Diamond Lil is a cocktail minefield in Brooklyn. Inside, delicious drinks are matched with familiar tunes and good conversation. Not large in size, but definitely in value — the vices here will make you feel richer than you did before you came in.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Ryan Kirk Contributing writer
The story behind Diamond Lil bar goes back to 1899 in the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, when Frankie decided it was high time to shoot her cheating boyfriend Johnnie. The infamous shooting was a cultural phenomenon and resulted in the song “Frankie and Johnny,” which has been covered by artists like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, and many others. The act also inspired Hollywood actress, playwright, sex symbol, and entertainer Mae West to write the iconic play “Diamond Lil.”
At the time that West wrote the play, she was living in Brooklyn, right down the street from the cocktail bar that is now Diamond Lil. Mae was rarely photographed without jewelry draped around her neck, and the bar offers a similar fashion, as its ambiance is as polished as the carbon-based mineral in its moniker.
It’s quite obvious that a woman’s mystique is the prowess in this quaint, cocktail-filled kingdom.
The neighborhood cocktail bar’s name describes it well: it’s a little diamond. It’s not big, but where it lacks in size, it makes up for in style and charm. With Art-Nouveau-inspired décor, a tin ceiling, a mosaic floor, and a embossed wallpaper, it’s mastered the look of what we can only imagine Mae West’s Green Point apartment looked like in the early 1900s. At the heart of the stone is their prized centerpiece, a precious painting that sucks your soul in like the ring from… what’s that movie called again? Commissioned by artist Jenna Gribbon, the custom masterpiece that hangs behind the bar is titled “Got No Time To Be Your Muse”; the painting is that of a woman lying down reading in a field. The woman, anything but helpless, chucks a two-fingered peace sign up, distinctly letting her bar patrons know that she’ll get to them when she’s good and ready. It’s quite obvious that a woman’s mystique is the prowess in this quaint, cocktail-filled kingdom.
Inside, we recommend grabbing a seat at the bar and catching the ear of one of their skilled bartenders. With an assortment of great vices, you can’t go wrong by asking questions. Our Cyties favorite is their Creole cocktail: Vermouth, liqueur, Benedictine, whiskey, and a lemon. This classic drink will have you feeling as fine as a diamond and waving hello to the goddess painted over the bar.
Unfortunately, Mae West isn’t around anymore to physically stop into the bar named after her illustrious play, but, as her spirit lives on, we’ve got no doubt that she’s hanging around here somewhere. Probably with a man in one hand, a drink in the other, and continuing to push the limits on what society tells her she can or can’t do. In a time where bars are a dime a dozen, this act is a little diamond inside Brooklyn, and we’ve got no choice but to give it a standing ovation.
Belly up and be prepared to be a captive soul to the madam painted above the bar
The chandelier inside looks like it should be hanging in Gatsby’s living room
The color tone in this cocktail joint is right up Guillermo Del Toro’s alley
Captivating artwork: Check