Sasha Petraske’s White Star bar began by specialising in niche spirits but has since deviated from this unusual approach and now serves a short menu of interesting cocktails. The bar itself is dark and grungy with barely detectable grafitti on the walls and a rock and indie soundtrack. The cocktails are unpretentious but not unchallenging. The highlight was the Bittersweet Surrender (Sailor Jerry, Cio Ciaro, Lemon, Chamomile Bitters) which takes on the rough edges of a poor quality spiced Rum and turns it into something of a taste sensation.
Painkiller (or PKNY) lurks behind a graffiti covered door a little further down Essex Street. It’s New York’s best Tiki bar and delivers great drinks in a pretty straight forward and friendly manner. The Tiki decoration is kept to a minimum but is mixed with grafitti and old school hip hop on the stereo. Once you’re passed the bar, it’s all two and four person snugs. We were served by a guy called Keegan who was an absolute star and looked after us really well on two separate visits to the bar. The menu is pretty huge, with a selection of favourites described in detail, a number of Scorpion bowls to share (including a tiki take on the Pimms Cup with a house blend of 12 liqueurs, cordials and vermouths), and a long list of other alternatives. We started by checking out their Tiki mainstays: a very respectable Mai Tai made with homemade Orgeat and a Zombie Punch which featured two 151 overproof Rums. We had to come back for a second visit after drinking those (literal) knockouts. Our suspicions were confirmed: PKNY makes great tiki drinks. The Dark and Frosty was a deliciously crisp take on the Dark n Stormy, made as a Swizzle. Fresh ginger gave it a hint of spicy bite without overpowering the rum. We also tried the Duke’s Pearl (Dark Rum, Passion Fruit, Lime, Honey Syrup) which arrived a touch on the sweet side, but before we knew it Keegan produced a shot of lime juice so I could adjust it to my liking.
See our related Lower East Side Cocktail Crawl page for full details and a Google Map of these bars so can follow your own cockail crawl.