Ok, NYC totally has tiki fever. Tiki bars, falling under the cheesy category of “themed” establishments, have never been something I thought much about. Strange wooden masks? Drinks in coconuts? And some odd random memory from the movie House Arrest….
(At 6:05. You go, Jamie Lee Curtis!)
But anyway, in the past few months, a number of bars based on tiki culture and its various related drinks have opened up in the city, so I figured it would be good to give one of them a try. Those little cocktail umbrellas are always fun.
We decided on Painkiller (map!). Near the corner of Essex and Grand, it’s in the Lower East Side area juuuuust where the neighborhood starts getting a little quiet and sketchy (at least it seemed that way late at night). There, right in the middle of many unremarkable storefronts, is where you will find this bright welcoming beacon of what awaits:
A polite gentleman with a Louis-Armstrong-like voice will card you outside and then send you through the door. The first step in, it was pitch black, and for a second I felt like I was in a cone of silence with zero bearings. Then I parted some curtains and got a momentary sensory overload of black and neon colors and happy chatter. Hello, Painkiller.
This Gothamist article has some pretty good photos of the decor. It’s a very creative combination of tiki accents and urban style. The hostess was super-nice and was very patient in explaining all of the drinks to us.
One round in and we were sold. Everything tasted fresh, smooth, and unique. Their signature drink, the Painkiller, was pretty much genius (there’s nutmeg in it!).
We also tried the Zombie (rum rum rum…only one served per customer per night) and a minty Swizzle.
Next up was a pina colada (served in a frozen pineapple!) and throwbacks to the year 1942 with the Suffering Bastard and Dying Bastard.
So maybe we had another round after, and maybe we didn’t, but suffice to say that we got a good sampling of what this place could dish out, and it did not disappoint. I like the great variety of drinks that are available, and at different levels of alcohol strength. Potions such as the Zombie will give you a bit of a kick in the head, but frozen drinks like the pina colada are easy sips, so there is something for everyone and their varying tolerance levels. Thumbs up for small groups! (And dates. There are a number of 2-seaters perfect for a cozy evening.)