416 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, Brooklyn, 718-360-0838
Spirits shops can be soulless places. LeNell’s is just the opposite: a reflection of owner Tonya LeNell Smothers’s particular passions, which range from bourbon (the city’s widest selection) to the sort of obscure bitters that make a mixologist’s heart race. Gin bottles are displayed in a claw-foot bathtub, and wines are arranged by theme rather than grape or country, with shelf space devoted to women winemakers, black winemakers, organic grapes, and labels that feature cats and dogs (both of which, as you might imagine, are always welcome). Smothers stays open till midnight daily (except Sunday, when she closes at 9) and hosts a series of special events that celebrate all things booze-related, from New Orleans cocktails to arcane grapes like rkatsiteli, a Russian varietal that thrives in the Finger Lakes. She even organizes bourbon-sampling field trips to Kentucky—in case you were thinking Red Hook was too far afield.
Best Liquor Store
From the 2006 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine
So what exactly does “best” mean in a city with thousands of pizza joints, hundreds of celebrity masseuses, and museum-worthy concept shops on every corner? Well, in the case of this, our annual “Best of New York” roundup, there’s a heavy emphasis on what’s new or what has somehow remained virtually unheard of (until now, of course).