177 South 4th St, Williamsburg
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
Behind a wide brick facade just a block from the Williamsburg Bridge, Dram is marked only by a small orange light bulb with the word "BAR" printed on it. Inside, oversized bamboo lanterns hang from the wood-paneled ceiling, casting a soft glow over the cedar walls, two-top tables and seating alcoves, which are lined with thick, cream-colored cushions. The effect here is minimalist ski lodge-meets-refined tiki lounge. The walls are bare, save for a vintage-looking choking-support poster that illustrates a stylized couple dining beneath palm trees—and then administering the Heimlich, comic book-style, on a fellow guest.
Behind the long, candlelit bar, the cedar shelves are still accumulating bric-a-brac—an antique punch bowl here, a tiki mug there. A well-worn vinyl collection rests above an old turntable. The bartender, wearing a tailored vest and a silk scarf tied around her neck, cranks up some T. Rex and chats with a bar-back about how to organize the mixology library—by spirit, rather than by author, seems the most appropriate solution. The man running the show is Tom Chadwick, who crafted some of the signature cocktails at nearby Rye. He also has a hand in an underground supper club and has future plans for some serious bar snacks—crispy chicken confit nuggets with spicy mayo were served at an opening party a few weeks back—but for now, Dram's focus is on cocktails.
A Snow Cone-like orb of pebbled ice cubes melts into the Jet Pilot ($9), a tropical-tasting rum drink mixed with absinthe and Falernum, a sweet-and-herbal spiced syrup. House-brewed ginger beer, rye, lemon and lime combine in the "Knuck If You Buck" ($9), but it's hard to say why this bright and refreshing sipper references a heavy-duty track from the Lil Wayne-affiliated Crime Mob. The drink-slingers here might not be the friendliest crew in town, but they're willing to get creative if you name your booze of choice. They've got a handle on classic cocktails, too—their well-balanced Manhattan is poured over a giant ice cube and the Tom Collins is topped with a toothpick piercing a lemon sliver and a deliciously boozy marinated cherry. They've also got five beers on tap and wines by the glass priced at $7 to $14.
Attention to detail is the key here. Even the unisex bathroom feels spa-like, thanks to its cedar walls and fancy L'Occitane lavender hand soap overpowering any unseemly odors. For a homey touch, a wooden spoon secures the latch on the bathroom door. We recommend getting there while the loo still smells of cedar—and before there's a long line for the single toilet. Dram is bound to catch on.