The Painkiller is Serving a Properly Delicious Zombie


Chantal has had us covered on the opening of Painkiller, the Lower East Side’s only tiki bar, and all the insider details from partner and bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez.

I’m just your garden-variety tiki geek, and I’ve been out of luck since Elettaria closed. (Although a trip will soon bring me back to Tiki Ti, the 50-year-old tiki bar in Los Angeles.) Luckily, Painkiller is now open, serving well-made tiki classics, and the Hurricane Club is coming soon, as is a tropical project from Julie Reiner. The trend-let is a happy correction away from the super-seriousness of recent cocktail culture.

A good tiki drink is not a super-sweet, mindless slush. Most are finely balanced concoctions just as complex, if not more so, than those austere pre-prohibition drinks everyone’s been guzzling for the past few years.

The zombie was invented in the ’30s by Donn Beach, a/k/a Don the Beachcomber, inventor of the tiki cannon. It’s a potent combination of several rums and fruit juices, and though it’s strong, the bite of the alcohol should be mellowed by the fruit. The cocktail gets its name from the state you might be in after more than one.

The zombie at Painkiller is delicious, the pitch-perfect tart-sweet-strong cocktail served over crushed ice and garnished with mint. Though it costs $16, it would be a rare soul who could drink more than one. We also enjoyed a 151 rum swizzle. The tiki glassware alone is worth a trip.

49 Essex Street