This week, “Cocktail College” takes a trip to Ireland with Jack McGarry, owner of the Dead Rabbit, to discuss a rare Irish whiskey classic cocktail — the Tipperary. Tim and Jack dive into the history of the cocktail as well as the history of the Irish whiskey category in general. Tune in for more.
Jack McGarry’s Tipperary Recipe
- 1 ½ ounces Irish whiskey
- 1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth
- ½ ounce green chartreuse
- 2 dashes absinthe
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Add two dashes of Angostura bitters, two dashes of absinthe, green chartreuse, sweet vermouth, and Irish whiskey into a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir until chilled.
- Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.
Check Out the Conversation Here
Tim McKirdy: I think that’s as good a place to start as any. We’ll jump into this. It’s the “Cocktail College” podcast. We’re here in the studio. Jack McGarry. Jack, welcome.
Jack McGarry: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
T: Thanks for joining us. Trekking uptown for you today.
J: Yep. It’s very rare that I get out of the Financial District so I welcome all opportunities to-
T: You don’t make it into the streets that are numbered.
J: No. Very rare. It’s crazy, when I first moved over to the city, I couldn’t believe that everybody was talking about staying in their own neighborhoods. Because back home you go wherever, just get in the car. But fast forward 12 years, I’m one of those people.
T: Here you are, you don’t make it.
T: Unlike the U2 song “Where the Streets Have No Name,” you only stick around where the streets have names.
T: That wasn’t planned. Bono, didn’t he do something recently? F*ck, that guy.
J: He was drinking in a pub recently or so in Midtown, I remember seeing-
T: Was he?
J: One of my friends was in the — I think it was the Ear Inn or something like that.
T: In the Ear Inn?
J: And they took a picture and he was behind him just drinking a pint.
T: Just Bono.
T: Middle of the day, shades on.
J: Was the middle of the day, crazy.
T: The Edge. We don’t need to get into U2 here. I’ll tell you what we are going to get into though, the Tipperary. We’ve come a long way.
J: From Tipperary.
T: Exactly, it’s the Tipperary cocktail. I’m looking forward to it.
J: That drink has come a long way, you know in terms of when it started out and how it’s developed. So it’s great, it’s one of the few but one of the better Irish whiskey classic cocktails.
T: That’s what I want to get into in a little bit, because that baffles me. Same with Scotch, we’ll get into that though. But first of all, for those who haven’t heard of it, what’s in the Tipperary?
J: So it’s in what I would call the Bijou family. So the Bijou is a gin-based drink, which is equal parts gin — London dry gin — Italian vermouth, which is sweet vermouth, and green chartreuse or chartreuse, there’s different variants. You’ll get Bijous or Tipperary with the green and yellow variance where the Tipperary is essentially you just swap out the gin for Irish whiskey. But I’m not a lover of the equal parts the same way I’m not a lover of the equal parts Bijou where we prefer a more Manhattan-type formula for our Tipperary because the green chartreuse is a very dominating ingredient.
T: It’s pungent, in a good way.
J: So yeah, that’s what’s in it. You start down as you would start in Manhattan and I prefer mine strained up with a twist of lemon or orange.
The History of the Tipperary
T: Nice. And let’s get into the history first before we delve into what the hell is going on with there not being enough Irish whiskey classic cocktails. I don’t get it, but let’s get into the history. What do we know about this drink?
J: So what I know is based off Dave Wondrich. So Dave, I’m sure you’ve heard that name plenty of times here. He’s the Professor X, if you will, of the cocktail industry. So I actually asked him, because the first time I saw it was in 1916 in Hugo Ensslin’s book. And it was along those lines of equal parts Bijou-esque type Tipperary, so that’s where I first saw it. But there’s earlier references predating that with some of those recipes having creme de menthe and stuff like that, which it’s more Emerald or that type of Tipperary, but I think that type is disgusting. It’s Stinger-esque almost. It’s just not very good. But that’s where I first came across it. And obviously when we first opened the Dead Rabbit, our whole emphasis was on drinks from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. And our Manhattans, when we started out all of our classics were much more prevalent on the vermouth because that’s essentially how it started out. Vermouth was the base, and then the modifier was the spirit that just basically added a bit more oomph. Obviously over the decades and you have the James Bond movement and all of this type of stuff and it was perceived as like a masculine thing, the lower amount of vermouth was in there. And to me that was a detriment to the drinks. When we first came across Tipperary, I applied that same metric of let’s double the vermouth, let’s have the vermouth as a star and then invert that with the base spirit, which for the Tipperary was obviously Irish whiskey. So we made ours with equal parts, equal parts sweet vermouth. And then the Irish whiskey we used was a single pot distillery whiskey because that was the style that made Irish whiskey famous, and it sold Scotch, seven to one.
T: Back in the day, right?
J: Yeah, back in the day. And obviously Scotch now has completely dominated and continues to do so, but obviously it’s much tighter now. I think last week we had 45 distilleries, whereas when I did my first tour we had three, so it’s come a long way.
T: Irish whiskey is a category that I hold dear to my heart. I enjoy drinking it a lot. Am I right in thinking the Ensslin calls at Bushmills for this specifically in the recipe?
J: The recipe? Ensslin?
