Fresh Kills gives an initial impression of austerity: the long, narrow room has walls of rich wood with visible knots and nails, a low swoop of a ceiling, booths with uncushioned seats, and, in the front, low little tables with curiously unmoving leather tablecloths.
The name brings to mind the infamous landfill, lately being transformed into a city park, on Staten Island; at the end of the bar, a dour portrait of a man in a tricorne hat glowers at would-be revellers.
But the vibrant menu, and the dizzying array of liquors—from Amaro CioCiaro to sweet vermouth—puts to rest any hint of asperity.
On a recent Sunday, Williamsburg denizens sipped at citrusy cocktails chilled with fashionably sculpted blocks of ice; two women in draped gray blouses kept up a spirited stream of gossip, while, catercorner, an entire booth housed people staring at their phones.
The Coral Cocktail (apricot liquor, white rum) offers a wedge of grapefruit and a complex sweetness with a bitter murmur low in the mix; the Spiced Ginger Bahia (house-made ginger syrup, lime) arrives with a smattering of cinnamon, and is best sipped slowly through a metal straw.
There is plenty of pineapple and white, dark, and agricole rum on a menu that advises, “Place your trust in us, for we are more than qualified to satisfy.” As the night boozily progressed, a man in a black tee gesticulated a bit too hard, shattering his glass; Garo Yellin, a co-owner with a shaggy white beard and the chilled-out affect of a Grateful Dead fan, ambled over and told him to relax.