Best Sign of Civilization
Long before Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio discovered it—pre–Katy Perry spinning records in the upper-level annex and Jimmy Fallon having a Super good time there—Neal Brown’s downtown watering hole had a star-like glow. Of course, Brown’s culinary celebrity in this town (as owner of Pizzology and the late L’Explorateur) did not hurt. And it’s hard to decide what we like more about The Libertine. Is it the perpetually revolving menu of decadent, sharable plates like roe-topped deviled eggs, roasted-beet salad, and buttery-crusted chanterelle potpie served in its own iron skillet? Or is it the drinks?
Okay, it’s the drinks. And we’re not just saying that because ordering a cocktail here means sitting back and watching while a dapper bartender in a proper vest and wide-knotted tie, seriously handsome in a Dear Diary kind of way, tinkers with ice cubes and orange peels in the making of said cocktail. We say that because the carefully composed drinks—like the spritely Silver Gin Fizz, imbued with orange-blossom water and topped with a scrim of foamed egg whites; the fruity Cobbler’s Daughter, which arrives in a silver cup with actual farmers-market Concord grapes bobbing to the surface; and the Last Word, which combines gin, maraschino, and chartreuse (things that shouldn’t go together but do)—are nothing short of cosmic. If this place narrowly misses a No. 1 ranking, it’s only because it can feel a little too sophisticated for this town. But that shouldn’t keep you from stopping in for a rye. And when you do, tell the bartender we said hi, okay?
38 E. Washington St., 317-631-3333
Editor’s Note: In May 2013, The Libertine was named by Esquire magazine as one of its Best Bars in America. Read more here.
Photo by Tony Valainis
This article appeared in the January 2013 issue.