Booze Buzz: Elsa in Brooklyn

In "Booze Buzz," we take you to the latest and greatest watering holes throughout the country. Today, we head to Elsa for craft cocktails in Brooklyn.

In the “Booze Buzz” series, we take you to the latest and greatest watering holes throughout the country. Today, we head to Elsa in Brooklyn.

What’s the Buzz on Elsa?

Three years ago, Elsa shuttered its doors in Manhattan as rent prices skyrocketed. According to the first Elsa’s Yelp page, patrons were clearly saddened by the loss of the East Village cocktail bar, with a few going so far as to pen obituaries for their beloved institution. One nostalgic Yelper even remarked, “If only they had a kitchen. And beds. Then you’d never need to leave.”

Hmm. If it’s that good, it sounds like our kind of place.

Elsa’s back, this time in Brooklyn.

So now that the cocktail bar has reopened in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, what’s the deal with Elsa 2.0? In sum: come for the cocktails; stay for the bathroom selfies. If cocktails are the drink of love, read on.

The Drinks

Round 1: In Which I Develop a Serious Cocktail Crush, Can’t Stop Gushing About It

Confession time: I had actually visited Elsa a few days prior to this evening with Miss Scarlet to catch up and grab a quick drink. She ordered the Perfume-V cocktail ($14) — which contained tequila, creme de violette, St. Germain, lemon, rose water, and egg white — and I fell head over heels for it.

Perfume-V Cocktail

To rectify my cocktail envy, I decided to start with the Perfume-V cocktail for my second visit. As someone who prefers bourbon to tequila, I was genuinely surprised by how much I loved this cocktail. Sipping it was like sticking my nose in the most beautiful, fragrant rose garden over and over — I just couldn’t get enough of how floral and well-balanced it was, and made it known to the bartender who mixed it for me.

Mr. Five O’Clock, on the other hand, tried the Queen of Swords ($13), which featured lemongrass hibiscus whiskey, matcha horchata, Bilaro Amaro, and Pimento Bitters. He described it as a “twofer, or two drinks in one,” and alternated between sipping each layer.

The lemongrass hibiscus whiskey (top layer) had a floral, sour flavor reminiscent of a strong hibiscus tea with a kick; the bottom layer contrasted this with its sweet flavors. While he enjoyed the cocktail’s presentation and vibrant colors, he remarked that he’d “rather have each part as separate drinks instead of combined as one.”

Queen of Swords cocktail

Round 2: In Which We Drink to Benefit Future J.K. Rowlings Everywhere

As a staunch advocate for bringing bars and nonprofits together to enact social change, I was excited to try Elsa’s “Welcome to the Slipstream” cocktail ($13). Hey, if I’m shelling out money for a fancy cocktail anyway, why not save the world in the process?

The “Slipstream” cocktail is a perfect splash of summer in a glass, with the prickly pear giving it a refreshing feel. The drink also contains gin, pickled agave syrup, bird’s eye chili, and lemon.

Welcome to the Slipstream cocktail

Turns out that the cocktail was inspired by Elsa co-owner Natalka Burian’s recent debut novel of the same name (which you can purchase here on Amazon).

It’s only fitting, then, that a portion of the proceeds from the cocktail will be donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization that supports students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills and helps teachers inspire their students to write.

We also tried the Black Book cocktail ($13), but didn’t feel nearly as proud of ourselves for drinking it, since we weren’t helping any future novelists. The drink itself was like a firecracker: we got a kick in the pants from the jalapeño at the beginning and kept saying “Oof, oof” as the spicy drink snaked its way through our stomaches. Yeah, completely normal cocktail reactions.

The Black Book cocktail at Elsa (bourbon, jalapeno, honey, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom)

Round 3: In Which Mr. Five O’Clock Discovers an Idea for a Future Halloween Prank

Clocking in at $16, the “Spider in the Cup” cocktail is on the more expensive end of Elsa’s current menu. It also happens to be one of the most potent: it features Laphroaig 10 year scotch, Scandinavian fernet, antica, and smoked chili bitters. Oh, and there’s a torched star anise that looks like a freakin’ spider.

Along came a spider who sat down beside her

Here’s the deal: I detest spiders. I loathe them. I have a deep-seated fear of furry eight-legged creatures. We’re talking run out of the room, attempting to cover the TV when forced to watch the movie Arachnophobia, Category 5 alert level anxiety when it comes to spiders.


I stared at that piece of star anise floating around in the coupe glass, breaking out a sweat. Mr. Five O’Clock grins at me, puts his hand on mine, and says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cute if I threw in some star anise into one of your drinks on Halloween?”

No, honey. Not if you want to keep the fires of romance alive.

Still, we tried the cocktail; I just happened to keep the fake spider at arm’s length. It’s definitely very spirit forward, and not for the faint of heart. Drink at your own risk, my friends, drink at your own risk.

