Though the High Horse Saloon opened its doors only a few weeks ago, the Williamsburg watering hole already feels like an old neighborhood haunt. An outgrowth of the High Horse Salon, which provides stylish hair cuts next door, the bar shares its sister establishment’s vintage vibe and lived-in comfort and harks back to the past with a nod to the Old West. But you’re more likely to see well-coiffed locals with tattoos and piercings sidling up to the bar than any surly outlaws.
Kristi Banister, owner of both the salon and saloon, hails from a rural town on the eastern shore of Maryland, where she grew up around horses. She furnished much of the salon with her personal collection of antiques, some of which came from her aunt’s farm. When her landlord offered her the next-door space to open a bar, she maintained the salon’s equine theme but added many of the saloon’s rustic touches, handcrafted from reclaimed wood from Virginia.
In the main room, the dark wainscoting that lines the walls was salvaged from an elevator shaft, and the lovely bar top was carved from a slab of redwood, the softness of which allows beer bottles and cocktail glasses to leave their mark and enhance the aged look. Exposed brick and bare Edison bulbs add to the retro feel, and an adjacent room in the back offers a huge wraparound booth upholstered with jaunty horse-and-rider fabric for more serious drinking parties and lounging.
Appropriately, the saloon focuses on Banister’s two favorite beverages: beer and whiskey. On a recent night, six of the bar’s eight taps were dedicated to a stable of mostly craft beers, including the excellent Left Hand Milk Stout ($6) out of Colorado, Shock Top Belgian-style wheat ale ($5) from St. Louis and local favorite Six Point IPA ($5). The High Horse Lager ($5), a generic beer with the bar’s moniker attached to it, was a fairly mellow amber brew that went down easily—a little too easily, perhaps. Once the cooler weather of autumn kicks in, Banister plans to switch up the selection and expects some seasonal brews to appear. The remaining two taps delivered red zinfandel and sauvignon blanc from The Gotham Project, local purveyors of wine in a keg, for $7 each. Cold cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Colt 45 for $3 and frosty bottles of Budweiser and Rolling Rock for $4 promise an inexpensive buzz for those on a budget. But the wall of enticing bottles of wine behind the bar is, unfortunately, only for decoration.
High Horse offers more than 30 choices of fine brown spirits, including Buffalo Trace’s Elmer T. Lee single barrel bourbon ($9) and High West Bourye ($12), a union of bourbon and rye. Also on offer are small batch delights like Templeton Rye ($9), Bulleit Bourbon ($9) and Michter’s American Whiskey ($8), and smooth single malt scotches such as Glenlivet ($12) and Laphroaig ($10). For tighter wallets, the old standbys of Jameson ($7), Jack Daniels ($7) and Powers ($6) are close at hand. And a well old fashioned costs a mere $5. Specials for the thrifty but thirsty drinker include the ever popular shot-and-a-beer deal for $5. During happy hour, which begins every weekday at 2 p.m., the bar offers $1 off of well drinks and draft beer and wine.
With the big windows in the front thrown open, as they were on an unusually cool recent summer evening, the High Horse Saloon almost feels like an openair bar, and the combination of a brisk breeze and a Templeton Rye on the rocks whisked away any cares I might have had. Though its name might imply it’s a place for putting on airs, in truth, the saloon is a spot that encourages you to get off your high horse and just take it easy.
>> High Horse Saloon
103 Havemeyer St. (betw. Hope & Grand Sts.), Brooklyn,