The Brooklyn Academy of Music is beloved for many reasons: Progressive programming! Dramatic architecture! Affordable memberships! The location, though, isn’t ideal for pre- or post-gaming. That is, until now, thanks to the Rockwell Place.
Enter Toby Cecchini and Joel Tompkins, the duo behind gruff Atlantic Avenue landmark Long Island Bar. Tompkins had his eye on the location that now holds their new endeavor ever since he lived on the block in the 2000s, according to a Brooklyn Paper profile. They jumped on the building when it went on the market in 2017 and converted it into its current form, a cocktail space celebrating the neighborhood’s musical roots (instead of searching for the address number on its industrial stretch of Rockwell Place, look for the tuba hanging overhead to indicate that you’ve made it).
The transformed garage is an environment just as brassy as the instrument you’ll find greeting you outside. One side is wallpapered with vintage BAM posters, chronicling the academy’s rich history, while Art Deco–inspired acoustic panels absorb the modern retro sounds of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley wafting from the upstairs PA system. Curved teal couches in the back and lighting panels disguised as windows feel lounge-y, but laid-back bartenders bring Rockwell Place back down to earth with a small but well-crafted libation list.
While there are only a few cocktails total, each one masterfully highlights the bartenders’ experimental approach to flavors. (You can also consider them scientists of sorts; the long bar’s former life was as a chemistry tabletop.) The creamy Japonaise is a wonderfully boozy adaptation of the mandarin sucking candies you get with your bill in many ramen joints, and the prickly shiso and citrusy grapefruit marry together in a surprising take on the sour.
But what immediately caught my attention was the Trans-Am. Its presentation is classic for a stirred whiskey drink, served in an old-fashioned glass with a large, almost transparent ice cube. What hits your lips, meanwhile, is a smooth operator that’s both deep in flavor and complexity. Notes of caramel from Old Overholt Bonded whiskey initially come on strong but mellow out when the apple brandy’s charred oak undertones and the herbaceous Bénédictine start lingering at the forefront. The end result? A deeply satisfying sipper you’ll want to savor for as long as you can—or at least until your show at BAM starts.