Exiled in Iowa for two years, my roommate C. Jo and I were dangerously close to stunting our taste buds with our nightly quaffing of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz, and other watery domestic ales. I was beginning to forget what a cocktail was—”Just pour some whuskey into that frosty mug!” I’d shout to my favorite mullet-haired bartender, Terry.
Freshly reinstated in Fort Greene, we decided to refine our hayseed tippling habits by exploring the finer points of the martini—ignorant that the cocktail no longer needs an olive to be called a martini.
First stop: MOE’S (80 Lafayette Avenue, 718-797-9536). With a couple of discerning friends, C. Jo and I squeeze through a diversely hip crowd of buppies, Rastafarians, industry slicksters, and indie kids dangerously nearing their thirties. The best part about Moe’s is the fine-lookin’ bartender who patiently repeats the laundry list of ingredients in the martinis despite clamoring customers. With four suspiciously bright drinks in hand, we are sober enough to smack our lips and actually taste the cocktail. First we sip the $8 Creole martini with pineapple juice, vanilla Stoli, and Alizé: “Having an identity crisis.” Then the $8 sour apple with sweet-and-sour schnapps and raspberry Stoli: “Strokes my inner sorority girl.” The winner is the Moe, an $8 house martini with Sauza tequila and triple sec, although resident expert Jonathon advises, “Mo’ tequila make it mo’ better!”
Next we hit CELLARS (250 DeKalb Avenue, 718-789-7630), which has some V.I.P. policy where you have to ring a doorbell before being let in. After Moe’s booty-grinding crowd, we are relieved that this bar is, well, dead. Cellars definitely soothes the weary, bar-hopping soul with its low-key decor of gold-flecked banquettes, televised sports, dizzying Escher-like floor, and its array of curios: a gold-sequined mannequin, a moped, and black velvet paintings of blues singers. With its yard-sale Solid Gold interior, it’s Franks (660 Fulton Street, 718-625-9339) without the rowdy crowd or any crowd to speak of. My tongue feels like it has been Brillo-padded with sugar so I go for the good old neutralizer: Budweiser ($4).
Our last visit is to RAIN (887 Fulton Street, 718-783-6993), a grocery store turned bar that just opened four months ago. Rain is also empty and is sorely in need of a rump-shakin’ crowd, what with its blue-tinged lights and loungey cushions. We are not won over, but thank Alizé God we stayed. The bartender, Duane, rattles his shaker like Charo with her maracas, and before we can say “drunker than a tree full of monkeys,” we are faced with a platoon of Jezebel-painted cocktails that pulsate like uranium. We hit the martini jackpot. The best drink of the night is their specialty $10 Sunflower martini—triple sec and Grand Marnier—which is sweet, slightly nutty, and delicious. Other highlights include the refreshing aquamarine-hued Rainwater ($8) and the boldly green Skywalker martini ($10). By the end of the night, we are so trashed we spew clichés worse than a J. Crew summer catalog: “Isht like a summer breeze . . . ” The owner pours us a physics-defeating shot that is a perfect yin-yang of Kahlúa and Baileys. “We’re advanced in shotsglastic technology,” asserts the owner. Stumbling back home, we have to agree.