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Your favorite NJ cocktail bar

I tried searching around but couldn't find a good list. I'm not hip on some of the cocktail boards and such but wanted to ask you guys your favorite cocktail bars. As I mentioned in my 'looking for a Somerville cocktail bar', I like places that you can order and Old Fashioned, Sidecar, Sazerac, etc. and they know how to make it without looking it up in a not-even-Mr. Boston guide. A place that uses fresh lime/lemon juice, etc. Not a shot and beer joints (I have plenty favorites of them!). Not looking for apple-puckered-cosmoed-sugarsruped places.

I think ya get the hint haha.

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  1. Clydz in New Brunswick (many mixed drinks)

    Mix Lounge in Long Branch, NJ (martini specialist)

    1 Reply
    1. re: aacharya

      ah, with respect, if it has DJ's with hair that look like they stood on a fan and sprayed glue....it's 'probably' not my place.

      While a Krispy Kreme Martini is certainly intriguing.......it's also quite scary! Dare I say anyone can mix fruity vodkas in a glass and call it a "martini" but in looking at Mix Lounges menu, I don't see a drop of vermouth or gin in any of them...except for the "long branch iced tea" (I want my bartender to wince if someone orders a LIT)

      A TV is almost a deal breaker as well.

    2. In New Brunswick, I go to Catherine Lombardi a lot. The crowd at Clydz...is not so much my crowd. If I hear something to the tune of "Let's do shots of Yager Bro", I'm usually turned off, so Clydz is hit or miss.

      1. Catherine Lombardi has Dale DeGroff come in and teach the bartenders how to mix drinks with fruit juices squeezed from the fruits and homemade mixes. They take their cocktail program very seriously. I enjoy my drinks there, but their prices are very exuberant ($12), so I can only afford one or two drinks usually :)

        3 Replies
        1. re: njeggy1

          Its all relative, but 12 bucks isn't bad- in Manhattan you can spend that on swill and pay closer to 20 for a Real Good Drink!

          1. re: The Engineer

            Which is why we almost never go into the city.

            1. re: The Engineer

              Indeed. I don't mind the price if everything else falls into place (atmosphere, service, drink, etc)

          2. Ahhh! A topic truly dear to my heart. It seems that there is a growing trend toward professionalism in the bar and not just the kitchen -- cheers!

            Trinity in Keyport has an excellent bar. Great selection of booze, knowledge behind the bar, a drink list with a nod to history (try the Rob Roy with Johnny Gold), fresh ingredients, everything you'd want. Personally, the great gin selection and the fact that there is no TV also make it a favorite.

            Although, a much smaller space, the bar at Market in the Middle in Asbury Park is very good as well. A more limited selection than Trinity, but fresh juices, homemade simple syrup - the stuff you're looking for in a good bar (try the Moscow Mule made with real pieces of fresh ginger).

            Best of all, both places make great food.

            22 Replies
            1. re: MGZ

              Hmmm I have Trinity on my list, I may check it out today after work even though it's a tad out of the way. Do they have a separate food menu for the bar? And do they a few different Ryes? I like my old-fashioneds with Rye (Sazerac, Rittenhouse, Old Overholt)

              1. re: RPMcMurphy

                You know, it's funny, I never did the rye test. Perhaps, it is because we have been going in warmer weather. I haven't made the shift to highballs yet!

                I don't think there is a separate menu - which is probably good because the new Autumn menu, from what we've seen and tasted, is fantastic.

                1. re: MGZ

                  Catherine Lombardi has a cocktail with two ryes, Old Overholt/Rittenhouse...I have yet to try it, but do order my Old-Fashioned with the same 50/50 sometimes, at home I'm a Sazerac Rye guy. I like my fruit - 2 cherries (and NOT bright neon fake pink ice cream cherries) and a half a slice of orange - muddled with my sugar/syrup before hand. (and the orange taken out and a the other half-slice as garnish/rim).

                  Is that so much to ask? haha. I don't expect (although, it would be damn cool) Gary Regan to be making my drinks, but I also don't want the busty bartender recommending a Cosmo when I order an Old-Fashioned because she has no clue what I'm talking about and doesn't have a Mr. Boston guide available and it isn't in the book.

