When you first opened The Dead Rabbit, your menu was based on historic drinks. Why did you decide to focus on 19th-century recipes?
‘I was always intrigued by the birth of bartending and mixed drinks. I felt that many bars had focused on speakeasy-style drinks, tiki drinks, etc, but no one had ever gone back to the real start of cocktail making. Beginning with the great work of spirits writer Dave Wondrich and his books, Imbibe! and Punch, we started work on our historic approach. Our original menu told the story of mixed drinks from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, starting with communal punches and going forward from there.’
Since opening, The Dead Rabbit has quickly distinguished itself as one of New York’s top destination bars. Did you anticipate that level of interest and acclaim prior to opening?
‘Yes — we knew we had something magical, something unique. We had the time to build everything the right way. We trained our crew for three months before we opened. We used our apartment as our HQ for over a year, testing drinks, creating playlists, food menus, getting our decor sorted, and interviewing staff. I don’t mean to come across as arrogant — it’s just that we knew how to run great bars, to train people accordingly and, most importantly of all, to hire the right people.’
How would you describe The Dead Rabbit’s overall place in the New York cocktail bar ecosystem? Is it fair to call it an Irish bar?
‘I would 100% call The Dead Rabbit an Irish bar — it’s an Irish Bar with a New York (and an Irish) soul. For me, its identity comes from hospitality, as a bar that’s devoid of pretension. A lot of bars make guests feel like they should be happy to be in the presence of great bartenders — or they go the other direction and act super cool, pour shots, act like they’re focused on serving you when really it’s all about them. At The Dead Rabbit, we have amazing bartenders, amazing liquor, amazing décor, but that counts for nothing if we lose sight of our goal of providing a comfortable hospitality experience for the guest. I think that’s what gives us an edge.’