Our bartender, Chris, torching the star anise

The Space

Elsa’s interior felt warm and inviting to us, perhaps due to the presence of white everywhere. There’s marble-and-brass tables, and plenty of mirrors behind the bar. Apparently there’s a back patio, too, but we didn’t make it that far.

In one of the classier beer-related devices I’ve seen in a long time, Elsa has an antique sewing machine that dispenses beer. If only all Singer sewing machines could serve dual functions…

Chris expertly mixed our drinks, and regaled us with tales of Ramona in Greenpoint, Elsa’s sister bar. (Wait… another cool cocktail bar? Looks we’ll finally have to venture out to Greenpoint after all.)

The Selfies

Turns out that bathroom selfies, for whatever reason, have become…. a thing here.

Think I’m joking? See below:

Bathroom Selfie Series Vol. 8

A post shared by Elsa (@elsabarnyc) on


Notice that the caption above says Volume 8. That means that at least 72 people have spent time frolicking in front of one of Elsa’s bathroom mirrors like a wannabe Heidi Klum. And these are just the ones that Elsa is posting to its Instagram account.

Still, you can count the Elsa bathroom selfie trend among the ranks of Steve Buscemi and Zach Galifinakis: amusing, bewildering and yet, somehow, oddly charming.

Naturally, then, Mr. Five O’Clock had to try his hand at an Elsa bathroom selfie with our Fuji X-T2 camera.

Elsa Bathroom Selfies: Special Edition

However, since most normal people don’t have a professional camera on them in the bathroom, we decided to include an example of regular people using cell phones (keeping in line with the exquisite Elsa bathroom selfie Instagram series).

The person making a basic AF duck face in the photo below may or may not be me, and this photo may or may not have been selected for ironic purposes.

You will never see me doing this again… I think

I have to say that I did really like the lighting in the restroom, and that it was so darn clean. Fortunately, it was around closing time, so we didn’t seem too weird keep anyone waiting with our photographic antics.

Oh, the things we do in the name of cocktail hunting…

The Verdict?

It’s clear that Elsa’s cocktails are well made and crafted with care. Service was slow the first time I visited at prime time on a Wednesday night, but attentive and engaging on our second visit. We’ll be returning in the future.

136 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Connect via their websiteFacebook, or Instagram!

And don’t forget to check out “Welcome to the Slipstream” from Elsa’s own Natalka Burian!

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In "Booze Buzz," we take you to the latest and greatest watering holes throughout the country. Today, we head to Elsa for craft cocktails in Brooklyn.


All costs were paid by me, and all opinions are my own. No perfectly-made cocktail will ever change that.

Also, some of the above are affiliate links. This means I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting It’s Five O’Clock Here!

11 thoughts on “Booze Buzz: Elsa in Brooklyn

  1. Lynn

    Elsa looks like it has a wonderful, quirky vibe! Bird’s eye chilies and star anise are common Asian ingredients, it’s interesting to see them used in such a creative way.

    And bathroom selfies? No shame in that game 😉

    1. Julianne

      Oh, I didn’t know that! It was my first time seeing bird’s eye chili on a drink menu, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was quite good. I still can’t believe my best bathroom selfie was a duck face…. hahaha!

  2. Juliann

    The bathroom selfies are great! I like the background in them. The cocktails sound good, but usually one is enough for me. Not because of the alcohol content, but because they’re usually too sweet for me. I’m more a wine and beer girl. But I’d love to pull the star anise spider trick on one of my colleagues. We have a running joke with a plastic spider. This would definitely add a twist.

  3. Susan

    Yum, I love a well crafted cocktail. I do miss all the exciting ones I’d find in my Brooklyn days. Elsa looks delicious. I would definitely be all over the Perfume-V.

  4. Ann

    The cocktails are all gorgeous and highly inventive. It’s no wonder patrons mourned the passing of the first Elsa! I think the bathroom is perfect for high-profile selfies — wonderful self-promotion idea for the bar. And — I’m definitely tossing a star of anise spider into my sister’s next drink.

  5. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    Multipurpose sewing machines are just silly. They should only dispense beer! I remember working the the nursery in college and we had a few star anise shrubs come in. They were exceptionally shrubby but I was fascinated by the seeds. There were few recipes for them, but spider drinks definately top the list.

  6. Andi

    First of all, I’d be on the floor after round 2, round 3 would never happen with me, so I guess I better choose wisely! I’m not a tequila drinker either, but that first drink does sound downright delicious. I love the bathroom and it gives me ideas for my new bathroom! I would definitely check this spot out – and the star of anise is original!

  7. Cat

    The Queen of Swords cocktail looks so pretty!! What a wonderful presentation. Lemongrass hibiscus whiskey and matcha horchata sound like an interesting combination!!

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