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The Dead Rabbit
30 Water Street, New York, US
THIS COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN A DIFFICULT SECOND ALBUM FOR Sean Muldoon after being so lauded for his work at the Merchant hotel in Belfast. But if you’ve ever met the man you’ll know that any doubt about his ongoing success is severely misplaced. He is a perfectionist. When he employed Jack McGarry at the Merchant, for example, this proved a wise decision. Muldoon is very capable of spotting a like-minded soul.
The pair share an equally intense quest for precision. Whether its menu creation, service standards and bar design or the minutiae of ice and dilution versus glass capacity and duration of shake, they put every waking hour into making the Belfast bar work on every level.
So when Muldoon announced he planned to transfer this approach to New York, McGarry was in on the project.
The naysayers may have feared for Muldoon’s chops, the Big Apple being a competitive playing field with untold competition. But after the team applied the same rigorous Irish ethic to The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog project, they not only stood side-by-side with the giants of the cocktail world, they started to clamber up on to their shoulders.
The New York bar took time to come to fruition but since hopping on to the scene, the Dead Rabbit hasn’t disappointed and its creations have prompted an emotional response from its audience on a par with that of Watership Down
Named after an infamous Irish-American gang from the mid-19th century, the Rabbit may be dead in name (perhaps seen off by ‘mixomatosis’) but it is very much alive and kicking in the bar as it ticks all imbibing boxes in one building.
The ground floor has a laid-back vibe, a taproom with beer, whisky and lunch - simple and very New York-friendly. Lacking in pretentions it’s not without detail, the Pop-Inns on the menu are a nod to a 17th-century practice more familiar to us today as a Boilermaker.
Upstairs, the Parlour showcases the team’s extraordinary application to the detail of drinks, a menu oozing creativity, backed-up with jaw-dropping historical know-how.
As ever, the important elements are addressed - service and style in the delivery of the detail - and it has a genuine Irish-American feel.
The awards have been quick in arriving - Best New Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards, International Bartender of the Year for McGarry - and they’ll undoubtedly continue. The industry recognition on this list is evidence of that.
Muldoon works hard and enjoys the fruits of his labour, so perhaps being number two will rankle a little. But he couldn’t be closer and launching this new concept under two years ago in a foreign land is, undeniably, a remarkable achievement.