There is no dearth of fancy cocktail joints populating the Williamsburg area. Hipsters seem to like their drinks as obscure and labor-intensive as their hard-to-come-by Japanese selvedge skinny denim and heritage shoe ensembles. But someone among their ranks must enjoy a simple, unpretentious elixir or well-priced, smooth glass of wine. How else to explain the recent opening of the Bar at Bedford?
Located on a quiet strip of Bedford Avenue, in solid L-train territory, the bar is a backroom addition to the farm-to-table restaurant The Bedford, which opened last spring under executive chef Blake Joyal, in a space once occupied by a coffee shop and before that, Beacon’s Closet.
While the dining area is all light wood and exposed brick walls with mounted film-set ready spotlights, the Bar is its darker, more mysterious cousin (both come courtesy of designer Crystal Taylor). The ceiling and walls are a lovingly restored, pressed tin, painted over to matte out any sheen. Floors of reclaimed wood act as a base for European café-style synthetic leather chairs (the real stuff is too expensive for potential spillage) and round marble tables, bookended by living room-esque lounge areas of tufted armchairs. Vintage mirrors dot the walls, which are illuminated by custom lights, some strung from old barn gliders.
The Bar’s garage heritage is evident in other industrial elements: an I-beam bar made out of old door frames and original metal beams in the ceiling. Though a more whimsical touch comes in the sliding library ladder that bartenders use to reach the top shelves, crowded with wine bottles. On busier nights, they often resort to swinging from the bar’s red poles like kids in a jungle gym.
The drinks and food help cater to this iniquitous mood.
“It’s like an upscale gastropub,” explains one of the co-owners, Sean Rawlinson of the Bar’s separate menu of easy to eat fare like local bluefish tacos, arancini and kielbasa the building’s landlord makes upstate. Rawlinson would know, seeing as he lives just upstairs, a move that has prompted a wardrobe adjustment.
“These are my Williamsburg glasses,” he jokes of his thick black frames.
Those may give him some neighborhood style cred, but it’s his drinks that will clearly win over its residents (the cocktails are the same for both the restaurant and back room because really, why mess with a good formula?). A sommelier and mixologist by training, he knows his way around a shaker and quickly has his tattooed bartender Matt Rodgers give me a sampling while he sips a German Kolsch draft beer (it is, after all, 4pm).
First up is the Lovely Day, made with thyme infused lemonade spritzer, Luksusowa vodka and prosecco. It’s like summer incarnate.
“I’ve tried to stay local and seasonal, but also have drinks that aren’t overwrought,” explains Rawlinson. “There’s a few places in this city where you walk in and you’re like, ‘I’ll have that drink and while it takes you 25 minutes to make it, can I have a beer so I have something to drink?’ I like to keep my drinks very simple, very clean and no more than three steps for the bartender.” (There is also a very well-priced selection of wines by the glass, like a $7 Australian Riesling and an $8 Spanish Tempranillo.)
So easy, in fact, that we’re on to the next drink in minutes (no, I didn’t finish every last sip of each. Yes, I left considerably jollier than when I entered. Lovely Day, indeed.).
The Gin Ricardo packs a bit more punch, with a mix of Bulldog gin, muddle basil, fresh lime, soda and a salty spicy rim containing cayenne and cumin.
“You can’t taste the booze, I’m a big fan of that,” says Rawlinson. He’s right. I can’t. Danger looms.
Last up is his riff on a whiskey sour, the Bedford Sour: rye whiskey, fresh lemon and orange juices, egg white and bitters. Fortunately, in this one the alcohol is a bit more present. Though it’s nothing like the Old Fashioned’s many of his neighbors are downing even in the summer. Not Rawlinson.
“The big heavy whiskey drinks? I don’t drink them,” he says, confessing to a preference for “girly drinks.” “I have to save something for when my life really sucks, when I have a bad day, one alcohol that I really need.”