Finding a bar that suits your mood can be a bit tricky when you’re flying blind. We all walked into places that looked promising from the outside or on Instagram from which we immediately returned. It happens. As someone who makes a living tasting, thinking and talking about spirits every day, finding a good whiskey and cocktail bar wherever I land is essential. But even with the best plans and advice, I still struggle every now and then. But I also find some nuggets, and that’s what we’re going to be focusing on in this new series.
Dutch Kills Bar in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens is this gem today. While the name sounds off-putting, “to kill” in Dutch simply ways a small stream or stream, meaning the name refers to where some Dutch colonizers took root next to a stream in the mid-1600s.
Name aside, Dutch Kills Bar has one of the best and most eclectic collections of spirits that rival the best bars in the world. The emphasis is on the whiskey (e) y, but the prowess of the bar chefs means that there is a long list of very deep liqueurs, liqueurs, bitters, vermouths and just about anything you can dream of in it. which concerns alcohol on the rear bar. Plus, all of the ice is carved out of a huge block every night. With all of that in mind, let’s dive into what makes this bar a must-see the next time you’re in New York City.
WHY IT’S AWESOME:
One of the best aspects of this bar is its accessibility. If you are in midtown Manhattan all you have to do is cross the Queensboro Bridge (or take the subway to Queens Plaza) and you are there. The bar is physically closer to downtown than to Flushing and the heart of Queens further east. This means that you get the best of both worlds at this kind of crossroads between two main parts of the city.
Okay, let’s go into the bar. What I personally like about this place is the staff. They are really cool even knowing their shit. While there is an excellent menu of bespoke and well-designed cocktails – all made with ice from this huge block – on the menu, I tend to pick a whiskey and ask for a favorite cocktail with this libation. The best part is that you can ask the bar chefs for advice, tips and tricks. Granted, I work in spirits and come from a high end cocktail bar background, so I understand that I am more comfortable than some people. Yet the gentle affability of the staff at the Dutch Kills Bar welcomes all drinkers, whether beginners or seasoned professionals.
If the bar is a bit quieter, you can really dive into some amazing pairings and concoctions as the night wears on. I had fun pairing cognacs and Kentucky bourbon to find the perfect Sazerac for a stormy fall night.
And, very important, free cold water was always in front of me. The bar staff made sure I always had water. This is crucial (and often overlooked) for a great bar experience. I know it sounds simple, but it’s important when you hit the tough stuff.
WHAT TO DRINK:
It is up to you, of course. I was there for the last time on a rainy Monday evening after midnight. My Vans were wet from walking in the rain and I was jet lagged after a long flight. So, I opted for a Michter’s Rye Manhattan.
If I had been there a month earlier and sat in the sun I would have ordered something fresh and bright off the menu as the Stay awake late. It’s a nice and sparkling blend of lemon, simple syrup, brandy and gin topped with seltzer.
Alternatively, you can really dive into the whiskey list. There are so, so many great whiskeys from all over the world (as you can see in the photo above) on the shelf that you could spend months at Dutch Kills trying a new whiskey every day and not getting to the end of this menu whiskey.
Finally, if the night is quieter, talk to the bar staff. I know I said it above, but it bears repeating. The bar chefs really know what they are doing and care deeply about your experience at the bar and it depends on the drink in front of you.
WHAT TO EAT:
Dutch Kills serves a very small menu provided by Stretto Bros.. Imagine classic Italian streetfood sandos amplified up to eleven and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. The bread is serious white Italian buns with a solid crust and a soft, tangy interior. The toppings tend to be stacked.
The Ill Papa (pictured above) is filled with mortadella, capocollo, chorizo, grated lettuce, tomato, dijonmayo, crumbled manchego and giardiniara. It’s a lot but all you want at the same time.
Another favorite was the Deli Boy (pictured below). It’s stacked with mortadella, jack cheese, lettuce, and yellow mustard. It’s kind of like the ultimate bologna sandwich on steroids.
10/10 – There are covered outdoor seats with heaters for those cold nights ahead and the eventual return of summer. The main entrance is a long hall where you walk past booths just large enough for two sitting opposite each other. There are a few larger cabins for four just past the bathrooms but before reaching the bar. Finally, the bar is composed only of seats and standing places.
9/10 – It’s a really cool place that can also be rocking. It’s open seven nights a week, so naturally, it’ll be a lot busier during prime time Thursday through Saturday. Sundays and Mondays are slower and much more relaxed and you may very well sit next to someone else in the liquor industry or the bar scene on their day off.
8/10 – I like bars like this when they are quieter, after midnight, so you can really dive into the bar’s bottle list with the staff. But, I can also see making a date here and hanging up a booth for two up front and having a super intimate evening with some great drinks or maybe a bottle of champagne and then a cocktail or two.
7/10 – The joint is quite dimly lit but there is enough light at the bar to take some decent photos if you are in the right place. The cabins up front are quite dark, which is great for the good, sexy times but won’t play for IG. Yet these cocktails still look good enough to be photographed every time.
8/10 – Black and white tiled bathrooms are single use, which means you can plug into them without someone surprising you. They are well lit and very clean with standard amenities.
BEST TIME TO COME:
The bar opens every day at eleven in the morning and is open until two or three in the morning depending on whether or not it is the weekend. While I like going to places like this late (between midnight and closing) it really works as a bar any time of the day or night. You can come for lunch, have a huge sammie, drink a cocktail and have a great afternoon. Or you can do it on a Friday night with a date and maybe have a bit of luck. It’s a versatile place at all times, that’s what I’m getting at.
IF I HAVE to complain about something:
It’s hard. I really like this bar. I guess I’ll have to go with the jukebox. Letting the crowd control the music can be awesome or awful. It’s not that the jukebox isn’t full of great music. He is. It’s that there is no music if no one is playing a tune, which takes away the mood a bit.