                2. re: RPMcMurphy

                  unfortunately no ryes as of yet......

                  1. re: chefMD

                    What's the deal with rye? I can go buy decent rye at any number of liquor stores, yet if I ask for it at a bar, I am often met with confusion and even a little attitude (as in, Look, don't start any trouble, mister...). I'm with RPMcMurphy (love the name, BTW, my favorite book/film)... I like my Rye in many drinks, even with a little honey dissolved into it, then over rocks -- try it, you'll like it...

                    1. re: aklein

                      just taking a guess here.... I think it has been left behind(somewhat) in favor of the vodka/cosmo/appletini "stuff". look at all the advertising these days. the only dark spirits are capt. morgans and jack(obviously i am generalizing here).
                      on the other hand, there is a trend of the classics coming back, which i love. beware though, majority of people out there aren't ordering sazeracs(my hometown's invention) and sidecars. they order appletinis, pinot grigio with ice and coors light. its a sad sad world..........

                      1. re: chefMD

                        I'm bringin' it back baby. I was at Catherine Lombardi and Stage Left last night and they have about 7 different Ryes. There applecrisp cocktail is made with Rye too (it's how I get my Fiance to drink rye! )

                        But, honestly aklein, I even have trouble finding it in the normal liquor stores. I can find only Sazerac (and maybe jim beam yuck) in the wine store in east brunswick (by A&P) and not find it any other place. Not even Joe Canals in Princeton.

                        I have some fresh local NJ honey i've been dying to use in a cocktail, I'm still learning about cocktails a little, maybe I'll experiment this weekend.

                        I actually just read an article about a Bourbon bar, i think in NYC that has a lot of ryes too.

                        1. re: RPMcMurphy

                          I've recently discoverd Michter's, a single-barrel rye from Kentucky. While I don't know what's up in East Bruns, I bought it at the liquor store next to Wegmans (not connected) in Ocean Township (Monmouth County)... if you try the honey-and-rye, I guess it's sort of a psuedo-Old Fashion... minus the orange and usually without the bitters, unless I can find another bottle of Peychaud's

                          As for the cocktail bars.... I am now trying to re-format my weekend for a trip up to Catherine Lombardi...

                        2. re: chefMD

                          I agree that it is trending that way and I am glad to see it. In fact, I'd love to see it encouraged -- perhaps, a sazerac or sidecar drink special (or a classic cocktail night featuring a new old school drink each week)? If palates can be educated about quality in food or wine why not spirits?

                          As for the lack of American rye at Trinity - this must be remedied.

                          1. re: MGZ

                            taken care of..... Russel's 6yr old rye.... its a start eh?

                            1. re: chefMD

                              awesome - 1 down.

                              next test. what size are the ice cubes?

                              p.s. the liquor store in east brunswick has about 7 different ryes last time i was there, the one next to A&P for the test of you rye lovers.

                              I had 2 'brooklyns' last night at Catherine Lombardi's, its made with both old overholt, and rittenhouse, and I believe a dash of vermouth, and possibly some marischino and some other goodies? with a flamed orange peel. If you like rye's and like strong cocktails, it is definitely a good one.

                              1. re: chefMD

                                That's why Trinity is my favorite place to go - now, you need to figure out how to move it 20 miles southeast!

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  Wouldn't that put you in the ocean somewhere off the coast of Long Branch? :) Not a bad idea anyway.

                                    1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                      does that mean we r packed everynight? change the name to "atlantis"?

                      2. re: RPMcMurphy

                        RPM, in case you didn't see it over there, I'll repeat here: Verve in Somerville is what you want. The last time I had an old fashioned there, the bartender asked if I minded if he made it "his way," which involved a dash of homemade something-or-other.

                        Old Overholt Old Fashioneds rule, by the way. Do you know of any NJ retailers who sell OO though? I stock up in NYC...

                        1. re: The Engineer

                          I don't I can barely get Rye period in NJ. The liquor store next to A&P on rt 18 in east brunswick has a few Ryes, Sazerac, a 70$ bottle of Sazerac (i think aged 18?) and another brand, but can't remember it.

