pm. The night of my boyfriend’s amateur soccer league final. He asked me to come. I told him I would but only if I could come tipsy. He agreed. The game started at 9, so I popped into Belle Shoals for a pre-game libation after I got lost in the new Whole Foods on Bedford.

The Vibe: There was no one in the bar when I got there. For a second I wondered if they were even open but then a big bearded man came out of the kitchen and greeted me. We were both equally pleased to see each other. I made myself at home in the Southern gothic inspired interior, complete with an amazing vintage jukebox, red velvet curtains and a miniature fountain built into the wall. They’ve got a garden in the back, which is where a few other people were hanging out. Soon, a group of four white dudes accumulated at the bar and ordered burgers and beers. I found out that they were heading to a reggae show later. Oh, Brooklyn.

The Bartender: Josh Mazza, the owner of this bar and others I’ve been to, turns out. What an awesome guy. We chatted about a lot of stuff: liquor (naturally), our backgrounds, the business, Williamsburg. He tells me the story of the Wurtlizer juke; he doesn’t make me feel bad for not knowing what hushpuppies are. The later I stay, the more the bar fills up, and Josh waves to everyone who comes in. I think he must know them, but he doesn’t. He’s just nice.

The Drank: When Josh asked what I was in the mood for, I told him where I was going after this. “Ohhh amateur soccer. So something a little boozy, a fireside sipper.” He made me a concoction not on the menu, called the Air Sling: apple brandy, aloe liqueur, bitter cherry liqueur, white cacao, bitters. Stirred, served on the rocks. It was delicious and unusual and just what I was craving. A perfect beginning-of-fall cocktail.

Was I Hit On? The white guys and I stayed separate for the most part. Until I ask for a parting shot of amaro. Josh pours them for us, then offers it to the guys. They stare at him like deer in headlights. Josh then says, “don’t worry, it’s gentle” and they all agree to take the shots. So Josh, the dudes and I cheers to reggae. And after you take a shot with someone, you become friends. They invited me to the reggae show, I told them I had a nonprofessional soccer game to go to, and we amicably parted ways.

Should You Drink Here Alone? Hell yeah. I had such a great time! Between the cocktails and the crew, Belle Shoals will give you a real taste of Southern hospitality.

SAUVAGE

905 Lorimer St at Nassau Ave, Greenpoint

The Place: A super lovely, trendy French restaurant/bar that’s run by the same folks as Maison Premiere, right on the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border.

The Time: Saturday September 17, 8:30pm. Guys. I’m at a bar alone in a hip neighborhood on a Saturday night. It’s terrifying. I’ll be up front in admitting that I’m only here by myself because a friend cancelled on me last minute, and instead of turning around and getting back on the G train, I decided to face my fears and go to Sauvage anyway. I’m a strong, independent woman. I can do this!

The Vibe: I’m trying to pump myself up with cool girl energy as I make my way into the bar, until the hostess stops me and asks the dreaded question: “Hi, how many in your party?” After a lengthy pause, I respond awkwardly, “Um, oh, I just wanted to get a drink at the bar, it’s just me.” She has to go and check if there’s room for me at the bar! As I’m contemplating running away from what seems like a dreadful situation, looking around at all the people sitting having dinner outside and all the people sitting having dinner inside, she comes back and leads me in. It’s a really beautiful space, with a marble bar top and a seafoam green back wall. I get to pretend I’m in France, and that takes away the horror of being out alone in what is the trendiest, most crowded part of Brooklyn. Everyone in here, customers and staff, is beautiful and under 35. Since it’s right on the edge of Williamsburg, I sense it’s mostly populated with Williamsburg spill-off, unlike Moonlight Mile, which none of these gorgeous hipsters probably know exists. There’s a super funky photo in the corner of two older people wearing sunglasses. I’ve decided these folks in the photo are now my dates for the evening, and we can all pretend to be French together.

The Drank: Sloe Moon’s Rose, a riff on a Sloe Gin Fizz, with sloe gin (duh), framboise, lime and gin, served over crushed ice. It’s bright pink with a paper swizzle straw, and I feel only slightly ridiculous until I taste it, and feel ridiculous no more because it’s delicious. The menu has a handful of low-proof cocktails like this, and a really interesting list of spirits, i.e. I don’t recognize any of them. I want to ask the bartender what the story is with this.

