It’s as though Clover Club was a classic from the moment it opened. Designed around an antique wooden bar from 1897 found in an old coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, the Brooklyn venue opened in 2008 looking and feeling as though it had already existed for a century and would likely continue on for another.
When it opened, Clover Club was one of the first modern cocktail bars in Brooklyn. Julie Reiner, the driving force behind it, was already a seasoned cocktail vet at a time when bars that could craft a decent Negroni were still few and far-between, even in New York City. She had been helming Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan and had recently moved to Brooklyn. Noting the lack of quality drinks available near her new home, she wanted to create a place that suited her life at the time: a laid-back gathering spot where you could get good drinks and good food. She was aiming for a place that was less a party spot like Flatiron and more a “civilized experience,” she says. Essentially, she opened exactly the sort of bar she wanted to be able to drink and hang out at herself.
Clover Club opened just as the 2008 financial crash was peaking—not an auspicious time to start a business—but then the economy righted, and families began to flood into the neighborhoods surrounding the bar. Abruptly it found itself a centerpiece of what was suddenly Brooklyn’s coolest location. Clover Club became the ideal neighborhood spot for a good drink, a casual brunch, an evening bite, and a place to hang out with your friends. “We’ve really watched the entire neighborhood change tremendously over the course of the 15 years we’ve been there,” says Reiner.
The cocktail scene in New York City, of course, has evolved enormously in the meantime, too—and many of the figures who came out of Clover Club drove those changes. “It’s hard to think of a more influential bar that has produced so many wonderful bar figures, cocktails, and experiences,” says bar pro Jordan Felix. Reiner’s own Gin Blossom and The Slope have become modern classics. It’s where Giuseppe González created the legendary Trinidad Sour. Ivy Mix, now a co-owner with Reiner of Leyenda, right across the street from Clover Club, created many cocktails there that went on to become popular.
But the bar itself has remained the same, with its tin ceilings and maroon leather banquettes and etched-glass lighting fixtures, centered around that antique piece of wood from Pennsylvania and the enormous, cushioned bar stools in front of it. “The bar at Clover Club feels like it has been around for centuries,” says Alex Jump of Death & Co Denver. “There is an air of professionalism and class in the space and it translates to the drinks, certainly.”
“It does feel like it’s been there a long time,” says Reiner. “It has that feeling like it has been there forever. It’s just a feel-good kind of space. It’s a high-end cocktail bar, and it’s really great service without attitude. We have a very talented staff of people who really care and who want to put out the best thing in a glass that they can. It was very well-received from the very beginning and I think over the years it’s become even more revered, which is an amazing thing.”
Erick Castro, the owner of Polite Provisions and Raised by Wolves, puts it simply: “Over 10 years in and this place still nails it. It is an institution. It is like a small slice of Americana.”