                          but,

                          I don't want anything "home made" in my old fashioned. haha. Heck, I don't even want seltzer/club soda in it!

                          1tsp sugar
                          1tsp water (just enough to dissolve the sugar)

                          or 1tbs simple syrup

                          2 cherrys
                          half an orange slice
                          a dash or 2 of bitters

                          muddle. take out orange peel

                          2-3oz of rye
                          ice,
                          garnish with the other half of the orange slice.

                          1. re: RPMcMurphy

                            Come on now, ther isn't one ingredient you listed that can't be made- and probably made better- "in house." You can grow an orange, grow a cherry, preserve a cherry, make simple syrup, make bitters, make ice (I've done it), heck even secretly distill your own rye if you have the equipment (a co-worker does it). Nothing homemade allowed in your cocktails?! Crazy!

                            If you are up for a drive, LeNell's liquor store in Red Hook, Brooklyn has a good selection of ryes.

                            1. re: The Engineer

                              guess that came out wrong haha, but you know what I meant! The only "twist" I want on a classic cocktail is the required fresh fruit twist I guess would be more appropriate haha.

                              1. re: The Engineer

                                Replying to myself, how pathetic.

                                Speaking of LeNells, they are (she is) having a rye discussion/tasting (I'd call it a party) soon. Its limited to 10 people and costs 75 bucks. the tasting will probably include some pre-prohibition stuff, her own stuff, and who knows what else. Anyone deep into rye or cool booze in general should check out her website.

                                1. re: The Engineer

                                  MAN! It's this Sunday :( and I have some plans for a nice Sunday dinner at home.

                                  Wish I would have known earlier that's right up my alley!!

                            2. re: The Engineer

                              i second verve engineer, such a misplaced bar/restaurant-in a good way. working and now living out here in NJ (and near verve) is exactly what I need-a city kinda place

                        2. I started a chowhound "list" (new feature I guess, looks interesting)

                          http://www.chow.com/lists/388

                          1. Catherine Lombardi, for sure. While the regular prices are high, on Fridays they have a featured cocktail for 30% and they also have free passed appetizers.

                            1. I'll be at the CL bar tomorrow early and have reservations for dinner if anyone is up for a cocktail.

                              I should be there around 6, I'll be the ugly younger white guy with the beautiful Asian girl sitting next him.

                              p.s. they have a cocktail special all weekend....

                              to quote
                              "The Catherine Lombardi Cocktail bar will be an outpost of Toasty Buttery Appley Autumn warmth this weekend with our own Hot Cider-Jack by the fireplace. We will compound excellent butter with cinnamon and roasted pumpkin seed oil, pour in Apple Brandy bottled-in-bond and froth it all up in some steaming local cider and serve it to you. It will warm you to the core of your being."

                              I would have settled for a blue blazer to get the chill out......but.....

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                Outside chance I may be there. Catching flight out of Bangor tomorrow morning at eight to supervise the movers.
                                Good bye Sayreville and Main St. South River!
                                Mark
                                Come to Maine for a Blueberry Special.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  awesome. actually stopped there tonight before going to see bond to have a vesper and a sazerac. :)

                                  the bartender actually knew how to make a vesper. :) and a good one!

                              2. The bar at the Pluckemin Inn has a great cocktail menu, featuring classic drinks made right. Check it out at www.pluckemininn.com/menus/drinks.pdf

                                They also have a great bar menu as well.

                                Otherwise I would have to suggest the bar at The Bernards Inn for the style of drink for which you are searching.

                                12 Replies
                                  1. re: shorelee

                                    wow, i could go for about 2 or 14 of those FALL BACK cocktails at the tail end of that drink menu... too bad Pluckemin is in another time zone (big trip from Belmar for dinner and drinks)

                                    1. re: aklein

                                      Yeah, nothing like having to drive an hour or two after working your way through a cocktail menu!

                                      Even at the better restaurants in Southern Monmouth, I find I must talk bartenders through old school cocktails. The girl behind the bar at the Shipwreck almost couldn't find the vermouth. If you order a martini "wet" in this area, you get a blank stare in return (I have found more success ordering it "not dry" or "not too dry").