T: Maybe. I might be making that up but thought that I had read that, but that might be wrong obviously.
J: Bushmills 10 Year Old with the — it’s a single malt. It makes a beautiful Tipperary because it’s green apple, very floral, very mineral.
T: It’s one of the great bargains out there if you’re buying Irish whiskey, Bushmills 10.
J: Bushmills is phenomenal. Well obviously you’re from the land of beautiful single malts where Ireland doesn’t get the same recognition for its single malts, and deservedly so to an extent. But the single malts from Bushmills have always been world class and that’s probably-. There’s a lot of Scottish influence in obviously the north of Ireland, so the malt out of there’s fantastic. And as you said, the price point, you’re not going to get much better than that.
T: It’s brilliant. I think they just brought back the 12 as well. Am I making that up?
J: No, that’s back.
T: And also the rare cask stuff they’re doing these days too.
J: That’s fantastic. So Bushmills is actually our base in our house Irish Coffee. So that’s the original Bushmills. It’s not the single malt, but all of their marks are excellent.
T: Sleeper hit there at the Dead Rabbit. Not that many people know about the old-
J: No, we keep it pretty quiet.
T: The most famous Irish Coffee in the world, definitely the most famous pub in America. Is that a slight to call the Dead Rabbit a pub by the way?
J: No, we fully embrace it. We’re in the process now of growing the company and our whole mission statement or purpose is to spread our love of the Irish pub and contemporary Irish culture. And we want to open up more Dead Rabbits because this country particularly, albeit not exclusively, but the Irish pub is maligned and pigeonholed this like dive bar shenanigans, shillaly, Irish flag in the front and somebody saying “Top of the morning.” But there’s absolutely no authenticity whatsoever.
T: People pouring clovers into pints of Guinness, don’t do that.
J: Complete. Hopefully, I don’t know if you can curse on this, but it’s complete bullsh*t. So my goal is to shine a light on contemporary Irish culture through our musicians, our makers and the products and everything. So that’s really what we’ve shifted towards in the past year. So we fully embrace the Irish pub, albeit our whole focus is we recognize our traditional roots, but we want to focus on what’s happening today and tomorrow in Ireland, as opposed to you walking in and you see a picture of a poet that’s been dead for 60 years. Probably a great poet, but absolutely no relevance today.
T: I’ll say this, and this has nothing to do with cocktails, but this is one thing I’ve long believed that the Irish grasp on just… What’s the word that I’m looking for here? The Irish grasp of vocabulary, by the way, of all the English speaking nations that I know in the world, I feel like anyone I know from Ireland, I think they have a 10 times better vocabulary than anyone I’ve met from England for sure. I don’t know what that is, but it’s a poetic country.
J: Yeah, you listen to somebody like you would see Colin Farrell, you’d watch him in his movies and you’d think that he’s an idiot. But when you watch him give an interview or something, the way he talks is fantastic and it’s ironic, but it’s been that way.
J: For as long as I can remember, and obviously way back before my time.
T: I would say this as well. Exciting one here today just on a personal level because I believe the Dead Rabbit’s the only bar with the representative such as yourself here to appear on this show where I’ve been to with all my family.
J: Oh no way.
T: My family were here earlier this year and we did that stupid thing you do when people are visiting New York and we walked from Williamsburg to the Financial District as you do, completely normal.
J: Did you do the bridge and then walk-
T: Did the bridge, which is great fun. But it’s like on any other Saturday, I’m not walking 10 miles.
J: It’s a big dander.
T: But it was good fun. And we ended up at the Dead Rabbit, had a pint, had a burger. It was fantastic. I want to get back to Ensslin though, by the way. What do we know about this guy? Do you know anything else about this guy? I was doing a little bit of research on this guy, some interesting stuff.
J: His book was hugely instrumental because before that you would’ve had-
T: Craddock would’ve been before.
J: Craddock was after him. He was in the ’30s.
T: Craddock apparently plagiarized the guy.
J: Yep, he did, 100 percent. So he definitely did, particularly the Harry MacElhone from Harry’s Bar in Paris and he worked in Ciros in London. So he had an excellent book and obviously they were all plagiarizing each other. But Craddock was obviously a well-renowned plagiarizer. But Ensslin, his book was I believe the first time an Aviation was documented. There’s a bunch of firsts in that book. So I remember reading that book way back when, and it was obviously hugely instrumental. That book was the last book-. The 1910s is where we cut it off for Dead Rabbit with our first cocktail book when we launched in 2013. We’re 10 years old next year. But it’s a fantastic book, and the recipes in there are actually pretty good, even though I’m saying the equal parts-
T: Yeah, but a lot of them don’t hold up from that year.
J: No. Craddock’s particularly, there’s some good drinks in there, but there’s a lot of absolute nonsense in that book. I feel like there was stuff just stuffed in there that had — this is the biggest book we’ve ever produced, where 80 percent of the drinks are rubbish.
T: So 1916, as you mentioned, first reference of the Aviation. Some people say they created the Aviation, who knows? That may be a crime, I’m not sure. Depends how you feel about creme de violette.
J: I’m not a big lover of it.
T: Why did we bring it back, creme de violette? We should have consigned it to history. First time the Tipperary is written down. Comes out four years after the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Do we think that had something to do with it? Because it’s 1916, so this is on the cusp of World War I. When did the first World War begin, around that time?
