Burgundy's Lucky Nines
Drinking in the highs and lows from Brooklyn Dive Bars to Vintage Veuve
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Although I love highbrow wine, I don’t hesitate to switch camps to spirits and hit the bourbon as I embark on a pub crawl in Brooklyn. Indeed there was a time when this baroness was afraid to venture to the outer boroughs (except to go to the airport), but those days are gone—Brooklyn, having transformed itself, is now ready for “royalty.”
A few friends and I started at the high-design restaurant, The Vanderbilt, in Prospect Heights, which has a 30-foot counter bar where you can drink and indulge in innovative snacks. Mississippi- born barman Brian Floyd mixed exciting cocktails with a Southern flair. His bourbon drinks were testament to his origins south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Brian did a little demonstration of his homemade bitters and sweet vermouth and let me sample drinks made with his bitters versus Angostura and Peychaud’s. The chef brought out appetizers: Serrano ham croquettes, blistered Shishito peppers (addictive), golden picked egg and spicy fried chicken wings.
I was so happy with this array of snacks I could have stayed at The Vanderbilt late into the night but we proceeded across the street to another Brooklyn favorite, Weather-up, with its walls and ceiling of white tiles. This is one of those cocoon-like joints that feels so good on a cool spring night and it seemed that everyone from the writing world was hanging out there. I switched to mineral water, for once following my own advice to pace myself and hydrate.
Soon we all hopped a cab to Lady Jay’s in Williamsburg, where noted chef (previously of Tailor and WD-50) and TV food show host, Sam Mason, has taken on a new role of running a dive bar—make that a deliberately-designed dive bar—where he serves mostly inexpensive beer, wine by the glass and easy mixed drinks. No fancy Mississippi cocktails here with a choice of four types of bitters. Open just a year, the distressed-wood designed joint has a juke box, a touch of taxidermy with deer antlers, dart boards and neon Pabst signs. With his tattooed arm, handsome face with hipster facial hair and salty attitude, Sam looks straight out of central casting for the role as dive-barkeep, yet knowing that a talented chef stood before me, I was itching to taste his food. However Lady Jay’s is for drinking only, so I went on to another bourbon on the rocks, no bitters. This is really a place to stay till the wee hours but I feared that if I lingered much longer then the Jamie Fox song, “Blame it on the al… al… alcohol,” would play in my head like a damage-control refrain throughout the next day.