Ode to the Alibi

Our drinking columnist waxes poetic about one of Brooklyn's finest watering holes.

I sat down at the bar and ordered a whiskey. I prefer Jameson for general drinking, which is fortunately the well drink at the Alibi. The pour is liberal and the price is reasonable at $4.00.

As the sun sets, the regulars began to slowly fill up the stools. "Pirates of the Caribbean II" was on the TV and the Stones were on the jukebox — an appropriate combination. A middle-aged white guy wearing sweatpants and a thick, yellowed moustache walked up beside me and smiled at the bartender. 

She filled a glass with ice and vodka. "You remembered this time," he said. "No straw," she replied. They chuckled. 

The Alibi is in a shrinking subset of bars in brownstone Brooklyn that successfully cater to a simple drinker's needs without pretense. It is a well-known fact that a stiff drink unites us, regardless of race, creed and color; a phenomenon on full display in this establishment.

While it is likely that some patrons of the Alibi have embraced the growing sophistication of the neighborhood, they don't find it here. This bar was created for drinking.

I heard a couple yelps and some slamming drinks from the back room. Two young tattooed dudes in thick glasses were arm wrestling. The match was accompanied by a single onlooker, an older black gentleman reading a newspaper and devouring a box of chinese takeout in the corner.

He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the spectacle, as the man had set aside his paper and started cheering. He pumped a pair of chopsticks in the air as the boy's arms began to quiver. Fists slammed and beers jumped. The champion exchanged passionate high-fives with his audience and I retired to the filthy-yet-functional bathroom, conveniently equipped with a lone stall ideal for late night debauchery.

A heated debate had begun back at the stools among the self-proclaimed experts regarding the proper garnish for a Bloody Mary. Celery had a steady lead over olive until a renegade voice introduced pickle and the once-peaceful talks became downright unsportsmanlike.

The Alibi is slightly below street grade on a quiet block just east of Fort Greene Park. There is no signage aside from a small chalkboard at the entrance announcing the day's specials. Happy hour is the only special and the sign never changes: all mixed drinks are $3.00.

The bar itself is nondescript. There is a relatively level pool table with plentiful cues situated comfortably next to a working fireplace. A few cheap-but-sturdy tables are peppered around the bar and the low tin ceiling recently received a coat of paint, adding a new sheen to a bar that feels as if it hasn't changed much since I was in diapers. The digital jukebox has a limited but functional selection and the back deck is pleasant in the summer.

With minimal effort and even less fanfare, this generic watering hole has become a surprisingly rare haven for those who enjoy a cheap drink with good company. Workaday locals and worldly transplants sit elbow-to-elbow at this gem in inebriated harmony.

In the tumultuous world of New York City nightlife, the Alibi is a legitimate drinker's paradise. 

Rachel Signer January 13, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Alibi is my favorite for a drink with a friend. Last time I was there they played old-school hip-hop all night. And people actually talk to each other too, unlike at other bars.


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