T: 1914, finishes in ’18. So bang in the middle of World War I. “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary,” if folks aren’t familiar with the song A) look it up, B) it’s a song that became synonymous with soldiers. British soldiers, Irish soldiers, World War I, longing for home. Do you think that plays a role in that being popular at the time? Plays a role in the naming of this drink? Because Ensslin’s not Irish, he’s not British.
J: I think it’s got to. You look at a lot of the names back then, they were taken like, Brigitte Bardot and there were a lot of Mary Pickford. They were just plucked from recognizing, what would you call, pop culture back then. Or God knows what the names will be when there’s people looking back 100 years from now? I don’t know if that’ll be a good thing or a bad thing. But I definitely think it would’ve had something part of it.
T: Because Tipperary is where, it’s like halfway between Cork and, I don’t know, I looked it up on the map early.
J: It’s in the heartland. It’s in that middle spot, so I believe it’s in Connacht. Because you’ve got the four, you’ve got Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht. Sorry for the Irish people that are listening if I’ve got that wrong. But I’m obviously from Ulster, so that’s where my knowledge is. But it’s down south.
T: Yeah, it is. And again, I don’t know anything particularly notable about it. So it leads me to believe-
J: They’re in Great Harlan County, that’s what I know. So Tipperary and Cork are big — Cork, Galway, and Tipperary. You would have who else? Kilkenny, they’re all big rivals.
T: What about Offaly? Where’s that?
J: Offaly would be further up, I believe. And I think Offaly has more football.
T: I think they do hurling. I don’t know.
J: Every county does hurling and football, but some of them specialize one over the other. Like Antrim, we’re better hurlers than we’re footballers. Dublin are better footballers, Gaelic football, I’m talking about, they’re better footballers than they are hurlers. But in some of these counties down south, there’s not much more to do. They’re born and they have a hurling stick in their hands and that’s what they do 24/7.
T: And they riff on cocktails or they name them after them anyway. Last word on Ensslin. Commits suicide 1929, poor guy dies by suicide in his 50s. Unrequited love. I appreciate a hopeless romantic. I feel bad for the guy.
J: I can’t imagine the recovery-type stuff back then was that great.
T: Not a lot of outreach for mental health, which is tough at the time. Definitely, tough one. But Ensslin, also the final thing as well, doesn’t even work anywhere particularly remarkable in New York where he is based. I saw somewhere online, which sounds pretty harsh. It’s like, “Worked in a string of second-tier bars.” I’m like, poor dude. Came up with a good book, though.
J: Well, to see him, you look at the person that created the Cosmopolitan, she was a stripper or is a stripper. I don’t know if you can — but that’s her background. And listen. Sometimes if he, say, did create the Tipperary or the Aviation, it’s those people who probably are more simplistic that create these legacy cocktails where you go in the cocktail bars now it’s 15 ingredients and you’re like, “Can we not do this more simple?”
T: Exactly. And this is a simple one. All right. So we’ve gone through the ingredients before, but I just want to bring this up in terms of Irish whiskey cocktails. We have the Irish Coffee. We’re covering the Tipperary today. Beyond that, why am I?
J: There’s not a lot more. You have the Cameron’s Kick, which-
T: Cameron’s Kick is the one that I just spent a long pause trying to figure out what that was there.
J: And then you have the Wild Irish Rose, which is a fizz-type cocktail.
T: It’s news to me.
J: You have the Emerald, which again has gone through many iterations. And beyond that you’re starting to get into much more vaguer territory. But when you look at a lot of the books primarily in the 19th century, they just stated whiskey.
T: But why do we think that is then? Because you mentioned pot still as well before, which is Ireland’s signature style.
J: Yes, 100 percent. Yeah, definitely.
T: Why are we not seeing more of that? I think it’s fantastic sipping whiskey, but it has a complex mouthfeel, incredible profile. Has notes that no other whiskeys have.
J: It’s stunning. Yeah, it’s my favorite style of Irish whiskey and I’m glad to see it coming back. But I’m with you, when you look at those books from that era, I’m like, why does it not specify that? But you’ll see it in a lot of — you see some specificity in terms of rye, it will say like Monongahela rye or rye or stuff like that. But the likes of Wondrich, he would — and obviously this is speculative or at least strategically speculative, but he would say if it says whiskey, there’s a good chance that was most likely Irish back in the 19th century. Because a lot of the records indicate that it was outsell and Scotch. Some of the figures he was saying were seven to one. So I think that’s plausible, it was in probably a lot of punches and stuff like that. But when the cocktail industry, when Ensslin wrote that book, that was really when the Irish whiskey industry was starting to taper off. Because the Scots were making big moves, particularly with branding. So a lot of the Irish whiskey distillers were selling their product to Republicans and merchants and bonders, stuff like that. And they were modifying it or doing whatever. But the Scotch were amazing branders right from the get go.
T: Johnnie Walker.
