161 Grand Street, Williamsburg
When you enter holy ground, you know it. This is the feeling you get when you enter Brooklyn’s latest shrine to cocktails, Fresh Kills in Williamsburg. Opened at the tail end of March by Richard Boccato (Dutch Kills, Milk & Honey) without an announcement, its serene concave quarters immediately make clear that Fresh Kills is run by professionals, and that you’ll soon be drinking some outstanding cocktails.
The bar is awash in nautical hues, and banquettes line the spacious front entrance; the backend of the bar curves inward, like a ship’s carriage, encouraging the kind of intimate experience cocktail drinkers no doubt crave. A row of spacious leather booths cradle drinkers and boast a view of a long, dark, and handsome marble bar. Behind it, confident barkeeps rattle ice and liquids in shakers, reminding you of the spirit-based journey you are in for.
A quick glance at the menu reveals abridged histories of the original recipes for the available cocktails; following a recent trend, there is a short list of low-ABV cocktails, too, and you might be well-advised to start there because the only edibles here are traditional bar snacks, served in small portions—olives, a nut mix, and slightly sweet beef jerky.
I started with an excellent low-ABV California Sherry Cobbler, a chilled pool of liquid dessert: port wine, fresh pineapple, and lemon juices poured over ice and topped with berries. My friend opted for a stiffer concoction, the Coffee House: rye whiskey, coffee liqueur, and orange bitters poured over a rock with a twist. It’s adapted from a drink from the 30s called the Saloon, and it tastes like a coffee-forward old fashioned. The Pisco-Apricot Tropicáls was a standout as well—served straight up with an intense lip-smacking sour that lingers pleasantly. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Dragon’s Breath: A touch of hot sauce is added to calvados, cognac, and dry vermouth, and paired with an enigmatic pickled walnut. Strange for sure, but oddly fantastic.
By night’s end I felt like a merry sailor in a ship’s under-cabin at sail deep in the night. A shot of pineapple rum, served in a miniature glass boot provided a playful finish to our trail of more serious drinks. Lighter touches like these—plus a relaxed staff—are important when a cocktail bar has so evidently perfected its form. You’re there to drink and have fun, after all; and this passage is first-class.