The new Tacoma cocktail lounge Devil’s Reef will debut next week with a menu of high-end rum, one-of-a-kind cocktails and a nautical theme.
If all goes as planned, it will open Wednesday (Jan. 24) with a few invitation-only and private events preceding the public opening.
The 21-and-older lounge will open with limited hours that should increase after a few weeks.
The Opera Alley cocktail bar is a second location for partners-in-business-and-life Robyn Murphy and Jason Alexander.
In 2012, they opened Tacoma Cabana, just a few blocks down the hill in downtown Tacoma.
While Tacoma Cabana features all things light-and-tropical with a focus on Polynesian lore and tiki cocktails, the Devil’s Reef skews deeper and darker.
“There are tiki elements to it, but it’s 75 percent nautical and 25 percent tiki,” said Alexander by phone.
“It’s very flotsam and jetsam that me and Robyn have been saving for years,” he added.
Alexander ticked off an inventory of decor.
“Old ropes, tackle and all kinds of stuff you might find washed up on shore after a shipwreck. It’s definitely more intense than the Cabana,” he said. “The Cabana’s more a whimsical get-away to Hawaii. Devil’s Reef is more dark and nautical, with more mystery.”
Alexander said he and Murphy designed, built and decorated the space themselves, a departure for most restaurant owners.
“We knew what we wanted. It involved day-to-day and month-to-month spending what money we had and really relying on the skills we have,” said Alexander, who announced the project in August. “I think it turned out pretty close to our original vision.”
The nautical motif extends from decor to cocktails.
He described an oversized bar built to resemble a giant, wooden dock.
“The bar top is all planks to look like a dock. It’s got pilings,” Alexander said. “When you sit at the bar, it’s like you are sitting down at an old school wooden dock to have a drink.”
And if you feel adrift? There are cleats to tie yourself to.
The dining room also holds four booths hand-built by the couple.
“One booth is completely separate. There’s open space, but tons of pockets for intimacy,” he said.
The cocktails, like the decor, also will be darker and deeper than those at Tacoma Cabana.
A drink called Captain Obed’s Grog is named with a nod to the H.P. Lovecraft fictional character.
“It’ll have the usual ingredients of rum, lime and sugar,” said Alexander of the trifecta at the foundation of many of his rum drinks. “But it also has a little bit of passionfruit syrup, a blend of Naval-style rums that are nice and dark and heavy and chewy with hints of vanilla and other stuff.”
The “other stuff,” he said, will be “dark and aromatic spices.”
“They’re obviously inspired from the exotic and tiki drinks, but a little darker,” he said. “Your tropical drinks are fruity, bright and fun, and these are a little dark and sinister. You take a sip and wonder, ‘What’s going on here?’”
He uses concentrated flavorings, such as maple syrup and cinnamon, to achieve that deeper palate.
As with Tacoma Cabana, Devil’s Reef also will offer one of Tacoma’s best selection of rums.
He described the rum selection as “focused and boutique.”
One high-end rum will be a single cask Barbados XO Plantation, aged multiple ways in bourbon, cognac and Swedish whiskey barrels. Alexander and Murphy visited one of the aging sites when they visited France in 2016. A year later, 100 bottles of the rum were delivered to Tacoma.
Murphy’s currently working on the food menu. The lounge will open with a limited menu but eventually will grow to offer a far-flung menu of spring rolls, bao buns, rice bowls, Korean-style short ribs and other dishes with broad Asian flavors.
On the sweeter side of the menu, she’s looking at ice cream sandwiches made to order with fresh-baked cookies.
The menu will appeal to a range of diners with items for those who eat gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free, said Murphy.
Where: 706 Opera Alley, Tacoma
Tacoma Cabana: 728 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. tacomacabana.com
Note: 21 and older only