It may seem like a long way from the boho-meets-banker scene at The Jimmy, the penthouse bar atop Soho’s James Hotel – where drinks alchemist extraordinaire Johnny Swet had lorded over a notable cocktail renaissance – to the scruffy western end of Greenpoint Avenue across the East River. Yet that’s where Swet has just set up shop for his latest venture, The Grand Republic Cocktail Club, effectively raising the ‘bar’ for the up-and-comer neighborhood.
As one of the latest zip codes squarely in developers’ sights, the once charmingly gritty Greenpoint waterfront, a mile north of Williamsburg’s gleaming high rises, is currently undergoing the requisite building boom. This, in anticipation of it becoming the next “upscaled” New York neighborhood. Indeed, while dusty mom and pop shops still line Metropolitan Avenue, on the hipsterizing Franklin Avenue to the west, “modern and pricey” has already displaced “authentic and local.”
Swet, it would seem, has a knack for catching the zeitgeist. Indeed, a twenty-five year vet of NYC’s nightlife scene, he boasts a pedigree that includes stints at or ownership in the likes of Balthazar, Pastis, Freemans, The Skylark, Rogue & Canon, and the recently opened Oscar Wilde Bar in Gramercy.
Image by Adam Pollock
The GRCC is fashionably simple, intimate and well done, focusing on expertly made cocktails (they make their own ice, of course), with the ingredients and names of drinks nodding to the nautical history of the area. For now the only food served is the gratis spiced popcorn that accompanies each beverage – which is a refreshing change from all those overamped bar snacks.
On a recent visit Swet divulged the secret to some of his fave new creations, while we gossiped about other buzzy new arrivals to the WGPT (consider that coined) scene.
Most notably, when Bill Murray got behind the bar at the opening of his son’s low key hotspot 21 Greenpoint (right next door to Grand Republic) the place made every media outlet in town. A year later it’s still going strong, serving up steak frites, pots of mussels and a serious brew selection.
North of Greenpoint Avenue is still on the nicely underdeveloped side, with new places just starting to pop up on Franklin. The recently revamped Brooklyn Label does the area’s most creative breakfasts, including pulled pork adobaba and Mexican hot cocoa.
It was once impossible to imagine, but now you can also do yoga in Greenpoint. Usha Veda is the most respected local studio, and they’ve just opened a plush, spacious new location on Manhattan Avenue. Grab a vegan/vegetarian bite pre- or post-yoga, just on the corner at Jungle Café.
Greenpoint will probably soon be overrun with big name hotel brands. Bur for now its two standout boutique sleeps are The Box House and Franklin Guesthouse, both mixing smart design with local, artistic charm.
Exclusive Recipes From Johnny Swet’s Grand Republic Cocktail Club
Admiral Schley’s Punch
In a tin, muddled mint, 1 part Old Granddad Bonded Bourbon, 1 part naval strength rum, .25 Allspice dram, .5 lime, .5 lemon, .75 simple syrup. Shake over ice, strain into a tall glass, add crushed ice and garnish with a sprig of mint and a spiked lemon and lime wedge.
Cocktail La Louisiane
In a mixing glass, 2.5 parts Rittenhouse Rye, .75 Carpano Sweet Vermouth, .5 Benedictine, 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters, a bar spoon of Absinthe. Stir to temp with ice, strain into a coupe glass, cherry and orange twist as garnish.
Longshoreman Hot Tea
In a coffee mug, 2 part Linie Aquavit, 1 part Combier Orange, .5 honey syrup. Fill mug with hot Earl Grey tea – stir and serve with lemon wedge.