Around September last year, I learned that Long Tan, a Park Slope, Brooklyn Thai restaurant and bar, was closing. I miss it because of its great bar specials, adequate and unfussy drinks, and because it was where my wife and I had our first date. The rumor was that the owner was splitting the bar and the restaurant up, keeping the Thai format for the latter and reinventing the former as an upscale wine bar.
Fortunately, the rumor wasn’t exactly true: it’s reopened with major renovations as Blueprint, a cocktail bar serving small plates of meats and cheeses. It officially opened on July 20th.
According to the local blog Here’s Park Slope, it’s owned by former Long Tan owner Rory Dwyer, who also has stakes in two other Fifth Avenue, High Dive and Commonwealth, and one in Prospect Heights called Sharlene’s. Joining Dwyer in this venture is former Long Tan bartender Regina Christiansen.
The space looks somehow larger than it did as Long Tan’s bar, with a wider bar, more space behind the bar, and tall tables and chairs. It has the smell of new construction and all the fixtures—even the artificially aged ones—look shiny and new. The décor is dark wood and that old timey embossed wallpaper that’s showing up in so many New York bars and restaurants lately.
The cocktail menu looks very promising. Prices range from $10 for something like the Haymaker’s Punch (bonded apple brandy, ginger, honey, lemon, cider vinegar) to $13 for The Oaxacan (Los Nahuales mezcal, buckwheat honey, lime juice, cinnamon). It’s a fairly balanced menu with one each of gin, bourbon, rye, tequila, rum, and brandy drinks with oddities like mezcal and a vodka and amaro cocktail thrown in for good measure. I’m impressed to see some quirky ingredients like cider vinegar, fennel bitters, and Ceylon tea.
I ordered The Oaxacan. I’m familiar with Los Nahuales mezcal only from seeing the bottle in liquor stores—it’s becoming widely available in New York—but I’ve not tried it straight. It isn’t cheap; a bottle of the unaged joven Los Nahuales mezcal (it also comes in reposado and añejo) runs around $50. In The Oaxacan, it’s smokey but velvety in a way that scotch never is. Part of that is the sweetening of the buckwheat honey, although this is not a sweet drink. It’s sour if anything, but it’s still balanced. And it should be: it’s got elements of savory, sweet, and sour. It’s served in a coupe glass, and I couldn’t quite tell if the cinnamon was sprinkled on in the end or shaken in; I suspect the former.
My wife had the Smoky Mary’s cocktail, which was chipotle tequila, lime juice, agave syrup, and a rim dipped in applewood-smoked salt. It’s basically a margarita, but the chipotle-infused tequila added a nice smoky—and quite spicy—kick that was further enhanced by the smoked salt on the rim. It was delicious. Too often, I find “spicy” cocktails are not nearly spicy enough. This was, but that spice had real flavor that didn’t overpower the tequila flavor or the sourness of the fresh lime juice.
As an aside, using dried chipotle peppers to infuse spirits is very easy and very rewarding. I recently dropped one dried pepper in about a cup of dark rum that had been languishing in my liquor cabinet for too long. Within hours, it was twice as dark and so spicy that it could only be used in small quantities. I used it with another rum and some watermelon puree to great success.
Back to Blueprint. Park Slope needed a bar like this. Applewood and Thistle Hill, both on Seventh Avenue, each serve great cocktails, but neither are bars; they are restaurants first. Brookvin, some have argued, fills the gap, but I disagree: it’s a great wine bar that serves mediocre cocktails. I had high hopes for Sidecar on Fifth Avenue near Fifteenth Street, not far from Thistle Hill, but a flurry of disappointing reviews (many people say the cocktails aren’t good enough for the prices—$10-$11) has stalled my trying it out. To get good cocktails in a bar setting, I usually venture into neighboring Carroll Gardens, which is replete with good, in some cases exceptional, cocktail bars (Clover Club, Brooklyn Social, JakeWalk, Prime Meats). So far, Blueprint looks like a great reason to stay in Park Slope.