J: Big time. And obviously it was an Irish guy who created the continuous still and his coffee. And he didn’t have much success in Ireland. Whereas the Scots realized right away, we can blend our potent highland malts and make it more accessible. And they were much more savvy than the Irish distillers. And there’s a story of Joe Kennedy coming to Ireland to try and bring some of the stuff over during Prohibition. And the Irish were like, “No, we’re good law-abiding citizens.” And he went to Scotland and he got what he needed to get. So that’s really after Prohibition, and obviously the internal turmoil in Ireland towards, you look at the 1930s and ’40s, it was really on its knees. And the Irish Coffee, coincidentally, I don’t think if we had had the Irish Coffee, we might have landed on a place where there would’ve been no Irish whiskey distilleries because that was really the Trojan horse that started the initial recovery. And obviously when things kicked off in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.
T: Crazy, though, that you mentioned there before three distilleries within living memory. Down to three distilleries in Ireland.
J: When we opened the bar we went to a bar in Brooklyn to research a concept called the standing bar. Because the Dead Rabbit when initially opened was all historically focused. And it was a bar called Primates that had this — I think it’s closed now — in Brooklyn. But we went over and we checked it out and we quickly realized that in downtown, in the Financial District, people finishing work and women in high heels and stuff, they don’t want to be standing, they want to sit down. But when I go into any bar I’m looking at the lights, the soap, the quality of the toilet paper. I’m looking at every single thing that they’re doing. And we looked at their back bar, they had all these amazing Scotches from all the different regions and they had all these eaux de vie and amari and stuff like this. But when it came to Irish whiskey, they didn’t have one. And we actually asked the bartender, “Do you have any Irish whiskey?” Because they figured there’d be a dusty bottle of Jameson in the corner or whatever. And he said no. And we said, “But you’re a cocktail bar.” He had a classic cocktail menu. I was like, “Well how do you make classic Irish whiskey cocktails like the Irish Coffee?” Which is our biggest classic cocktail. But he’s like, “Oh, we just use bourbon.” And that’s really when we were like — it was crazy. And that’s when the patriotic part came out and we were like, when we opened this bar, we’re going to have the biggest Irish whiskey selection. And when we opened and had that, people like you were coming in and asking us about Irish whiskey because they thought we were authorities, but we hadn’t a clue anything about Irish whiskey. And it was really then when the likes of you were coming in and asking us questions. And that’s when I was like, I actually need to research this and know what I’m talking about. And I went on a tour in 2013, ’14. And there were three distilleries. Did you know it was four-days long? I did the tour, I met the master distillers and master blenders, all the key people. And then I did it there a couple years ago and I did 34.
T: Going to say, because you wrote the book, which the title escapes me. I apologize.
J: “From Barley to Blarney.”
T: And that was, you must have done the tour in 2017, the book comes out in 2018, 2019.
J: And it’s already obsolete because there’s 45 distilleries now, so we’ll probably have to do an updated version.
The Ingredients in Jack McGarry’s Tipperary
T: Well for the longest time the Irish whiskey category was the Jameson category really. But it’s really not the case anymore. Well let’s jump into that because we’ve spoken about the rest of the cocktail, we’ve spoken about the ingredients, but let’s break it down ingredient by ingredient, and starting with Irish whiskey. For this cocktail, what do you think is the best fit, whether it’s pot still, single malt blend, what do you think works best for this drink?
J: Yeah, so we actually released another book a couple months ago called “Patty Drinks.” And that’s us owning the derogatory term and saying — because when we came over here, Irish whiskey was synonymous with the Pickleback. And again, I couldn’t believe in America when I came over, I’m like, “You’re drinking it with what?” And that’s when we really set out to showcase how do you use Irish whiskey in cocktails because as you alluded to, we have single pot still is unique to us, but we pretty much do everything else that the Scotch whiskey industry does in that we make single grain and we make single malt and then single pots, there’ll be a unique one. And then we hover our blends, which is basically a mixture of at least two of the previous three categories. But they all play very, very differently when it comes to making drinks. So the likes of shaken drinks work really well with the single grain because it’s quite sweet and neutral. The blends would work well in shaken drinks as well. But some of the blends, particularly the blends that have a high pot still or a high single malt percentage work pretty well in stirred drinks as well. The likes of your Manhattan’s, Tipperarys, Old Fashioneds, Vieux Carré, Sazerac, whatever. So examples of that would be like Jameson Black Barrel, would be Bushmills Black Booster. They’re predominantly made up of single pot still and single malt respectively. But in terms of the Tipperary, you need a very aggressive, assertive, base spirit to stand up against not only the sweet vermouth — the sweet vermouth obviously is very aromatic — but particularly with the Tipperary, the green chartreuse because it’s a very dominating ingredient. And I always remember Audrey Saunders saying, I think it was 2008 in Belfast, when she came over to do a connoisseur club with us at the Merchant Hotel, you got to think of flavors as a boxing ring. And a boxing fight should theoretically go all 12 rounds. Obviously in the UFC days today now, it’s a one punch and it’s game over. So I took that to heart in terms of, or even looking at it through, there should be a start, middle, and an end. And you need a strong assertive spirit to stand up to those other ingredients. So for me it’s single pot stills because if you said the aggressiveness, assertiveness, the viscosity, the spice really comes through in the Tipperary. But a single malt would work really well too. The likes of, we just talked a bit about Bushmills 10 Year Old. It works excellently in terms of single pot still. I’m a big lover of the Three Swallows from Power’s, single pot stills, Redbreast would work really well, it’ll bring a sherry component to it as well. And then the different finishes of the single malt, there’s a whole plethora now. But for me it’s Bushmills 10 Year Old and Knappogue 12 Year Old is another excellent one.