                                      Two positives, though - you can get rye at Spirit of '76 on Route 71 in Manasquan and Harpoon Willie's has a pretty good selection of gin.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        I have my rye sources, though hardly ever at any SoMonm bars. Have heard lousy things about Harpoon WIllie's (regarding food), but maybe it's worth a drink. I would love to see gin other than seagrams or sapphie or beefeater... Hendrick's anyone?....And I second the bartender issue at Shipwreck, though I have had bettter luck at times, depending on who's back there. I just decided not to challenge them too much, speak slowly and exactly... or just ask for the wine list!

                                        1. re: aklein

                                          I enjoy Jimmy C's or the Office Lounge in Toms River

                                          1. re: Tapas52

                                            Its not PDT or Pegu by any stretch of the imagination, but I recently enjoyed a nice cocktail at Hemingway's in Seaside Heights. Otherwise, if I'm looking for a properly made cocktail I go to the Bar at Nicholas.

                                            1. re: bgut1

                                              Funny, we were at PDT Saturday, just going to a cocktail bar like that makes me want to move back to NYC, I know we'll never have a cocktail bar like that here. Heck, I'd love bar with a no-standing policy, no approaching women policy and maybe 1 bottle of vodka that's dusty on the rack.

                                              bgut, I hear they have your picture in the kitchen at CL's next to Frank Bruni's....hahah. just kiddin'. ;)

                                              I'm actually taking a cocktail class given by the PDT guys next month, should be fun.

                                              1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                                Funny RP. Please let us know how the class went. It sounds great.

                                                1. re: bgut1

                                                  sure, its next month.

                                                  Back on topic, CL's revamped their cocktail menu last night, put the warm cocktails on, kept the classics. Basically getting rid of the cocktails that involved things they can no longer get fresh.

                                              2. re: bgut1

                                                @ Nicholas what are price of drinks there ,say J Walker Black on the rocks ..I wold like to add that down on Printon ave In Brick,tucky .There is a place called Craig's ....Great bar staff ,up scale crowd ,Great drinks .Mine is Mount Gay rum ,pint glass ,diet coke and cherries ..it must be the ice they use !!

                                            2. re: aklein

                                              HW had Bulldog and Rogue Spruce last time I was there. As far as the food, it's not special, but I've never had any of the problems others have discussed here. Then again, we only sit at the bar and generally have them make burgers.

                                        2. re: shorelee

                                          Yes Yes, the Pluckemin Inn! Last time I was there I had a delicious sidecar and noticed that they have many classics. Also Zoobie in New Hope serves all of those summery sweet martini type cocktails with fresh squeezed juices and pureed fruits.

                                        3. Anyone up for a start-the-weekend-early cocktail tonight? Going to forget about eventual, inevitable, unemployment for a night and head to CL's for a cocktail or 2 and a plate of pasta (or If I can convince the missus, head downstairs for a steak)

                                          Don't be a square!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                            v. tempting... will have to check on the wife's plans

                                            1. re: aklein

                                              OK, "Last call" Wednesday, hop in a cab and make to Catherine Lombardi's first round is on me to any chowhounders that posted in this thread!

                                              If ya don't get good and hungover, you'll have to help the wife/husband cook thanksgiving, and you don't want that now do ya?

                                          2. Tomorrow is repeal day! (75th anniversary) I hope to see some of you out...

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: aklein

                                                Yep, Be sure to greet the bartender with "Happy Repeal Day" ;) it will get you 33% off of some classic cocktails.

                                                first round is on me if you posted in this thread. I'll be the ugly young white guy with the beautiful asian fiance.

                                                -Rob

                                            1. Thought I'd bring this one back up to the top with a review I wrote about my day yesterday. I have to note, I'm a little biased towards this place as it's my 'regular' bar. I wish you could manage pictures better on here, but I put links to them.

                                              I loaded up on Ibuprofen (had a bad migraine since the NYC Marathon ) and Laurie (my wife) and I went to an awesome brunch today at Catherine Lombardi Restaurant and Cocktail Bar in New Brunswick, NJ. It was for the release of Jill DeGroff's new book Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar.

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              Jill was there signing books and her Husband, King Cocktail Dale DeGroff was there mixing cocktails.

