Brooklyn is a culinary boomtown, and few bars have tapped the cocktail motherlode more richly than Grand Army, which opened in the spring of 2015. Part Boerum Hill neighborhood bar, part seafood-and-cocktails destination spot, Grand Army is the creation of industry veterans Damon Boelte, Julian Brizzi, Noah Bernamoff and Daniel Krieger (general manager Carissa Clay joined the owners team in 2016). Boelte, a longtime bartender, and Krieger, a professional photographer, took the lead on molding the bar space, which Boelte says was designed to feel like a Brooklyn apartment. “We’re in a brownstone-type rowhouse, and we wanted to continue that vibe in the bar itself,” he says.
Natural-wood doors and white-painted exposed brick lend a comfortable, lived-in feel, with splashes of color from bright, funky artwork contrasting with tones of blue coloring the walls, dishware and weathered mirror behind the bar, which was salvaged from a 1920s-era bar in New Paltz. “It’s all light, bright and airy—a place where you don’t feel like you have to drink straight overproof whiskey all the time,” Boelte says.
Not that there’s anything wrong with whiskey— Grand Army’s cocktails, prepared by Boelte and a team that includes Katie Stipe, Devin Kennedy and bar manager Kevin Baird, range from rich preparations like the Storm King to lighter, food-friendly drinks made to be sipped alongside the crudo and shellfish served across the horseshoe-shaped oyster bar. The menus shift seasonally, following themes—election season brought a menu with drinks themed by political scandals; state parks of Boelte’s native Oklahoma gave rise to another menu; and last spring the menu highlighted bitter, ruby-hued ingredients such as Campari and Peychaud’s, to reclaim pink drinks from the ignoble realm of the frou-frou. From the cozy replace to the plant-filled interior, Grand Army contributes a feel of neighborly timelessness—a quality that’s a big prize in a rapidly changing Brooklyn.