T: That Redbreast, by the way is an aside here, 21 I want to say it is. That might be my desert island bottle of whiskey.
J: That’s fantastic.
T: I love it.
J: Yeah, I’ve yet to taste… The only one I didn’t really like was the 100 percent sherry finish where Redbreast profile’s basically a third of the maturation profile of sherry. And that’s plan B for me, because sherry’s like chartreuse, just dominates. So that one I didn’t like, but everything else they’ve done is fantastic.
T: They make phenomenal whiskey. And no, I’m a big fan of that. I do have a bottle at home, it’s got less than a finger left and I’m just clinging onto it. Drop by drop. Prescription.
J: Well we’ve got plenty on the bar so we’ll keep you topped up.
T: I’ll be down there. You know what actually, I was having a Redbreast dinner not too long ago earlier this year. And it was down there in your neighborhood and I did end up at the Dead Rabbit for too long afterwards.
J: It’s like a vortex, people go for one drink and they come out five or six hours later.
T: Exactly. That’s what I usually say to people. I’m going out for one so I’ll be around until they kick me out. It is a great category, though. So you reckon therefore a blend, but an assertive blend for this?
J: So if we were going to do a blend, I would do the high pot still or the high single malt blend, so the likes of your Jameson Black Barrel, your Bushmills Black Bush Tailing Small Batch is a pretty high malt blend. I think it’s a 50/50 split. So those types of marks are really good. Because if you put a high-grain blend in there, the likes of your Jameson original, Tullamore, Bushmills original, they’re going to just completely sit in the background and the drink will be too sweet because obviously you’re using quite a substantial amount of green chartreuse. So you want to cut that with a high ABV, high spice, high floral-type of mixture or product. So that’s what I would use on the blends. And then as I said, for me on the single malt, I would be using either Bush 10 or Knappogue 12. And then for the single pot stills, I would probably only go with one. It’d be Powers John’s Lane, because to me that’s the most indicative of the 19th century-style single pot still. Because it’s super viscous, super spice. It’s just an excellent product at a great price point.
T: And as we’ve said, there’s probably not going to be that many Irish whiskey cocktails on this podcast. So it would be remiss of us not to also mention your co-author on the book there, Tim Hurley.
J: So he’s got a-
J: So it’s going pretty well. His is great, I would say it’s a versatile application in the cocktail industry. So it works really well in shaken drinks, and it can hold its own in stirred drinks. But again, I would say to Tim, to his face, in a Tipperary it just gets lost.
T: 100 percent, horses for courses as we like to say.
J: But he’s doing a great job. It’s fantastic.
T: Yeah, this whiskey, I believe it’s a study in cask finishing, is it not? I believe it’s from five different continents.
J: Yes. So he works with a distillery. So the guy who actually became the third distillery in Ireland — that created the third distillery — Cooley, John Teeling, he sold his distillery to Beam Suntory and then the family opened up two distilleries. So the sons used their cut of whatever money they got from the deal, I think the deal was $75 million. And they opened the Teeling distillery in Dublin. So they were the first distillery to distill in Dublin from the 1970s after John Pars and Sons and John Jameson and Sons closed because they amalgamated everything in Midleton Distillery.
T: They went out to Midleton.
J: So that’s a fantastic story that they did that, whereas John Teeling reopened or he changed the Harp Brewery.
T: Yeah, that’s right.
J: So it’s in Dundalk, I believe. And he turned that into a distillery, the same modus operandi that he did with the Cooley, because Cooley was an ethanol producer and he turned it into a distillery, whereas he got a brewery and turned it into a distillery.
T: Which is also the case for our friends over there at Waterford too.
J: Yes, they took over the Guinness.
T: Guinness brewery that maybe never got up and running, but they’re making-
J: Their stuff’s exceptional.
T: That’s a study in terroir.
J: Yeah, it really is. Their stuff they’re doing is, they’re definitely worth a podcast. Probably not a “Cocktail College” one, but they’re the stuff they’re doing is, I think that’s-
T: John Rainer.
J: They’re doing an amazing job.
T: That guy likes to dial in.
J: Yeah, he does.
T: On place.
J: So John Teeling opened up the Great Northern Distillery. And that’s where Tim works with those guys because they’re pretty much-. They create beautiful distillates and mature their stuff in a whole host of different finishes. And Tim has gone in and basically picked what he’s liked.
T: I hate to be very reductive here, but for our American listeners, somewhat similar to an MGP scenario whereby, we talk about the number of distilleries in the country. But the number of brands is double or triple that.
J: It’s ridiculous.
T: Thanks to distilleries such as that.
