10 Hope St btw Roebling and Havemeyer Sts, Williamsburg
The Place: A relaxed, relatively new, Southern-style cocktail bar on one of the quieter streets in north side Williamsburg. (I know, I’ve been hanging in my local North Brooklyn a lot lately. I don’t go into Manhattan when I don’t have to. Sue me.)
The Time: Wednesday October 5, 8pm. The night of my boyfriend’s amateur soccer league final. He asked me to come. I told him I would but only if I could come tipsy. He agreed. The game starts at 9, so I pop into Belle Shoals for a pre-game libation after I get lost in the new Whole Foods on Bedford.
The Vibe: There's no one in the bar when I get here. For a second I wonder if they're even open but then a big bearded man comes out of the kitchen and greets me. We are both equally pleased to see each other. I make myself at home in the Southern gothic inspired interior, complete with an amazing vintage jukebox, red velvet curtains and a miniature fountain built into the wall. They’ve got a garden in the back, which is where a few other people are hanging out. Soon, a group of four white dudes accumulate at the bar and order burgers and beers. I find out that they're heading to a reggae show later. Oh, Brooklyn.
The Bartender: Josh Mazza, the owner of this bar and others I’ve been to, turns out. What an awesome guy. We chat about a lot of stuff: liquor (naturally), our backgrounds, the business, Williamsburg. He tells me the story of the Wurtlizer juke; he doesn’t make me feel bad for not knowing what hushpuppies are. The later I stay, the more the bar fills up, and Josh waves to everyone who comes in. I think he must know them, but he doesn’t. He’s just nice.
The Drank: When Josh asks what I'm in the mood for, I tell him where I'm going after this. “Ohhh amateur soccer. So something a little boozy, a fireside sipper.” He makes me a concoction not on the menu, called the Air Sling: apple brandy, aloe liqueur, bitter cherry liqueur, white cacao, bitters. Stirred, served on the rocks. It's delicious and unusual and just what I'm craving. A perfect beginning-of-fall cocktail.
Was I Hit On? The white guys and I stay separate for the most part. Until I ask Josh for a parting shot of amaro. He pours them for us, then offers it to the guys. They stare at him like deer in headlights. Josh then says, “don’t worry, it’s gentle” and they all agree to take the shots. So Josh, the dudes and I cheers to reggae. And after you take a shot with someone, you become friends. They invite me to the reggae show, I tell them I have a nonprofessional soccer game to go to, and we amicably part ways.
Should You Drink Here Alone? Hell yeah. I had such a great time! Between the cocktails and the crew, Belle Shoals will give you a real taste of Southern hospitality.
*UPDATE* Belle Shoals is now closed.