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Drinks lined up at Faubourg. COURTESY TRACI GILES

BY CHRISTINA LOCCKE
for Montclair Local

It’s time to meet for cocktails again.

Whether COVID has allowed us to slow down enough to enjoy nighttime cocktails at home is a matter of debate. But even your favorite drink Zoomed with good friends falls flat when compared to settling into a garden-like lounge as fresh cocktails arrive in a chilled glass… that you will not have to wash.

DeNovo

The cocktail menu at DeNovo is one of Montclair’s hidden gems, with drinks that are always changing and totally on trend with some of Manhattan’s more forward-thinking bars. 

They have turned their train platform location into their greatest advantage, with seating that stretches beyond their outdoor patio and into the commuter parking lot. Empty spots are now covered with lighted canopies and filled with widely spaced tables set against a charming stone wall.

Their dedicated bar manager, Josh Martin, is passionate about shrubs — tangy and refreshing fruit syrups preserved with vinegar. He macerates, blends and strains each one himself, with outstanding results. Drinks are finished with paper-thin slices of slowly dehydrated citrus or honey-cured botanicals. Everything here is made with care. 

Their most popular drink by far is the Farmers Market Cocktail, a bright and fruity shrub with ginger and a clear kick of habanero-infused tequila. It brings the kind of heat that cools on a hot day. Or maybe it warms a cool day. There is never a bad time to drink this drink. 

The Bionic Woman is another standout. This shaken martini combines fresh pineapple, mezcal and pretty pink peppercorns floating on top of a very tall glass. Those who prefer wine can pair the seasonal Italian cooking here with a seafood-friendly glass of albariño or rosé from Côtes du Rhône. 

275 Bellevue Ave.

Faubourg 

Faubourg seems designed to succeed in this moment of outdoor dining. The bluestone courtyard is an oasis on Bloomfield Avenue, with tall planters that block the streetscape and overlapping triangular canopies to soften any errant beams of sunlight. 

Their outdoor dining area feels so comfortable and so very normal that it is almost pre-pandemic, as if the tall plexiglass extending above each booth is just there to keep conversations private. 

More impressive is that Faubourg has a drink for everyone. A cocktail menu this expansive lacks pretense. The Garden Party is a light and refreshing mix of vodka, creme de violet, hibiscus and rose tea that seems suited to day drinking. Their White Cosmo with elderflower and chipotle marguerita are both so popular that they now offer it in containers-to-go. The watermelon mojito is very nice, but try it “Mike’s Way,” which substitutes the rum for tequila with delicious results. For something more unique, try the Susanna, which combines funky, mouthwatering Suze liqueur with gin and lemon. But if you crave a boozy, slushy frosé, they have that, too. 

The wine list is worthy of careful perusal, with strong offerings by the glass. Sample, and even splurge on, their lighter, Old-World varieties to complement Faubourg’s cuisine.

544 Bloomfield Ave.

Alto at the MC Hotel

Alto takes their COVID-19 precautions and each guest’s comfort very seriously.

Enter the lobby to find yourself alone with a single concierge behind plexiglass. Once your reservation is confirmed, guests are escorted to an elevator (no need to touch the buttons) and delivered to a waiting table. 

Views from the top of the MC Hotel.

There is nothing like this view in all of Montclair. To the west, watch the sunset over the trees towards South Mountain. Look eastward to see New York City and note the constant stream of guests posing for a selfie with Manhattan in the background. Drinking here feels like a special occasion. 

Tables are widely spaced throughout the large rooftop patio. The constant breeze is lovely on warmer nights; space heaters will soon extend the outdoor seating into the cooler months. The very spacious, open feel of the outdoor patio is also true of the interior lounge, with its backlit bar and expansive views. 

Start with a smooth and easy-to-drink sangria rimmed with peaches and citrus. The Wanna Lackawanna is tasty and artfully presented with a cucumber swirl. Craft beer enthusiasts can try the Hitachino, brewed with rice. 

Rooftop, 690 Bloomfield Ave.

Montclair Brewery

The Montclair Brewery is singular in every way. To start, it’s the only brewery in town. But its community-driven mission of bringing people together is the best reason to share a beer here. 

The husband-wife team of Leo and Denise Sawadogo are always smiling and chatting while making sure that no one has to wait for their pints. The parking lot is a biergarten, filled with families sitting around picnic tables beneath the word “HARMONY” writen large in gold letters on the wall. 

The menu may introduce seven new beers each month, highlighting seasonal or tropical flavors like mango and coconut. Start with one of their lighter mainstays, the Frog Hollow Orange Wheat, named for a local neighborhood. Brewed with orange peel and coriander, it is reminiscent of Blue Moon, with a freshness that is unparalleled by mass market brands. A bit darker but just as popular is the People’s Republic of Montclair, a smooth and very tasty Belgian-style ale. 

Many of the richly flavored oatmeal stouts are tributes to Leo’s West African and Denise’s Jamaican heritage and would go perfectly with curries or spicy grilled meat. The Black is Beautiful with Baobab is not only an introduction to the African fruit, but also part of a global beer collaboration to raise awareness of racial injustices in our country. Beware, because it is also around 10 percent ABV, making it nearly twice as strong as a typical IPA.

101 Walnut St.