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Elderflowers Under the Manhattan Bridge: The Ubiquitous St. Germain

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The Brooklyn Hills are alive with alpine liqueur.

Recently I put on my new modified Dunhill Saturday Night Survival Belt and trekked through the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. Over treacherous cobblestones and old railroad tracks — treacherous when you are wearing heels — we made our way through the picturesque neighborhoods that make up Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. We passed dangerous bands of emos and hordes of hipsters in search of the ubiquitous St. Germain elderflower liqueur.

Like many aspects of Brooklyn as Scenester Heaven, all the bars try to be different, and they are all different alike and together. Right now, the trendy liqueur is St. Germain elderflower liqueur. Three bars all within flask of each other offered the same variation on the St. Germain cocktail.

A product of France, St. Germain is made from handpicked wild elderflower blossoms. By the Von Trapp family themselves? It has a distinctive floral flavor and has proven wildly popular. Perhaps more for the stylish bottle than for anything truly remarkable it brings to the bar top. But that remains to be seen.

First stop: the wonderful Water Street and its St. Royale: Chandon Champagne and St. Germain, garnished with a cherry and a sugar rim. Bartender Joe was quite pleased with my drink order since it was he, himself, who concocted the cocktail. This news was impressive until the end of the evening when I realized that all the bartenders, Joes or otherwise, were throwing some St. Germain in a sparkling or white wine. Water Street's was made somewhat distinctive by the sugar rim, but it comes off as a sweet cocktail despite its low sugar content, and the sugar rim is redundant.

Water Street could be serving nothing but PBRs (wait, they are! Pabst Blue Ribbon being the beer du jour in the borough), and they would still be deserving of frequent visits. In a genius marketing move, Water Street is the first Brooklyn restaurant lounge to offer on site babysitting during dinner hours. Catering to the stroller set is brilliant. I'm sure you've heard by now that Brooklyn is full of young families not even counting Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard's.

On to reBar around the corner. A beautiful space with elegant ironwork throughout, reBar was lively and anticipating even more activity with some poor soul's surprise birthday party. The flannel shirts behind the bar – as elegant as the surroundings are, this is still Brooklyn – were friendly and efficient and served up their version of the St. Germain cocktail: white wine, St. Germain, club soda with a lemon twist.

Last stop was Superfine, an outstanding spot down Front Street with mix-matched decor, an orange felt pool table, and an 'organic to the neighborhood' warehouse feel to the space. The owners of Superfine are longtime residents of DUMBO – from before the developers came in and kicked out all the small industries in the area to make room for residential condos.  Before Superfine, they were proprietors of Between the Bridges, a legendary burger joint. Superfine's St. Germain cocktail was a variation on Water Street's: Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine and St. Germain with a lemon twist.

There are many more bars to visit in the neighborhood but I had my fill of elderflowers. I hear the apple brandy sidecar is quite good. I will be back with flannel and flask.

Survival Belt Photo: Valerio Mazzanotti

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About Kate Shea Kennon

  • Dave G @ Amateur Gastronomy

    The St Royal sounds delicious but for those unable to visit the Water St restaurant or afford the Chandon required here is a recipe to make elderflower champagne – delicious