What is the formula for an award-winning bar? What does it take to be at the top?
Most would think an up-scale joint with a bevy of drinks on tap, an extensive menu list that would cater to every manner of “the munchies” possible and your typical cocktail of hipster millennials and wall street suits.
For New York based bar, the Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog and its owners, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, it took a lot of time, effort and hard work to become #1, beating out 4-time reigning champ, London’s Artesian as the “Best Bar in the World” as awarded by Drinks International.
So, what made this local watering hole stand out from the rest?
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All Business Yet Still Playful
The bar is three storys high offering a selection of beers on tap on the ground floor, a lounge that serves cocktails on the second floor, and a third floor for private events.
This is a serious bar but with drink names like – ‘Sadie The Goat’, ‘Booby Trap’, and ‘Slim Shady’ – it still emits a certain sense of playfulness.
Awards are scattered on the bar shelves as the bartenders prepare drinks with a stern look all to the tune of rock music.
The bar menu features an extensive selection. Food offerings from brunch, dinner, and daily specials. A short grocery list featuring items both commercial and homemade and a few merch thrown in for good measure. Finally, there is a rotation of cocktails and a good selection of whiskey on tap.
The menu also features an illustrated tale of the “Dead Rabbit Gang” lead by John Morrissey which is unique, might be a little excessive but is definitely badass.
You Get The Feels
Bar manager Jillian Vose, who joined the Dead Rabbit team about a year into their opening, was in London for the recent World’s Best awards and visited a few other bars that also made the cut.
“I think the difference is that it’s not just one thing,” she says. “The Dead Rabbit feels like a bar that gives you a hug; it’s cozy, you feel comfortable there.
“The music’s right, the lighting’s right, the staff are friendly. You’re not waiting forever for a drink… all of those things come together to make a special bar.”
The bar’s location which is right in the heart of wall street played an important role in its success.
“I think the reason why it works is because of where it is,” Vose says. “Because of the location and what went on there in the time the bar was set in. It wouldn’t be the same anywhere else.”
The Dead Rabbit has garnered a number of awards since it first started six years ago including at Tales of the Cocktail where they took home World’s Best Cocktail Menu, Best American Cocktail Bar and International Bartender of the Year award (McGarry). Being named the best in the world definitely takes the cake but its not finish line for them.
“For us, it definitely it brings a sense of completion — but I don’t want you to think we’re done,” McGarry says. “The way we operate is: We want to improve every single day. We’re aggressively trying to improve things; we’re constantly working on maintenance issues.
“It’s very much a job completed … but the way we look at these things is, our arrival point is very much our next destination point.”
McGarry notes “It’s not easy to get here, but it’s a hell of a lot easier winning an award than keeping them, you know?”
Vose agrees. “It’s more terrifying!” she says of life after being named the best in the world.
“We won this award that we wanted for so long, [but] now there’s more eyes on you, more expectations, people are coming for you.”
Still, Vose sees the positive side of winning: “That’s what’s great about awards; they push people to become better.”
The pressure to succeed isn’t lost on McGarry, nor is he resting on his laurels.
“People are coming into this bar and are expecting the world’s best so seeing dust or chewing gum under a seat… there are so many things to keep an eye on.
“You’re constantly looking at things through a lens of ‘If I were a guest coming into the world’s best bar, what would I expect?’
“When you’re constantly asking yourself those questions, constantly trying to tweak things and improve things, I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the point where we’re happy.”
“It means an awful lot, but we’re not getting carried away,” he says with a laugh.