What’s the tale behind New York’s Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog? Winner of the 2016 Drinks International award for World’s Best Bar, the downtown drink den was founded by Belfast natives Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, who wanted to create a bar that was a mix of the cocktail lounge they had worked in and the pub they had drunk in. "So we searched for a point in New York history where cocktails and Irish culture met," the 45-year-old Muldoon recalls, "and came up with a story that brought them together."
The result is a cozy three-story bar in the Financial District inspired by John Morrissey, the leader of the Dead Rabbits, an Irish-American gang from the 1850s. Structured like a classic American tavern and decorated like a traditional Irish pub, Dead Rabbit features a taproom, a sit-down parlor and the Occasional Room for events, all teeming with old photographs, sports memorabilia, even some Civil War mementos. "At Dead Rabbit it’s about challenging the status quo of what an Irish bar can and cannot be and bringing it into the 21st century," the 27-year-old McGarry says. The bar—home to the largest Irish whiskey collection in America—creates a new cocktail menu, crafted by beverage director Jillian Vose, every six months. (Its first recipe collection, The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, was awarded the Best Bartending & Cocktail Book at Tales of the Cocktail 2016.)
The team’s second New York location, BlackTail, opened this past summer. An exploration of how Americans influenced the Cuban bartending scene during Prohibition, it channels the spirit of Ernest Hemingway during his time in Havana and features the highball as its hero. "We opened it to show ourselves we could do something different," McGarry says. As for what’s next, "we’re going straight back to doing what we do best—it’ll definitely be an Irish-inspired bar."
Dead Rabbit beverage director Jillian Vose. Credit: David Arky for Forbes