The Bartender: A very nice woman who’s so busy, I can’t ask her about the photo of the sunglassed people or the spirits list. But she’s helpful in assuaging my fears and assures me that my drink would not be too sweet. She’s right.

Was I Hit On? Luckily I had my notebook on me so I could spend some time writing. After I’m here for a while, a guy sits down next to me, takes out a notebook and he starts writing. Journaling at a bar on a weekend is a weird thing; even weirder for two people who don’t know each other to be doing it side by side. The two guys at the end of the bar notice how strange this is. I see one of them mouth to the other, “is this Improv Everywhere?” and his friend looks around for other people who might also have notebooks. Eventually, Writer Guy breaks the ice and mentions the coincidence, asked with a sly “Excuse me, but I need to know: are you copying me?” He’s nice enough and honestly, I’m grateful for the company. We chat for a while, and as I’m about to leave, he asks if I want to get a drink with him somewhere else. I politely decline; he doesn’t make a fuss and says it was nice talking to me. Civility still exists somewhere in this hate-riddled world.

Should You Drink Here Alone? Oui oui mon cherie. Sauvage was perfectly pleasant on a busy Saturday night for a lady riding solo. Personally, I’d rather come here with a hungry friend to enjoy that yummy looking food that was coming out of the kitchen. But for going out alone on a weekend in this neighborhood? Could’ve been a lot worse.

THE MOONLIGHT MILE

200 Franklin St nr India St, Greenpoint

The Place: A laid-back and unpretentious whiskey bar nestled in a residential corner of Greenpoint inhabited by people who probably never leave Greenpoint.

The Time: Wednesday August 3, 6:15pm. Hankering a good cocktail and a change of scenery before treating myself to The Color Purple (HOLY SHIT CYNTHIA ERIVO), I headed up to the Moonlight Mile. A peculiar name, but I can get down with weirdos. I really try to spend as little time around Times Square as humanly possible, and Greenpoint is a nice quiet antidote to the tourist mayhem that ensues in midtown.

The Vibe: I’m the only person in the bar when I walk in. Immediately this makes me nervous. But the two bartenders are very friendly and welcoming so I stay. It’s a big open space, with tons of light pouring through the open windows. There’s a lovely cross-breeze happening, which makes me forget I’m indoors. With this breeze and light, it’s just as nice as a rooftop bar, but without all the asshole rooftop bar people. Soon after I get there, it starts to fill up. I kid you not, the bartenders know the names of Every. Single. Person. who walks in this bar. Literally everyone! “Hey Debbie, nice haircut!” “How you doing, Bruce?” “What’ll it be Chris, the usual?” OMG my boyfriend barely notices when I get a haircut, I would LOVE my bartender to compliment my new hairstyle while he makes me “the usual.” Are you fucking kidding, that would be so cool! And what’s more, they all know each other! Everyone either came to the bar alone or with one other person, and yet everyone seems to know everyone else. I’ve determined that Moonlight Mile is the hipster Brooklyn whiskey bar version of Cheers.

The Drank: The Ned Stark – High West rye, allspice, muddled pear, lemon, habanero syrup, shaken over ice. It’s super refreshing, and I’ve never had pear in a cocktail before so points for creativity. They have a great cocktail list, and an expansive whiskey list, heavy on rye and bourbon. They’ve got a bunch of good beers on tap too. Something for everyone! (Unless you exclusively drink vodka, then go to a vodka bar because you must be Russian.)

The Bartender: A really nice chill guy named Asaf. I didn’t catch the other guy’s name, since he was on the other side of the bar. We talked a bit about the industry. He used to work at the Meatball Shop, and he also couldn’t get over the size and color of the grapefruits they got in today. He went to the Panorama music festival with Chris, the guy who was sitting next to me. Now you know basically everything I know about Asaf.

Was I Hit On? No, just had a lovely conversation with Asaf and Chris and Debbie. I asked Bruce how his drink was and he nodded so we had a good rapport going. I couldn’t get any reading done because we were all hanging out and talking. I guess I could’ve extrapolated myself and sat by the window but I was having fun with these folks. Why ruin a good time by reading a book? How dull.

