Drinking Out: Punch at Prime Meats

When the F train isn’t running in Brooklyn, everything slows down. After a long walk down Court Street from Atlantic—a distance that covered two closed subway stations—what I wanted most from Prime Meats was a cozy bar stool. Alas, there are none.

Prime Meats is a bar and restaurant that specializes in house-butchered meat and Prohibition era cocktails. It’s an offshoot of the nearby Frankie’s Spuntino, also by Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli. Prime Meats is a beautiful space full of dark wood paneling and old-style filament bulbs lit dim. The deep booths look inviting, but for the drinker, there is just enough space at the bar to stand. It’s one of a slew of excellent cocktail spots in the area, mostly on Smith Street: Brooklyn Social is six blocks up, JakeWalk is eight, Clover Club is about 12 blocks up, and Char No. 4 is one block further than that.

I started at Prime Meats with an Applejack Sazerac ($9), an excellent apple brandy and maple syrup version of the rye, absinthe, and Peychaud’s bitters classic.

Despite my tired feet and the occasional elbow jab from diners crawling into their booths, I ordered another drink—this time, a $5 glass of the daily punch. On Sunday, it was a mildly minty and sour mix of aquavit, lemon juice, Fernet Branca and some other things (the bartender who served us had just arrived and wasn’t fully briefed on the punch). I liked it. The Fernet Branca, which is normally my least favorite brand of fernet (a little on the bitter medicinal side for me), actually worked perfectly in this punch. It was semi-sweet and very drinkable: just what a punch ought to be.

Punch is gaining popularity in bars lately, and this is a good thing. I have yet to get a copy of David Wondrich’s new book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, but I’m certain this will only help the trend gain speed. (For more on punch and Wondrich, see Frank Bruni’s New York Times piece from October.)

On the subject of Fernet Branca, Prime Meats also does a drink called The Waterfront ($11), which is a mix of Fernet Branca, Branca Menta (a fully minty version of Fernet Branca), and ginger beer. I didn’t try it but it turned up as a favorite cocktail of New York Magazine food writer Rob Patronite in 2009.

I’d certainly go back to Prime Meats, but the lack of bar stools is not the only downside. It’s not far from the Carroll Street F and G stop on the subway, but it it’s the farthest outlier in the neighborhood’s Smith Street cocktail cluster. And if you want to dine on Prime Meats’ Alpine/German-inspired meat menu, it will set you back a bit. Simple steak frites is $27. House Specials are cheaper (pork schnitzel is about $20), but small plates are in the $11 to $16 range. The cocktails are excellent, but the focus is clearly on the meats.

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