J: Yeah, John Teeling and that was his strategy. He opened up Cooley to sell juice — like distillate — to Sainsburys, Marks & Spencers, Tesco, a bar down the street. Everybody could go and that’s a good thing because it democratizes the space. But it’s not a great thing in terms of consumer education because it just dilutes the messaging. But I think there’s more pros than cons with it. But he has basically done the exact same thing with Great Northern Distillery so there’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different whiskey labels now. So up until recently, we had 300 labels of whiskey and I think we’re the first bar ever that has brought on a director of Irish whiskey. I sat down with him. I said, “I don’t want to be the biggest anymore. I want to have very tight stuff that we’re very excited about.” Because again, we can’t train it, we can’t scale it, we can’t give a great experience for it. So we’ll be probably in and around a 60 to 80 territory of stuff that we’re really, really excited about. And that will change. We’ll keep it that tight and some stuff will go and stuff will come in. Because when you’re making… Tim’s doing a great job, but theoretically you’re taking the same juice and repackaging it.
T: Exactly. We’ll tie this one up on the John Teeling front. A friend of mine, former colleague, also I believe your paths have crossed in the past. Shane Mulvany.
J: Oh, Shane used to work with us.
T: He used to work at the Dead Rabbit. You know what, actually? This is a complete detour here. March, I forget the date. It was a weeknight, might have been a Wednesday, might have been a Thursday. Last bar I went to before the pandemic.
J: Oh no way.
T: Dead Rabbit.
J: Did you get Covid?
T: I did not.
J: Because the last night the bar was closed my wife was in and had a very ambivalent attitude towards the pandemic at that point I thought this was all-
T: You guys were about to launch a new menu.
J: Yeah, I think the day that we closed.
T: That day, because I was there, Shane was serving me.
J: So you’re probably one of the only people that tasted that menu.
T: 100 percent because yeah — that’s a good one to note, by the way. Shane said to me, though, I interviewed him for a story once. He said John Teeling, he said, “Keep an eye on this guy if you don’t know him already.” He said, “Guys just up there playing massive games of Irish whiskey chess.” And I enjoyed that. So if you’re not familiar with John Teeling, many people will be familiar with the Teeling name because it’s out there, it’s on shelves. But keep an eye on what he’s doing.
J: He’s brilliant. The sons are doing a great job. The stuff that they’re doing with the Teeling Distillery in Dublin’s excellent. But a funny story with John. I stopped drinking seven years ago and I remember he came over to the bar and he came in and he just started drinking Diet Coke. And I’m like, “You don’t drink whiskey, you’re a whiskey guy?” And he goes, “Jack, I used to sell bras, like women’s lingerie and I don’t wear that either, so I don’t have to drink my own whiskey.” He’s a proper character. So he’s kicking on now, so I hope he’s here for many years to come. But he’s brilliant, the passion. He met me that one time and every couple of weeks you’ll get an email from him, all these details and figures and stuff, all the stuff that he’s in about Irish whiskeys, he’s really done an amazing job.
T: Phenomenal. All right. Irish whiskey. I think we’ve done that justice.
T: I think we have. Like I said, there might not be that many opportunities. So I relish this one. Sweet vermouth. Next component of the drink. Italian vermouth as you’re calling it.
J: So back then, when you looked at the books from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, obviously vermouth came in at the back end of the 19th century and you would’ve seen the first cocktails that were — obviously “cocktail” is a family. Right now it’s used as a universal, like a cocktail is anything that has two ingredients essentially. But back in that time, a cocktail was very specific. The mixed drink industry was made up of all these different families. And the big one back then would’ve been punch. And then when Americans got fed up of, or wanted to be seen to have less time and they didn’t want to say by drinking a punch bowl that they had a couple of hours of uncommitted time, the punch got shortened in the sours and fizzes and fixes and toddies and stuff like that. But the cocktail was one of those creations. And the cocktail was defined, I believe properly, there’s obviously references to it before, but the first time was in 1806 as water, sugar, bitters, and booze. And one of the cocktails that came out of that would’ve been the Vermouth Cocktail. So the Vermouth Cocktail was essentially vermouth as your base spirit. You might have had some sugar or some modifier. So curaçao, maraschino, chartreuse would’ve maybe been another one in bitters. And then people started adding base spirits to it, such as whiskey, gin. And then obviously it went into the Martinez, the Martini, the Manhattan, and the Tipperary. So there’s a whole lineage there. But vermouth back then, the name obviously comes from wermut, which is wormwood. And it would’ve been heavily bitter. That component has been dialed back. So when we first opened the bar, we macerated wormwood in our vermouth to give it that same bitterness and then added the curaçao, the maraschino, whatever the modifier was from that recipe. And then you would’ve had half the amount. So say you would’ve had two ounces of vermouth, you would’ve had one ounce of whiskey or gin or whatever it called for. And then every one of those drinks we laced with are sprayed absinthe. Because absinthe was used back then as salt and pepper essentially for cocktails. So yeah, vermouth is a big category, but as I said back in the day — detour there, but basically there were two typologies of vermouth. You would’ve had Italian vermouth, which is Rossi vermouth, Turin is the area that heavily produces that. And you would’ve had French vermouth. So Italian vermouth was sweet vermouth, what we would know as sweet vermouth. And then French vermouth was what we know as dry vermouth. And obviously both in Italy and France, now they make both sweet and dry vermouth, so that’s where it all became very cloudy. But when I say Italian vermouth, that’s what I mean by that.
T: And historically you’ll see that in books as well.
J: Oh absolutely. So when it says Italian vermouth, that means sweet. And French vermouth means dry.
T: Where are you getting your wormwood from? You going down to Kalustyans?
