In addition to being the co-owner of Leyenda, which just turned four in May, Crown Heights-based Ivy Mix is a total master of spirits; with plenty of accolades, like being named Best American Bartender at Tales of the Cocktail in 2015, she’s easily one of NYC’s major MVPs. She recently gave us the lowdown on her ultimate summer Brooklyn bar crawl ft. stops at Hunky Dory, Fort Defiance and more, so if you’re looking to beat the heat and imbibe like an expert the next few months, here’s where to do it according to the legend herself:
It’s SUMMER in New York. Better yet, it is summer in BROOKLYN. Away from the Euro-trash tourists of Soho and Times Square, Brooklyn is where one can revel in the heat and drinks that quench it.
I’ve been meaning to go on my favorite bar crawl for months now, literally, all of 2019, but life got in the way. Luckily for me, the other night, I got to do what I love best: stroll Brooklyn, popping from bar to bar, eating snacks and alternating between wine, cocktails and the occasional copita of mezcal.
I live in Crown Heights and have for the last 11 years; I have seen it change and change a lot both for better and for worse. I miss the curried goat place that was on my corner that was shut down by the health department only to be taken over by a coffee shop visited almost exclusively by gentrifiers. But the plus side is, friends have moved here whereas they only used to live in Williamsburg and Bushwick. And since a massive portion of my friend group work in the service industry, they opened bars here too.
My first stop is a quick stroll from my house to visit Claire Sprouse at her new Hunky Dory. Claire is one of my best friends on the planet. I can’t remember exactly where I met her, I think when she lived in Houston, Texas, but I can’t be sure. She also happens to be pioneering the service industry in terms of environmental sustainability. Hunky Dory has great ethics but it also has ridiculously good food, wine and cocktails. And they’re open ALL DAY, so it’s a great place to start the crawl when my other friends are closed.
I tend to drink lambrusco while I’m here, or maybe another natural wine she has up her sleeve. So this is what I get, along with the Smashed Cukes and the Sweet Potatoes for a snack. We have a sherry shot before I leave, and then I’m off to Oxalis.
Oxalis is owned by one of my childhood best friends, father of my godson, and bar consulting partner, Piper Kristensen. He partnered up with Nico Russell, formally of Daniel, to open a fancy, conceptual masterpiece. Piper has worked making distillates for the bar, and my favorite one is the Watermelon Brandy, so I start first with this neat while I snack on some of the snacks from the (more or less) daily changing menu. This time: Duck Rillettes with Gluten-Free Crepes. Because this place is a little fancier, I get to indulge on some more great wine.
Next up, I go pop in on Leyenda, my little bar that just turned 4 in May. Happy hour is turning into dinner service and it’s a tad busy, but not so much that I can’t chat with Shannon Ponche, our head bartender there, about upcoming menu changes and staffing up for summer, which is when we get quite a bit busier due to our awesome patio. We truly make the best margaritas in town, so I have one and some Jerk Chicken tacos and then leave pretty quick to open up barstools.
Then I take a stroll to Red Hook and visit Fort Defiance. When I first moved to NYC I worked at Fort Defiance where owner, St John Frizell, gave me a chance bartending when no one else would. It is still my happy place, and it’s even more secluded since there is really no pubic transport there to speak of. It’s oyster + rose time. They also have the best Irish Coffee in the whole world, so I treat myself to one for dessert. Then, since I am already down here, I pop by Sunny’s for some music and some whiskey.
As I think I’m about ready to head home, I get a message about maybe meeting at Long Island Bar… and who am I to say no? It’s just a short walk from Leyenda, so I pop in again to see how the night’s going and then head there for a Negroni and a bunch of soda water that they have on tap.
Then, it’s home, walking of the dogs, and being thrilled I live where I do with so many friends doing so many good things.
All photos by Lexie Moreland