First there was Fresh Kills, and now—right across the street—there’s Kill Devil. When it comes to ambitious cocktail bars, Williamsburg is killing it.
Kill Devil House of Dark Spirits takes its name from an old euphemism for rum, and it’s dead serious about the liquor. It offers a list of some 125 sipping rums from all over the world, and many of its cocktails employ it. You might assume this place is just riding the tiki trend, but you won’t find any thatch or bamboo in the onetime bank building at the corner of Grand and Bedford. Instead, the former Witlof space has gotten a dark, slightly devilish makeover.
There are tiki drinks on the menu—they’re just rather refined. The Pipe Game, for instance, is a $16 riff on the frozen piña colada that incorporates rancio sec, a Spanish oxidative wine, for extra funk. “We’re trying to push where tiki can go, but show people rum is not just for being buried under layers of tropical flavors,” says co-owner Vincent Vee, who has previous experience at cocktail bars like The Last Word, End of the Century, and most recently Bar Moga, where co-owner Antonio Gomez also worked.
Vee hopes their bar program will show that “rum can also be used in classic cocktails that are simple and focused.” To that end they’re offering the Trabalhador ($18), a version of a Manhattan that swaps rye for cachaca. The idea, Vee says, is to take rum and “show the world how versatile it can be” by mixing it with fresh-squeezed juices, specialty ice cubes, and syrups that are made in-house. In short, they’re aiming to “produce the city’s highest-level cocktails.”
While Vee admits that rum “hasn’t blown up the way bourbon and rye has,” he says the upside is that you don’t have to pay Pappy Van Winkle prices for it. “The really exciting thing is that in the $15 to $20 range you can sip on some world-class rums.” He sites rums from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, Clairin’s rums from small craft distilleries in Haiti, and one of his old favorites, El Dorado’s 15-year Guyanese rum.
With its summer cocktail list up and running, Kill Devil will soon fire up its wood-burning oven and offer a skewer-heavy menu that Vee describes as a “fusion between Latin American and U.S. comfort food.” Will there be a pu-pu platter? Don’t count on it.
Kill Devil House of Dark Spirits, 292 Bedford Ave, at Grand St., Williamsburg