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Sweet Up(s) on Graham Avenue

billburg / Jan 01, 2002 12:00am

by by William Powhida

Benjamin Shih spent twelve year tending bars all over the world from LA to London. After helping others open bars, Benjamin decided it was time to open his own. He jumped on the space at 277 Graham Avenue when it became available, but the material costs found him short on cash, so he turned to his friends for help.

Sweet Up(s) is handmade, literally, and the pictures of young men and women above the bar tell the story. After getting the space and materials, Benjamin asked his many friends to lend a hand. "Some people kicked in a week, some people a month," he tells me as I sip one of his fresh fruit cocktails, a Japanese White Peach Martini, that change every week "everything in here is handmade, from the chairs to the bar." In honor of his friends' support, Benjamin put up photographs of their parents at the age his friends are now.

I am impressed by the craftsmanship of the place, from the large curved, leather bound booths to the composite concrete bar. My girlfriend noticed that the lush, red patterned wallpaper was an old, out of print style called lock paper. Benjamin tells us he bought it from a set designer in LA. This attention to detail is everywhere. Benjamin shops at Hunt's Produce for giant limes and the fruit for his exotic cocktails, and instead of stocking every brand on liquor he only buys what he likes. He points out an obscure brand of Polish Vodka, Wyborowa, that he came to know in Europe. "I was walking around Greenpoint and I found this stuff. I'll serve people martinis with whatever they want, but I say 'Next time try this. It's really great,'" he explains.

"Basically, Sweet Up(s) is great cocktails and great rock and roll," Benjamin says as he makes my girlfriend a tart, pomegranate martini. The cocktails come in big eleven ounce glasses and range from five to seven bucks. On tap, there's Hefenwieser, ESD, Stella Artois, and the house brew Sweet Up(s) that come in ample European pint glasses. I ask him about Sweet Up(s) beer and he confesses that is a Midwestern discovery that he intends on keeping secret. Even the Sweet Up(s) tap handle was hand made by a friend.

The bar starts to fill up around ten thirty and I talk with my neighbors who all agree its great to finally have a classy, cocktail bar in the neighborhood. As the crowd filters in, many with expressions of wonder and delight, Benjamin switches from easy listening lounge music to rock and roll. He makes his own mix CD's that cover the gamut of rock, so expect to hear everything from funk to prog rock on any given night. As I finish my pint of Sweet Up(s), three bucks, I can't help but notice people stopping and looking through glass door. They hesitate and smile, stop in and ask "when did you open?" Benjamin says "Last Wednesday," They say "That's so awesome! I'll definitely be back." I hope so, I like Sweet Up(s), Its a great space with a big personality to match the big leather booths and the long concrete bar. My girlfriend, not a big drinker, felt very comfortable and enjoyed her cocktails. That tells me I'll be back soon.

Sweet Up(s) is located at 277 Graham Ave, Graham or Grand stops on the L, and is open from 6:30pm - 4:30 am weekly. It is also available for after opening parties, participating artists drink free, and for private parties during the day and evening. Contact Benjamin Shih at (718) 384-3886.

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