In the dead of winter, when the wind is howling and snow banks line the streets, nothing takes the chill off like a belly-warming cup of mulled cider with a nip of rum. The Drink, a nautically themed, punch-focused bar in Williamsburg that opened in December, delivers a perfectly blended version of this traditional tipple in an atmosphere that’s worth braving the elements for.
With a roomy interior reminiscent of a seaside New England cabin, The Drink exudes the relaxed feel of a dive bar, but never sacrifices style for comfort. The partners who dreamed up The Drink—Adam Collison of 3rd Ward, who helped open Goods, the art collective’s food truck; Frank Cisneros of Dram and Prime Meats; and Will Jones of Spuyten Duyvil—serendipitously share a background in sailing. They channeled their maritime interests into The Drink and culled a slew of old sailing gear and ship parts from their families, which lends the bar a lived-in, vintage vibe. Navigational maps cover the ceiling, the walls are adorned with seafaring implements and the gorgeous bar was crafted from a 100-year-old piece of teak originally intended for a ship.
With punch the new libation du jour, it’s tempting to think that the folks at The Drink were simply jumping on board with their own vessels of homemade tinctures and tea syrups, fresh juice and fine spirits. But Cisneros has long been developing recipes for the daily punch at Prime Meats, and punch connects to the nautical theme, since sailors brought it from India to England in the 17th century.
Two types of punch by the cup ($5), one hot, one cold, are ladled out each night. On a recent night the hot offering was The Wassail, a wonderful, warm mix of Rhum Barbancourt, apple cider, cherry juice and mango juice that was richly spiced with pink peppercorn, clove, cardamom, cinnamon and allspice. The cold punch of the evening, The Deadrise, blended W.L. Weller bourbon, grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup and Peychaud’s bitters. It was a little heavy on the bourbon, but an additional splash of grapefruit juice balanced out the tart drink. Communal bowls of punch with names like The Perfect Storm (a take on the classic Dark and Stormy, with homemade green tea syrup) and The Narwhal (a lemony punch based around Damrak Gin, which they infuse with homegrown rosemary) provide festive party starters, with 10 servings for $43. More than half a dozen punches for sharing rotate seasonally, and to start off 2011, The Drink has introduced a new punch, The Resolution, which is a bubbly concoction of Juvé & Camps Cava, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, apricot stomp, lemon juice and cinnamon syrup.
But The Drink also delivers on traditional cocktails and beers. The well drinks ($6) are made with high-quality liquors instead of the bottom-of-thebarrel brands that most bars pour. And five hand-carved rotating taps (selected by Jones) always include an English pale ale, an IPA, a pilsner, a stout and a wheat beer. Draft beers ($4), like Geary’s Pale Ale, a sweet amber ale from Maine with a smooth finish, and the smokey Fade to Black stout from Left Hand Brewing in Colorado, are served in 12-ounce glasses filled to the brim. The bottled beer ranges from $5 to $10 and emphasizes excellent German and Belgian brews, such as the Hoevebrouwers Toria Tripel ($10), a Belgian strong ale, and Mahr’s Pils ($9), a German pilsner.
The Drink’s attention to craft and superior, often housemade, ingredients at an affordable price are a rare find. While others who focus on creative drinks might cater to an exclusive group of cocktail connoisseurs, The Drink offers creativity and quality without pretense to any who care to appreciate it.
228 Manhattan Ave. (betw. Grand & Maujer Sts.)