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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Turns out that bathroom selfies, for whatever reason, have become…. a thing here.
Think I’m joking? See below:
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.
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.
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…
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.
And don’t forget to check out “Welcome to the Slipstream” from Elsa’s own Natalka Burian!
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All costs were paid by me, and all opinions are my own. No perfectly-made cocktail will ever change that.
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