                                              Anyone who knows anything about food and cocktails knows that this combination, (THE best cocktail bar in NJ, THE king of cocktails, and drinking at noon with THE best BURGER in NJ, is something not to be missed. Indeed it wasn't.

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              To start, Dale was mixing up some Ramos Fizzes. I ordered one.

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              ... and Laurie ordered a Red Snapper (or, a bloody mary made proper, with Gin). Our bar boy -- (I can call him that, because he shaved his beard) --James made one up.

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              James is one of the best bartenders I know. I'd call him my favorite, but he always hit's on my wife and has recently shaved his beard. He makes THE best Sazerac in NJ. James's Sazerac trumps even Dales. I've done a side by side comparison, and well, my wife, the Sazerac Connoisseur, agrees.

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              He just needs to grow his beard back...is all.

                                              After imbibing some awesome 'breakfast' cocktails with some other friends and regular who also came, it was food time. Me. I'm a burger guy, so, it was an easy decision. Laurie is a seafood gal, and we don't cook much seafood at home, so it was a given for her too.

                                              http://www.stageleft.com/sle/sl/bin/p... The menu was great. (there were some additions too

                                              )

                                              For first course, I ordered the goat cheese salad with candied pecans, orange, pickled shallots, and while I didn't see any pickled shallots, I could eat goat cheese all day. Sorry, forgot to snap a pic.

                                              Laurie ordered Seared Scallops, Pork Belly, Anson Mills Johnny Cake and New Jersey Corn Sauce.
                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              Homerun with this dish. A poorly cooked scallop can ruin a dish and a scallop paired with a bad sauce or accompaniment can too. This dish nailed both. Perfectly seared with a good corn sauce and the Johnny cakes were awesome. I don't have to rave about pork belly, it's pork belly. It speaks for itself.

                                              For mains, I ordered the burger, medium. It's still the best burger in NJ. One might feel weird biting into this burger with juices getting a little messy on your hands and chin in a fine dining establishment. Don't. The Neuske Bacon was good too.

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              Laurie had "Hybrid Striped Bass Over Crab Chowder"
                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...
                                              She loved it. I didn't taste it. But she loves Stage Left's crab chowders.

                                              I don't know what the hell a 'Hybrid' Striped bass is, but I'm guessing it's fuel efficient and might not give you as much gas? I'll let you know tonight.

                                              For dessert, who the heck wants to worry about picking just one...they set it up buffet style. Caramelizing Creme Brulees to order. Needless to say, we didn't share.
                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              I was slipped a piece of the Raisin Hazelnut French Toast with Blackberries and Almonds too...It was gone too quick for me to take a picture.

                                              During the meal, Dale and Francis, did some readings from the book. The book is a fun book filled with stories from bartenders, quotes, poems, and fabulous illustrations/characatures done by Jill DeGroff. Gary Regan, who is featured prominently on the cover, has a story inside that is one of the best.

                                              I don't frequent bars, mainly because most can't make a cocktail as simple as an Old Fashioned, or serve sugary vodka concoctions, or....the bartender is, for lack of a better description, a big chested blonde who has no personality and is only there to sling bud light or sell shots of Jaegermeister (I wont attempt to even spell that right, because like the liquor, it's just not worth it). Or, it's a sports bar....and TV's have no business being in a bar in my opinion. Thank god I can't see the one in CL's from where I usually sit.

                                              I like a bartender that has a story or two, and can listen to a story or two. This book has more than a story or two. Make yourself a cocktail at home, read a page, and you'll think you are sitting on the other side of the bar at the 21 club circa 1950. Or...read it on the toilet, like I did (feel free to take your cocktail along).

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...

                                              In other words, great book, great food, and well, CL's is a great bar.

                                              http://rtimko.smugmug.com/Food/DeGrof...
                                              "Mark and Francis- forever behind the stick"

                                              For a few hours, I almost forgot I have had a migraine for the past 7 days...If I die of an aneurysm, at least I can rest in peace knowing I'll have died with a DeGroff mixed Fizz and a great burger in my stomach.

                                              -----
                                              Catherine Lombardi
                                              3 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901