Should You Drink Here Alone? If you wanna chat and meet some new people, absolutely, especially if you live in Greenpoint. Since I don’t live around there, I did feel a bit out of the loop, but everyone was sociable, and didn’t exclude this Williamsburg girl from their club. If you prefer some quiet time to get work done or because you’re sick of talking to people, maybe pick another spot. But the Moonlight Mile is perfect if great whiskey and good conversation is your jam.

PACIFIC STANDARD

82 4th Ave at St Marks Pl, Park Slope

The Place: A chill, West Coast-themed bar in Brooklyn that was showing the Democratic National Convention.

The Time: Tuesday, July 27 8pm. I’ve been pretty much entirely consumed with politics this election season, and finding myself a rare free evening, I decided to go to a bar to watch the convention as opposed to live streaming it on my computer in my apartment. This is my version of going to a bar to watch sports. The only times I’ve ever gone to a bar with the intention of watching something has been for this and the Oscars, and I’m totally fine with what this says about me.

The Vibe: It feels cozy and friendly from the minute I walk in. There’s a nice bar space in front with a screening room in back, projecting the convention on a big screen on the back wall. It’s also playing with subtitles on the TV at the bar, so I sidle up and make myself at home. The atmosphere is like a kid who plays lacrosse at Oakland decided to make his dorm room into a dive bar. There’s tons of California memorabilia lining the wooden and brick walls – license plates, giant beer caps, athletic flags. The last of the summer light pours in through the large front windows. The bar top is one of those slated old style ones like they have at Dutch Kills, which annoys me but it’s just my personal grievance. Groups of two pepper the bar: friends, friendly couples. The back room starts to fill up with larger groups, clearly here for the DNC, but there are also plenty of locals enjoying their neighborhood bar on a Tuesday night. The music is 90s and 00s pop and hip hop, and I find it hilarious to watch the DNC with subtitles while “Sexy Can I” by Ray J circa 2007 plays in the background. I really dig the vibe of this place, but I find it kinda strange to have a West Coast-theme bar in NYC. Then again, it’s definitely weirder to have an NYC-themed bar in NYC so I accept it.

The Drank: A classic Dark n Stormy, made with both Gosling’s rum and Gosling’s ginger beer. It’s got the right amount of lime too and for $9, I’m a very happy camper. They’ve got a great selection of draft beers and a pretty good wine selection as well. They also have classic pub food, like tacos and hot dogs, with both meat and veggie options, because this is Brooklyn after all. And it was Taco Tuesday, so you could get two tacos for 5 bucks! I stupidly ate before I came here, otherwise I would’ve been all over this.

The Bartender: First, there was one bartender, a woman in black with glasses and a loose bun. Her voice cuts through the light din of other voices, yet it took me a sec to realize she was talking to me because she was doing shit somewhere else, cuz duh, she’s a busy lady. Then a second bartender rushes in, hangs up his bag, puts a bar rag in his pocket and is ready to rock. He wears a Joshua Tree t-shirt and is super sweaty. Pretty soon, the other bartender is done with her shift, so she chills at the corner of the bar for a while with a whiskey and a Bud Light.

Was I Hit On? No but I made friends with a guy named Mark who stood next to me as the bartender, also named Mark I found out, slid his whiskey to him. I told Mark I’d never actually seen someone have a drink slid to them before. When Bartender Mark asked me if I’d like another round, I said I was intrigued by the $4 prosecco special (!) but wanted a drink slid to me. So Bartender Mark put prosecco in a rocks glass and slid it to me!! I’ve never felt so cool. Other Mark and I chatted for a while. He works at the bar across the street, “only during happy hour, I need the light, can’t work in the dark no more,” and he stops in to see his buds at Pacific Standard for a Jameson before hopping the train home to Queens. He’s also a born and bred New Yorker who was vegetarian for several years. When he left, I told him I’d come by his bar sometime. Yay to making new friends and having pleasant conversations with strange men who aren’t creepers!

Should You Drink Here Alone? Yes! So happy I found a chill new bar to hang at when my version of sports is on TV. And they have trivia nights! And stand-up nights! And non-creepy men! You guys, come here alone and with friends. You definitely won’t be disappointed.