Ba'sik (pronounced “basic”) is a gem in Brooklyn, New York’s Williamsburg neighborhood whose tongue-in-cheek name encapsulates its approach. Founded by industry veterans Derrek Vernon and Jay Zimmerman, it was envisioned from the start as a “return of the drinking establishment as a public house,” says Zimmerman.
The result has become one of the most beloved neighborhood bars in a city that doesn’t lack for drinking options. Central to its appeal is Ba'sik’s approachability, high-quality bar food, and well-made drinks served without pretension.
In short, it’s all about the vibe.
“At the time [we discussed opening a bar]—this was the late 2000s—the speakeasy bars were really having this cool moment, and dive bars were kind of doing their thing, and there was really not a lot in the middle,” says Zimmerman. “A big inspiration was this restaurant in Chicago called Schwa, which was this hole-in-the-wall, and these amazing chefs were making this Michelin-starred food, but the cooks were serving it themselves, and, like, blasting Wu-Tang Clan while giving you this pork neck, you know? It was amazing.”
“I was like, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’” says Zimmerman. “Why aren’t we serving the best quality we can in a place where we’re also playing, like, Hank Williams, in a super-relaxed environment?”
The bar’s design reflects this back-to-basics approach, featuring walls fashioned from mismatched wooden planks and a thick, booze-stained butcher-block bar. A large front window opens out to the street, with bench seating that allows guests to mingle with the foot traffic along Graham Avenue, creating an openness that brings the community into the bar and the bar into the community.
“People laugh when they’re sitting in my bar because I’m constantly waving to people when they walk by,” says Zimmerman. “I had this vested interest in adding to this community and not detracting from other businesses or, you know, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”
A comfortable wood-lined backyard creates a welcoming space for drinks in warmer months and provides an area for Ba'sik’s many neighborhood events, from barbecues to stand-up comedy, live jazz, the occasional gumbo cookoff, and an ongoing series aimed at promoting other bars, like New Orleans’s Jewel of the South or Barroco in Montreal.
“We started doing this monthly party called Friends & Family, where we just kind of pick a bar around the world that we really love and try to uplift them and get the word out about them,” says Zimmerman. “We’ll feature one of their drinks and ask them for one of their playlists, so people can experience them for a night at Ba'sik. We don’t get anything from them, we just do it to try and raise the tide for other small bars.”
The regular cocktail menu includes a tight selection of original creations, from the mezcal-based Oaxacan 75 to an “Improved Fuzzy Navel,” as well as a local’s-favorite blend of bourbon, mint, and ginger dubbed the Poppa’s Pride. All are extremely well-made, and a talented staff can handle any of the classics (or an elusive “surprise me” order) with ease.
“We do all the cocktails and most of the booze by committee,” says Zimmerman. “I have a five- person staff. We sit down every couple weeks and it’s like, ‘What do we want? What’s moving and not moving, should we change the cocktails?’ I call my bartenders coworkers, not employees. That’s honestly how I look at it. I want them to have this ownership and this autonomy to do great things.”
Ba'sik’s communal nature has made it a favorite spot among New York City bartenders—the place to meet for a casual drink on your day off. But it’s just as beloved by locals for its low-key vibe and high-quality menu. It’s a bar that knows what it’s trying to do and does everything that it tries correctly.