Because I don’t regularly read The Times’ Booming section, subhead Living Through the Middle Ages (yesterday’s piece, an evergreen that seems to pop up at least yearly, from a woman bravely going gray at 53 could’ve easily fit there) I only now discovered the series, “A Quiet Drink,” described thusly: “This feature presents bars and restaurants where one can have grown-up conversation over a good drink.”
Sounds good in theory, though I don’t require peace and quiet, just one other adult woman in the room. Shouting and juvenile chats? Fine, as long as there’s another female born in at least the ‘70s present.
The photo for this week’s installment, Bar “21,” doesn’t fill me with hope.
When? Friday, 4:05pm
What did I drink? Mother’s Milk stout, $6; an indeterminate IPA bought for me (no, not by a stranger).
I have discovered the secret to Williamsburg drinking for oldsters and it is as dependent on having nothing going on in the late afternoon as a poor unemployed millennial (or a twentysomething trust-funder, depending on your level of crotchety-ness). Ok, no secret, just start drinking earlier. Many neighborhood bars don’t open until 5pm while Iona, god bless them, starts serving at 1pm.
I may have been the first to set foot in the inviting backyard on a Friday, but the neighboring table was quickly filled by a Caitlin Moran-esque woman, but blonde and definitely over 40. She gave me the side-eye, surveying the early Friday scene, lamenting to her seltzer-drinking gray-templed male companion about the area “tourists, hipsters and college kids” who pay rent who knows how. One sounds like less of a crank with a British accent, it turns out.
That’s another truth: where there is a high foreign factor (as is the case at Iona) age is often less of a constraint. Also, smoking is de rigueur.
By the way, shit can go down at Iona. Just the year before last, a normally mellow mid-40s friend (he’s in a twee band, for crying out loud) got into a fist fight there. I did not witness this first-hand, but it sticks with me.
Age appropriate? Two beers later, still light out, and three-fourths of the bar, outside and in, were over 40. Sure, some were men with white pageboys, but a high ratio, nonetheless. Does everyone go home by 8pm? Do they disco nap and go back out later as I unwisely did? If you start at 4pm, don’t restart at 8:30pm.
When: Saturday, 11:22pm
What did I drink? Manhattan, Velasco (mezcal, mint, sweet vermouth, maraschino) $10 each.
So many Mays so suddenly: Mayfield, the Crown Heights restaurant, Maysville, the Flatiron’s Char no. 4 spinoff, and The Mayflower (sometimes referred to as Mayflower Social) the tiny pseudo-speakeasy behind Aita in Clinton Hill.
If you ask someone, even an area resident, if they’ve head of it, it’s likely the answer will be no. The 25-seater (five being little stools smooshed at the bar) doesn’t draw the masses, which is good because the slightly hidden (there is a sign, though there wasn’t one originally) bar isn’t much bigger than a typical NYC bedroom.
Clientele generally ranges from early 30s downward, and despite the Brooklyn address, the beardo factor is low-to-nonexistent, as happens the farther you stray from the L train. The fact that you can hear yourself speak over the music (Joanna Newsom, Hall and Oates) often means that there will be at least one table with an older (not old) couple. On a separate night, Jonathan Ames and a lady friend filled that quota.
I don’t think the real Jonathan Ames drinks–and certainly not white wine–does he?
Was I carded? No. Despite the small size, it can get a little hairy if more than one party wants drinks at the same time, so there’s no time for the bartender to ID check.
Age appropriate? Yes, but it tends to attract couples and groups of couples, so the odds of meeting strangers are slim.
Photo credit: fuck yeah schwartzmans. Fuck yeah, I know I’m supposed to reblog, but I’m old school.
When: Monday, 8:29pm
What did I drink? Last Word (gin, chartreuse, maraschino, lime juice) $14
I’m still not clear whether there is an S or not at the end Reynard since it’s spelled both ways on the Wythe Hotel’s website. I will stick with Reynard out of fear of sounding like the sort who says Nordstroms or Barnes & Nobles (Tim Hortons, however, is correct and always throws me off) even though I totally am that sort at my core. A business shouldn’t confuse old people like that.
The restaurant bar (not the rooftop lounge referenced in New York’s Eloise parody–I wouldn’t guess that anyone in that illustration is a day over 33, would you?) was a civilized place to be on a weeknight, further reinforcing the now obvious theory that weeknights trump weekends. The crowd mellowing in proportion to the price of a drink (clubs, excluded) is also a growing truth.
