The days may be short, but spending these long nights tucked away in a dark and moody bar help to ameliorate the winter blues. It’s true that when it comes to outdoor sipping in the summer, Brooklynites are spoiled for choice, but, in fact, the borough is flush with bars that capitalize on cozy, and it’s not just about the whiskey, though there is that.
Anais 196 Bergen Street, Boerum Hill
From the team behind Rucola, one of Brooklyn’s most charming — and delicious — Italian restaurants and June, the borough’s first established natural wine bars, comes Anaïs. The buzzing wine bar peddles not only natural wine — including, of course, a selection of skin contact/orange wines hovering around $16/glass — but also books inspired by the life and lifestyle of writer Anaïs Nin. The space’s soft lighting is enhanced by tea light candles on the tables and candelabras on one wall. It’s a casual and comfortable vibe with a serious wine selection and knowledgeable staff. Food choices are straightforward but delicious; the sourdough and butter for $8 is a no-brainer.
Bar Meridian 406 Prospect Place, Prospect Heights
The music is the message in this beautifully-designed and dimly lit spot located on the border of Crown Heights and Prospect Heights. There’s a large, restored jukebox and lots of vinyl, and it hosts a rotating assortment of local vinyl DJs. The menu includes funky $15 craft cocktails like the Zeppelin (tequila, amaro, apertivo and lemon) or the Crocodile (vodka, suze and tepache) as well as cute cans that pack a punch for $16. As far as the small bites, don’t sleep on the bologna sandwich, the BLT or the “day-old” spaghetti. During the summer months, the bar’s robust patio doubles the potential capacity for outdoor hangs. But we like it nice, atmospheric and cozy in the winter.
Black Mountain Wine House 415 Union Street, Carroll Gardens
This cute, narrow wine bar oozes cozy, thanks to a roaring fireplace. Even the name is a dead giveaway to just how sweetly comfortable this corner establishment is. In addition to a wide-ranging selection of both old and new world wines, Black Mountain serves comfort classics like its signature mac n’ cheese and pork meatballs in a spicy marinara sauce. Even if you don’t manage to get a spot right in front of the fire (the wine bar doesn’t accept reservations), know that there are no bad seats in this house. The only problem will be tearing yourself away from all that is warm and toasty inside these walls and venturing back out into the cold.
The Brooklyn Inn 148 Hoyt Street, Boerum Hill At nearly 140 years old, The Brooklyn Inn is one of the borough’s oldest bars, if not the oldest, and it’s definitely one of its most iconic. In spite of its high ceilings and spacious digs on the corner of Bergen Street, original woodwork throughout the bar — and the old-school long, wrap-around bar itself — manages to create an inviting and charming atmosphere in a space that remembers its roots as a 19th century American tavern. It was only a few years ago that the bar started taking credit cards, all the better for ordering off the short list of classics — and tipping your bartender well. Reasonably-priced cocktails (especially for this neck of the woods) like The Brooklyn Manhattan (Jim Beam, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth, Angostura bitters) for $11 sweeten the stay.
Dick and Jane’s 266 Adelphi Street, Fort Greene
This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Fort Greene bar, helmed by friendly bartenders, is a delightful place to sip a well-made cocktail in a relaxing room on a cold, dark winter’s night. The wisp of a bar serves the classics — a Boulevardier on a bone-chilling evening goes down easily — as does The Perfect Martini. Made with Ford’s gin, dry vermouth, up with a twist, it’s served, notably, at 11 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be tricky to snag a spot, but once you do, you’ll see what the fuss is all about. And if you find yourself bar-hopping in Bed-Stuy, check out the latest member of the family: Dick & Jane’s Bar Room on Malcolm X Boulevard.
Doris 1088 Fulton Street, Bed-Stuy
“A nice bar on a crazy block,” is how this Fulton Street bar describes itself on Instagram, where it also advises patrons to come early and stay late and, above all, to be cool. The description is apt; Doris is both a place to lose track of time with an old friend over a couple of mezcals at a snug table for two, and it’s also a fine choice for a group hang at the bar (order the Doris beer and shot combo: bottle of Lonestar and Cimarron tequila for $10). Frankly, Doris also suits the solo artist—the better, perhaps, for making new friends. The Bed-Stuy bar is an attractive place with soaring ceilings and mood lighting; it really heats up around 11 p.m. when the DJ starts spinning.
Little Oaxaca 74 Bayard Street, Williamsburg
Located inside Fandi Mata, a trendy Mediterranean restaurant in Williamsburg, Little Oaxaca, an artisanal mezcaleria, is tucked away on the mezzanine. It exudes the good, cozy vibes of the restaurant it shares a space with but manages to feel like its own thing because it is. Decorated with hand-painted pink stone imported from Mexico, the mezcal-focused bar is run by Milos Zica, an industry veteran (Zica served as an Employees Only principal bartender previously), who has curated a list of artisanal mezcals (over 50 selections) for sipping neatly and crafted a mezcal-centric cocktail list. Even better: Fandi Mata’s menu is available at Little Oaxaca, although the bar also features a few exclusive dishes of its own.
Mama Tried 787 3rd Avenue, Sunset Park
While this unassuming Sunset Park bar heats up in the summer thanks to a chill, family-friendly backyard, it’s also an excellent winter destination, with its beer and shot combos, cocktail selection, and veggie chili. This is a bar that’s not trying too hard to be anything but welcoming to all who walk in its doors. Oh, and if you bring in a picture of your mama — open to interpretation — the bartenders will add it to the wall dedicated to pictures of all the other “mamas.” It’s a fine establishment to belt out some karaoke tunes or to sit with a neat glass of housemade vermouth as a live band takes to the stage.
Sunken Harbor Club 372 Fulton Street, Downtown Brooklyn
You might not expect a nautical-themed bar with cleverly-named cocktail categories ranging from In the Shallows to The Abyss to On Dry Land to reside above one of Downtown Brooklyn’s hottest restaurants, but Sunken Harbor Club is a nice addition to the Gage & Tollner space. Intimate, more than a little quirky, and definitely fun, this bar gives after-dark beach club vibes — a perfect place to grab an aperitif such as the Singapore Burrapeg (a twist on the Singapore sling, it’s a Champagne cocktail with kirsch and benedictine) before a steak dinner downstairs, or a post-meal digestif such as the Scrimshaw, a zero ABV-drink made with grapefruit, elderflower and bitter herbs and spices that conjure the flavors of a rich and herby Amaro-based cocktail.
320 Club 320 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Come for the cocktails like the Corn ‘N’ Oil (River Antoine rum, Probitas rum, Velvet Falernum, lime for $18) and stay for the late-night burritos when the munchies strike. Tucked in the back room of Super Burrito in Williamsburg (other Super Burrito locations exist but this is the only one with a hidden bar), 320 Club is dark and snug, reminiscent of a dive bar without being too dive-y. Arrive early for happy hour specials (til 7 p.m.) or show up late when the DJ is spinning and the bar is packed with patrons ordering off the list of specialties with funky names or from a basic selection of canned beer and spiked seltzer.