Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry formerly helmed the bar at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel, a multiple award-winning cocktail mecca in a country better known for beer and Irish whiskey than for nuanced modern-style drinks. From manning what was arguably the most significant cocktail bar in Ireland, the two moved their cocktail savvy to their new New York City endeavor, Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog. The bar is housed in a weathered four-story building built in 1828 along the bottom tip of Manhattan, directly across the street from New York Harbor; today it is flanked by Wall Street skyscrapers. Stepping off the bustling modern street and into the cozy Dead Rabbit is like stepping back in time, but happily without a slavish, Disney-esque devotion to historical detail or flourishes: The place is old-fashioned without making you feel as though you’re in a theme park. Likewise, the cocktail menu follows the DNA of drinks you would have experienced in the heyday of the area without sticking unduly closely to historical recipes, updating them ever so slightly to please modern palates (today’s drinks are not as sweet as your average 1880 cocktail). The ground level Tap Room is a narrow, wood-lined pub complete with sawdust on the floor, offering beers and a powerful array of whiskeys. The more gentlemanly second-floor Parlour is focused on punches and 72 historical cocktails, the likes of which would have been served in this area 100-plus years ago. There is something eminently pleasing about sipping a drink that might have been served on this very block on, say, the day the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883.
The original Dead Rabbits were one of the notorious Five Points gangs that struggled for dominance in this area in the late 1800s. In honor of the rowdy gang and its Irish legacy in New York, McGarry prepared a special Irish Manhattan for MensJournal.com. “This style of Manhattan would have been prevalent during the late 19th century,” explains McGarry of the era when Vermouth began to gain popularity as a cocktail ingredient. “Vermouth back then was different from what we know today as it would have had a much higher wormwood content, hence it would have supplied much more bitterness to a cocktail.” The first Manhattans and Martinis back then would have been more Vermouth-dominated than they are today, and liquor, a cordial, and Chartreuse (or, in this case, Curacao) would have been added to rein back the bitterness of the Vermouth. Lastly, the addition of bitters bring together all the seemingly disparate elements.
• 1.5 oz Jameson Black Barrel Whisky
• 1.5 oz Dolin Rouge Vermouth (punched up with a wormwood infusion-although will perform fine without.)
• .5 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao (if Pierre Ferrand is not available, then try Grand Marnier)
• 3-4 dashes Dead Rabbit Orinoco Bitters (If Orinoco Bitters are not available, a combination of Angostura and Boker’s Bitters will do nicely.)
Add all the above ingredients into a mixing glass. Then, add ice and stir until it’s ice cold. Strain the mix into a pre-chilled coup glass and finish it off with orange oils.