I have yet to touch on the viability of male patrons (which while not the main focus, is a subtext of this venture). Reynard is certainly no Arlington Club, though it wouldn’t have been completely out of line to strike up a conversation with the silver-streaked but not elderly gentlemen reading a book (because I’m bad at this, I didn’t even notice what he was reading–you would want to be careful about Proof of Heaven or similar) or the solo dining Asian man who gave off a food-knowledgeable vibe even though he was quiet (no, I’m not saying Chinese are mystical and/or wise).
Lest you get too comfortable with the adult atmosphere, a Girls billboard, kitty corner, looms out of the dark as you exit.
Was I carded? No, it’s a restaurant not a kegger. The doorman (not Irish or Irish-looking this time) was imposing enough to keep interlopers at bay.
Age Appropriate? Yes, plain and simple.
When: Tuesday, 6:11pm
What did I drink? Maidens Blush (see below) $12, Gladstone (rye, parfait amour, caraway aquavit) $14.
Leaving the 11211 zip code, going out before 9pm and avoiding weekends is an advisable tactic. I’m only sad that Dead Rabbit showed up a block from my office right as I’m moving into a building that will have a Señor Frog’s on the ground floor.
Amidst all the grown frattiness of Stone Street and the disappointment that was Demi Monde, Dead Rabbit gets everything right. Not only are you given a cool glass of water, the hallmark of the adult bar, but also a teacup of welcome punch. It sets the tone. The dim, flattering lighting, minimal cell phone absorption and seated parties only, added to the pluses. And importantly, the bar stools turned out to be plush leather 2×2 seats (even the cranks at Mouthfuls would approve).
Working theory #2: the more expensive the drinks, the more mature (or douchey, depending) the audience. $14 cocktails ensure plenty of suits and quite a few over-50s.
From 5pm-7pm, though, there are dollar oysters and $12 specials like the Maidens Blush (Ransom Old Tom Gin, Pernod absinthe, lemon, raspberry cordial, rose water, orange bitters) which is not a delicate drink, despite the name but brown and intense. Two straight-up cocktails are enough to work their magic and get you home at a respectable hour.
Was I carded? No, I encounter that far less in Manhattan, but there was an Irish doorman, presumably for crowd control.
Age appropriate? Highly. Mission finally accomplished. For a brief period, we could’ve sworn our group consisting of two 40-year-old women and a token 36, were the youngest in the room.
When: Saturday, 10pm-2am
Drinks: multiple gin and tonics interspersed with cans of Rolling Rock.
An evening that started with a free wine tasting event, a thoroughly middle age-approved activity, soon devolved.
If you think that I’m sabotaging myself by visiting so many bars in Williamsburg, you would be correct. I used to refer to the neighborhood as The Shire because everyone I knew who lived there seemed incapable of leaving its confines for socializing. And now that I’m a resident I’ve started falling into the trap because there are multiple walkable options (mostly in the same genre, granted) and I’m lazy because I’m old.
This wasn’t my choice, though. K&M, was the site of a friend’s 41st birthday party (as well as her 36th, if I’m remembering correctly) ensuring that there would be an age-appropriate pocket by default. Once the night took off, though, and the sports bar atmosphere morphed into a dance party, the grown-up level dipped sharply. My working theory is that anyplace where dancing erupts will turn gross by 2am and be unabashedly adult-repellant.
And anyplace where a DJ thinks Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride” is acceptable, is a huge red flag. In 1984, my grandma liked that song very much. That same year, Depends were introduced to the world. At some point closer to 1990 the jaunty reggae-inflected song was used to advertise adult undergarments and “ain’t nothin’ gonna slow me down” took on new meaning.
Because I didn’t diaper-up beforehand (I would be more partial to Poise, frankly) my bladder eventually got the better of me and as a result I inadvertently got drug-doing kids booted out of the ladies’ room. The bartender yelled at me when I gave up waiting and started walking into the men’s room. Dude, there’s a mixed-sex group of nine in the bathroom and I just want to pee. Save your gender rule-enforcing for the appropriate party.
It’s possible that I misheard the two twentysomething men saying goodbyes on the corner, but I’m 98% certain they said, “We’ll meet again. We’ll probably be forties.” It’s highly doubtful the reunion will take place at K&M.
Was I carded? Yes, doormen are no joke in The Shire.
Age appropriate? Maybe if you’re a man watching a basketball game during daylight hours. Otherwise stay far away.
When: 9:38pm on a Friday, and 12:20am on a separate Friday
Drinks: Makers on the rocks, a mildly unseasonal Leaves Do Fall (gin, Meletti amaro, pear eau de vie, amontillado, orange bitters) $10
Perhaps because it s not as new as OTB or as small as Post Office, both nearby choices, I’ve been able to get a seat (old people need to sit) on a weekend on both recent visits. There are nice drinks at relatively sane prices and food like the kimchi dumplings (which I’ve had) and the masala popcorn (which I haven’t) that makes the whole bar smell sweet and cause patrons to exclaim that they can smell Eggos. Small plates, sherry and digestifs are indicators that a bar might be age appropriate–even if no one appears to be over 32–and serving a cold glass of water with a cocktail clinches it.