J: Yeah, so that’s where we got it. Yeah, that’s where everybody gets everything. It’s funny, when I sat down here, we have a head of prep who has a lab on the fifth floor and I just saw on my Amex card it popped up 200 bucks. And that’s where he is right now.
T: He’s around the corner. We’re close.
J: So the whole cocktail industry, that’s where they all shop.
T: On a Wednesday afternoon
J: Geeking out.
T: They don’t have, what is it, dipped — I’m asking producer Keith here — dipped incense? I don’t know. We went on a bit of an incense deep dive yesterday. Sorry. If you haven’t dipped in incense, it’s cheap. Go down the Rabbit for yourselves, listener. There we go. But sweet vermouth, heavy wormwood if you’re not infusing it yourself. What are you looking for here? Is it something like, this has come up before in shows: Carpano Antica?
J: I’m not a big lover of Carpano Antica. I’m not a lover of Punt e Mes in certain drinks because they’re both very aggressive in different ways. For sweet vermouth I much prefer, what are we using, a Dolin Rouge because it’s restrained. The Cocchi Torino is pretty good. So a more balanced delicate one because to me, and in that cocktail particularly, you want… The vermouth binds everything together. It’s the bridge connecting the chartreuse with the whiskey. Whereas you put Carpano, I just don’t like Antica. It’s never really landed with me. It tastes very savory, very umami-driven. But Punt e Mes definitely has applications.
J: In drinks like in Negroni, a Punt e Mes Negroni works really well. It works really well in certain drinks to give it an edge. But for the Tipperary, I prefer a much more restrained sweet vermouth.
T: So Dolin.
J: Dolin would be my preference here. I’m a big fan of Dolin Rouge.
T: I like Cocchi as well.
J: I don’t like the Dolin dry and that’s the problem with some of the dry vermouth. A lot of them taste like plastic bags because they overuse some botanicals. So you want to be careful with the dry vermouth. But listen, the Martini Rossi and the Martini Dry are pretty good.
T: Solid, you can find them.
J: Yeah, they’ll do the job. They’re not the standard bearer of each category, but they do a good job.
T: But they don’t taste bad either or don’t stand out. I had a Martini recently, I’m not going to name the vermouth, but I actually had to send the first one back because I was like, wait. I like to drink a Martini dry, I specified that when I did it. And I didn’t want to be a d*ck, but I was like, “Look, there’s something wrong with this.” And then they said they made a second one and I’m like, “Oh, it’s the vermouth that you’re using. What vermouth are you using?” They told me and I’m like, “Oh okay. Never mind then.”
J: Well that’s the problem because you’re seeing — I don’t know what vermouth it was, but a lot of the new vermouths are problematic. Do you know? Because you’ll see ones made in America, ones made in places that have no heritage of that. And I remember when I was much younger, well I’m not a bartender anymore, but when I was first starting out, I would’ve made Coca-Cola syrup, like cola syrup. And I remember a luminary in London, a guy called Henry Bessin, who passed away there 10 years ago. And he said, “Jack, just use Coca-Cola. They’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.” And I remember him saying that. I’m like, “That actually makes total sense.” So the people who have been making this stuff for a hundred years generally know what they’re doing.
T: Two years behind the bar, I’m going to recreate Coca-Cola. It comes up a fair amount. It’s just knowing limitations and all. There’s a time and a place when it makes sense. Green chartreuse is next. There is no substitute for this.
J: Oh it’s green chartreuse. I prefer the green over the yellow. So you have the two variants there, with the yellow being more what I would say like saffron/cumin-driven and it’s obviously 40 percent, I believe. So it doesn’t have as much of a bite. It’s still very pungent, but it’s more restrained than the green. Where the green is more eucalyptus, more savory, green herbaceousness, and it’s obviously 55 percent. The original Tipperary, as we alluded to, was equal parts. And that to me is just — it’s the same with the Bijou, which is essentially the same as the Tipperary, albeit with gin instead of Irish whiskey. But it’s just entirely unbalanced and it’s too sweet. So again, that might’ve been representative of that time because drinks in the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s, which coincided with the Prohibition, but drinks got very sweet. Whereas now thankfully our palates are drier and a bit more sophisticated.
T: Well it’s a luxury back then, wasn’t it? Because obviously sugar is around but it’s a luxury. Whereas these days, we talk about Coca-Cola, we try to avoid sweetness if anything. Yeah, it’s weird.
J: Well it’s funny. When I first started as a bartender, I remember reading one of the cocktail books at the time and somebody wax lyrical about green chartreuse and tonic as a highball. I was at a cocktail bar. You know, what you would associate now with a handlebar mustache and tattoos and bartending in Williamsburg or something.
J: I was that guy back then and I went into bars in Belfast and asked for green chartreuse and tonic, and you’re from Glasgow so you can imagine the response for who’s this kid.
T: Reminds me of-
J: By the way, the green chartreuse and tonic is disgusting. So I definitely don’t recommend anybody drinking it.
T: Well we spoke about Bono earlier. Yeah, Ear Inn. I was in the Ear Inn not that long ago.
J: The Ear’s a great bar.
T: So the same night that I was at the Dead Rabbit as well, the final night before Covid, the Ear Inn was on the stop on the bar crawl. But I was there more recently. I like to do a pilsner and an aquavit as my boiler maker.
