Last year, when The Dead Rabbit celebrated its 10-year anniversary, it also celebrated its rebirth. The pandemic and recent staffing changes gave the award-winning bar the opportunity to take a step back and develop a fresh road map for its next decade and beyond. That didn’t just include an upgrade to its world-renowned Irish Coffee—though that was certainly part of the process. The interiors, décor and even the bar’s programming, which now features Irish performers, got a facelift.
“Our mission is to champion modern Ireland and challenge traditional notions of [what] an Irish pub [is],” says Ian Alexander, bar director at The Dead Rabbit in New York. That focus is threaded throughout every aspect of the bar, including the reconceptualized beverage program—particularly at the second-floor “Parlor,” where the bar has always served its more technical cocktails.
Today, the Parlor’s menu is titled “Tradition, Meet Tomorrow.” Its 22 drinks celebrate contemporary Irish culture through more than 15 ingredients from Irish producers and housemade ingredients created with Irish flavors. The Dead Rabbit’s green walnut stout vermouth, for example, stars in the Doppelgänger, an intricate Manhattan-style cocktail that encapsulates the bar’s new and improved program.
The vermouth starts as an Irish stout that’s “as close to a clone of Guinness as can be reverse-engineered,” according to Chris Stanley, the bar’s production manager, who has a knack for foraging and fermentation and developed the beer. Stanley’s brew is augmented with a bit of chocolate rye alongside green walnuts foraged from New Jersey. The former, he says, adds the desired bittersweet chocolate profile, while the latter lends spicy, citrus-like fragrance and flavor. After fermentation, a portion of the base beer is cultured with lactic acid bacteria, sterilized, then added back to the batched brew to give the whole thing a slight tang. The mixture is then rested for two and a half months, allowing the walnuts’ tannins to soften and the flavors to marry.
While the beer rests, Stanley uses an ultrasonic homogenizer to make tinctures to aromatize the beer. The tinctures, based on an overproof grape spirit, get flavored with locally foraged ingredients, including peppery calendula flowers and mint marigolds (which have anise and citrusy notes), plus black walnuts and foraged walnut leaves to reinforce the flavors of the base brew and wormwood (which defines the vermouth). Stanley developed the vermouth first, and the Doppelgänger, an approachable Manhattan riff, was built around the ingredient.
To drive home the nutty, chocolatey, stone fruit and citrus profile already prominent in the vermouth, The Dead Rabbit’s team combined it with walnut liqueur, crème de cacao, palo cortado sherry, Cardamaro and apricot eau de vie. For structure, they used a split base of Stauning’s Danish rye whiskey (“an intensely spicy, fruit-forward whiskey,” according to Stanley) and Keeper’s Heart Irish + Bourbon blended whiskey, which has a nutty aroma that works well with the modifiers in the drink.
There are layers of compelling flavors in the Doppelgänger, but in the glass, the drink looks deceptively simple: a reddish-brown Manhattan that’s finished with orange oils from a fresh citrus peel. It’s a liquid representation of all that The Dead Rabbit 2.0 endeavors to be: accessible yet carefully considered, evoking modern Ireland beyond the tropes but with the heart of a traditional Irish pub. “Our core belief revolves around Irish hospitality and fostering a sense of community,” says Alexander. “Making good drinks just happens to be one part of what we do.”