I’m not sure if Ferris Bueller being projected on the wall was intended for those who’d originally seen it in the theater to reminisce/feel ancient or to give pop culture retroists a charge (same for the Fugazi playing one evening).
Ladytron’s “Seventeen," echoing on visit one, couldn’t have been more apt."They only want you when you’re 17. When you’re 21, you’re no fun.” (And best sad YouTube comment: “I am fifteen i don’t want to be old D:”)
My mission was saved when a 50-ish Mr. Belvedere-ish man in a wool overcoat stepped in the door just as I was about to leave. Then again, it’s different for men. I was with a gentleman celebrating his 43rd birthday and he couldn’t fathom why being the oldest person in a room would be an issue.
Was I carded? Yes, both times by the nice (but tough to the card-less) bouncer who reminded me of an Irish boxer (not one in particular, but the genre I just invented in my mind) who was the most mature looking person in the bar and yet probably no more than 36.
Age Appropriate? Not technically, but the vibe isn’t egregious. A friend brought 60-somethings and they had a nice time.
Once you hit 40, you forget to button your shirt up all the way.
[F]emme fatale and twice-divorced grandma Jane Scher, 58, has a pretty good batting average during her four times per week visits here; she’s met three guys she’s dated “but no one I fell in love with. All my friends mingle here, but the girls — I’m talking women in their 50s — are loose.”
Well…hello! When first conceiving my middle-aged mission, this is not what I had in mind at all. Sure, I suspected the Upper East Side would be more fertile than most parts of Brooklyn, and this is a bonanza. The glaring question remains, though–who’s going with me to Arlington Club?
The scene: Saturday at 3:06am
The drinks: 1 ¾ gin and tonics in plastic cups ($5 each—that seems super cheap so I could be wrong, but I definitely got a wad of ones back from my ten both times)
Formerly Hope Lounge, possibly the only bar in Williamsburg resembling a Sheraton (which makes me wonder—does Hotel Jolie have a lounge because I would go), I believed it when warned by a fellow adult that Good Co. was “bad,” or maybe that was “horrible,” and smelled like cocaine farts. And really, when was the last time anything good came from being in drinking establishment after 3am? (Unless you consider headaches and tears good.) I probably wouldn’t have gone along with meeting friends (including one grown up) if the bar hadn’t been a block from my apartment.
I was dumbstruck by the crew in Adam Ant face paint dancing to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” less because of the DJ’s schlock musical choices but because I was being presented with an omen. The weekend prior at duckduck (like a college town bar of no distinct geography where a beefy man with a silvery buzzcut and a lady friend with a mini ‘90s backpack, the future fate of everyone present, give or take 15 years, turned around and left as soon as they entered—not age appropriate) the mention of a cocktail called the Dirty Sanchez on the chalkboard spurred the invention of a hypothetical new act, the Adam Ant, involving white facial stripes. These kids were not only having the time of their lives, they were living the dream.
I sent a millennial over on a reconnaissance mission and she reported back, “I don’t think they know who Adam Ant is.” I bet they knew what corn hole, the wholesome bean bag game sweeping the borough, was, though. We can’t all be the middle-aged man in the blazer at a 2012 show, suited up in weekend warrior paint. This is where I would insert an animated gif of Chloe Sevigny cluelessly channeling Siouxie Sioux, with the text “sucksy sucks” on top, except that old people don’t do animated gifs.
I also learned that gray hair (on men—women don’t allow that shit, which is a shame) is no indication of birthdays passed. The chubby white-haired guy flailing around in a Bad Religion shirt couldn’t have been any older than 30. The womenwere all better looking than the men they were paired off with.
Additionally, even if you have deep creases spreading from your eyes to your fading hairline and are wearing a t-shirt, emblazoned with Bruce Springsteen’s The River, you may only be 33 (or lying). And you might still home in on one of the older ladies.
When the lights came on and we were being aggressively shooed out before finishing our drinks, Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer” began warbling. Music’s most poignant line, “Some people call it a one-night stand, but we can call it paradise,” failed to soothe. I handed a young man a cigarette out front while Springsteen approached my friend again and she yelled at him. No one night stands. No paradise.
Was I carded? Yes. Rules are rules.
Oldest person in the bar: 33, presumably.
Age appropriate? Most definitely not.
Photos: Aged Adam Ant fan via my own eyes, Dirty Dancing Screenshot via Blu-news.com