"I'm drawn to bars that are really comfortable and beautiful," says Toby Cecchini of Atlantic Avenue's newly restored Long Island Bar.
Says the veteran barkeep, author and gentleman credited with (or blamed for) the invention of the Cosmo, "I actually think that drinks are the seventh or eighth most important thing in a room. There has to be some spirit to the place."
At Long Island Bar, Cecchini and business partner Joel Tompkins say that the goal was simple: Don't mess with the room. Much of the bar was left intact, including the original Formica tables. The hinges on the refrigerators, Cecchini points out, were cast in Brooklyn more than 50 years ago.
Toby Cecchini enjoys a cocktail at Long Island Bar | A boulevardier | The original No Dancing sign
"All of that stuff adds up in a really subconscious way," says Cecchini. "The drinks can take care of themselves."
At the bar, an old-school Fix ($12) is made with a house-made lemon and quinine cordial; the Carronade ($12), the sleeper of the list, is equal parts rum, cognac, plum wine and cream sherry, finished with cinnamon bitters and grapefruit peel.
Here's Cecchini's short-list of watering holes around town where the atmosphere is as important as what's on the menu.
The Subway Inn: "It's this old boxing-themed bar and it's very old New York. It's a dive, but a really beautiful dive."
Dram: "They do high-end cocktails extremely confidently, but they're not put off if you want a beer." Try the Boukman Daiquiri ($12), made with cinnamon syrup and finished with cognac.
ZZ's Clam Bar: "This place is really tiny and it has all this quirky period glassware, so your drinks come in these bizarre old vessels," says Cecchini. "I also keep going back to the incredibly campy Coconut, which comes in a frozen, hollowed-out coconut that appears to be smoking a cinnamon stick."
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