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Know Your Bartender: Betty Collins, Timboo's

When it comes to South Slope bars, there are two categories: those that draw a younger crowd and those that cater to a slightly older demographic. For the former category, Ellis Bar and Black Horse Tavern come to mind. Bars in the latter category also share the trait of having been in the neighborhood the longest, though, and they include Smith's, Jackie's Fifth Amendment, and Timboo's. These old-school bars open earlier, stay open later, draw a fiercely loyal clientele, and are throwbacks to an earlier Brooklyn.

The Timboo's space, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 11th Street, had been home to Loftus's Bar for over forty years by the time Timmy Hodgens and Bobby Booras decided to quit their day job at the telephone company and buy the bar in 1969. They changed the name to a combination of both of their first names (get it?), added wood paneling to the walls along with some posters and photos of then-current sports stars, and called it a day. It hasn't changed since (aside from the installation of some flatscreen TVs), and Timmy and Bobby are still the owners. They own the building, too, so this classic dive won't be going anywhere for a while.

Make sure you spend some time checking out the wall decorations. In the front room there's a framed Frontier Carbine rifle ("The Gun That Won The West," a plaque under it reads) right above the poster of Joe Namath, and in the back room (home to a pool table and a massive Beatles collage), the walls are clad in Empire Diner wallpaper. Name one other place in the world that's clad in Empire Diner wallpaper. 

South Slope native Betty Collins can be found behind the bar chatting with the regulars Tuesdays through Saturdays from about 9 AM to 6 PM.

HPS: How long have you been a bartender here?

Betty: About nine years.

HPS: What's your favorite thing about this bar?

Betty: It's a real neighborhood place. The characters that come in are anywhere from twenty-one years old to ninety-nine. Families have grown up here. Men that grew up in this bar, now their children are drinking in this bar, so it's kind of passed on. A lot of the local eccentrics come in. It's just a nice local bar.

HPS: Can you talk a little about the Happy Hour?

Betty: The Happy Hour is from nine in the morning, or when I open up, until six at night. Well drinks are two-for-one, all the pints are a dollar off, and then at night they have their own specials. If there's a game on or something the bartenders will come up with specials of their own. There's no set schedule at night. 
HPS: What's the strangest drink order you've ever gotten?

Betty: I've had a few beer mixture orders that were pretty strange. One guy asked for a pint of Sam Adams with grapefruit juice. Which is kind of odd. I've been doing this for a long time, and that was a new one for me! In here it's usually shots and beer. It's not too difficult. I don't get any tiki drinks, and we don't own a blender so you ain't getting a frozen margarita.

HPS: If you could serve a drink to one person from history, who would it be?

Betty: Oh wow. I don't know! I'd have to think about that one. Billy the Kid, maybe. 

HPS: Are there any cocktails you make that you pride yourself on?

Betty: My Bloody Marys are good, I have to admit that. I don't blow my own horn, but I can make a good Bloody Mary. I learned from a guy thirty years ago, and everybody likes it. The secret is making a batch of it the night before so all the flavors have time to mix together. 

HPS: Which bottles are poured from the most frequently?

Betty: Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Jagermeister are very big here.

HPS: Which bottles are poured from the least frequently?

Betty: Ones like the creme de coco, the sloe gin. We don't get too many calls for those anymore. But again, I do have an older clientele, so once in a while I do get the sloe gin fizz, but not too often. 

HPS: If you weren't tending bar, are there any other professions that you'd give thought to?

Betty: I've been doing this for so long, I don't know. Maybe not working with people [laughs]. Maybe working with animals. People can be a little, you know. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love my job, and I love people, but some days are harder than others. Give me a job with a bunch of cats and dogs and I'll be very happy.

Timboo's, 477 5th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-788-9782.

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Reader Comments (2)

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