Warming the spirit

There’s something about bitter-cold nights in the city that makes bar patrons want to drink like grown-ups

Single-grain whiskeys

The Brandy Library is an apt name for a drinking establishment whose walls are lined with shelves of liquor. And despite the name, Brandy Library’s specialty goes beyond that particular tipple; dark spirits, in all their incarnations, reign supreme at this joint.

The bar, at 25 North Moore Street, is dark and brooding, softly lit, mature-feeling, and with its soft jazz playing in the background, ultimately pretty perfect for a warming winter drink.

There’s just something about bitter-cold nights in the city that make us want to head toward grown-up drinking establishments. Chalk it up to the end of the December festivities and the sobering cold months left before the end of the season. According to Flavien Desoblin, the owner of Brandy Library, there’s another reason for seeking out a well-appointed bar: Thanks to winter’s long nights, we tend to start drinking earlier.

Although, it doesn’t have to be winter for customers to appreciate his offerings. “When you’re suffering the summer heat in New York, you’re dying for that moment in the winter when you’ll be by the fireplace and enjoying a big glass of bourbon or peated single malt.” But ultimately, he says, New Yorkers are indiscriminate drinkers, who drink fairly consistently just about all year round. No surprises there.

“As soon as you spend money in New York
it seems as if you’re entitled to do what you want,”
but at Brandy Library … “we keep it civilized.”
—Flavien Desoblin, Brandy Library

You may be daunted by Brandy Library’s 30-page-plus menu, which features straight brandy, rum, mezcal, as well as tasting flights, which range in price from $28 up to nearly $600. Fortunately, the staff, who dub themselves “spirit sommeliers,” can lend a hand. “We can tell you the difference between a sherry finish on a scotch and a port finish, and why that 12-year-old bourbon should taste different from an 8-year-old bourbon,” said Desoblin.

Cocktails feature too, and serve as a bridge for those not yet accustomed to their spirits neat. Brandy Library’s new seasonal reserve cocktail menu sees the introduction of concoctions like the Sicilian Walker, which pairs Johnnie Walker with Italian Averna liqueur and ginger ale, and the Lavender 16, which combines tequila with lavender syrup and smoky mezcal.

The bar, which has been around for more than 12 years, prides itself on its manners. “As soon as you spend money in New York it seems as if you’re entitled to do anything you want,” but that’s not the case at Brandy Library. “We don’t let people stand, we don’t let people scream, and we don’t let people misbehave. We just want to keep it civilized,” said Desoblin.

And perhaps it’s that approach that makes the hangout so popular with the many celebrities who live among Tribeca’s pretty cobblestoned streets, although Desoblin won’t dish on his famous patrons. “We treat everybody equally, and they actually love coming here because of that, and because it’s low-key, and we never cater to that fame,” he said.

Ultimately, and regardless of your celebrity status, Brandy Library delivers an oh-so-grown-up experience. And perhaps we New Yorkers do drink all year round, but I’d wager that sipping on a brandy or a cognac in January is far more satisfying than it is in June.