J: Yeah, that’s a good one.
T: It’s a very good one. I picked that one up from Long Island Bar. I’ll give them credit for that.
J: That’s a great bar, they do a good job too.
T: They do. Went to Ear Inn with many members of the VinePair staff and I said, “Oh I’m going to do a pilsner, I’ll have an aquavit.” Everyone turns around and says, “Not going to have an aquavit in here.” I’m like, “This is a classic bar. They’ll definitely have aquavit.” Anyway, I said… She just comes over. “What will you have?” I said, “I’ll have a pilsner, whatever you have pilsner-wise. Do you have aquavit?” And she said, “What’s that?” And I say, “It’s like gin but it’s carraway.” Lost on her completely. If anything that’s her failing, she’s working in the bar industry. Anyway, if anyone from the Ear Inn is listening, almost certainly not. Guys, I got some good aquavit recommendations, sit one behind the bar. I’ll drink it.
J: They should have aquavit.
T: They should. But to your chartreuse and tonic point there, I looked like a total wanker.
J: I definitely wouldn’t advocate going into the Ear Inn and ordering an aquavit.
T: No. Someone should have told me. Don’t think they have it down in my local Maggie May’s either.
J: I’ve been in the Ear plenty of times. I think getting a beer when it’s busy there, you’re lucky enough.
T: Yeah, exactly. No, I think I actually resorted to a shot of Irish whiskey with it as well. Might have been Jameson. There we go. I have Angostura down here as another ingredient we haven’t talked about yet.
J: Yeah, so definitely bitter. What I said about absinthe being the salt and pepper. Obviously bitters or I would keep using bitters in pretty much all drinks because they have an amazing binding property in cocktails. So Angostura works really well and I’ve seen some recipes with orange bitters. That works. It just depends on what orange bitters because some orange bitters tend to be quite soapy and you’ve got a lot of herbs in the vermouth and the chartreuse. But definitely Angostura. I personally would have a dash or two of absinthe just because in our recipe, we only have I believe a quarter or a half an ounce of the chartreuse and then it’s one and a half, one and a half. So one and a half vermouth, one and a half of the single pot still. So I would dial up the chartreuse, add a couple of dashes of absinthe and a couple of dashes of Angostura just to dry it all out. So that’s what I would do. So the next time you come into the bar, you’ll have to try.
T: I’ll be down there.
J: I’ll give it with your pilsner and shot of Irish whiskey.
T: What’s your aquavit selection look like?
J: It’s pretty good. We have five different aquavits, believe it or not, so pretty sophisticated for a pub. We have the Rugbraud, so it’s like a bread aquavit. We have the Linie.
T: Linie’s good.
J: And then the guys upstairs have a bunch of different aquavits for different directions, which always bothers me. I’m like, “Why do we have five aquavits? Two’s got to be enough.”
T: I’m with those guys. I’m like, “I’ll take them. Five.” You can also order, I do believe I speak from personal experience, I like to do this on Thanksgiving for no reason. A baby Guinness. Did that after the Redbreast dinner.
J: We serve baby Guinness. It bothers me to no end, but we do serve it.
T: Why does that bother you? Tell the folks what a baby Guinness is in case anyone’s unfamiliar.
J: It’s Kahlua or Tia Maria. So a coffee or a sweet liqueur and then it’s floated with a cream liqueur but it’s just a sh*t drink.
T: It looks good.
J: Yeah, so does a pint of Guinness.
T: No, I have a Guinness and I have a baby Guinness.
J: The one that we don’t serve. So we serve that one because we have a nice coffee liqueur, Mr Black Coffee liqueur. And the cream liqueur we’re using at the moment because we’re trying to move away from Baileys because it has a place, but there’s much better cream liqueurs using quality Irish dairy and quality Irish whiskey. So the one we’re behind or two we’re behind, Coole Swan and Five Farms, they’re both excellent cream liqueurs. So we do it, the ones that we don’t do during St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish Car Bomb. We just don’t do it. Anybody asks for it, we don’t do it.
T: It’s bad taste.
J: Yeah, it’s extremely bad taste. But I was glad when everybody started getting offended a couple years ago. I’m like, well, good because this offends me. So if we’re not doing it anymore…
T: Yeah, if anyone’s listening, just don’t do it.
J: Just don’t do it. You won’t get it in Dead Rabbit anyway. You might get an ear.
T: You will grudgingly get an ear probably. Yeah, you might grudgingly get a Baby Guinness too. But anyway, avoid it apparently. Go for the aquavit selection. I’m going to ask you to repeat yourself here, though, because you did talk through the specs there. But I’m going to ask you to go through it now for us as if you’re making the drink here today. Talk us through the preparation with the specs.
How to Make Jack McGarry’s Tipperary
J: Yeah, so generally before I start making a drink, you’ve obviously got all your utensils and you know the ingredients because we’ve talked about it. But you need for this drink a mixing glass, a stirring spoon, and a strainer, ice, and your glassware. So obviously your glassware, chill it, put it in the freezer. One thing I always say about, if there’s consumers listening, beware of what’s in your freezer. Because the freezers tend to take on the flavor of anything that’s in the freezer. And I’ve been in many homes where people want to show me their cocktail prowess and they take the block of ice out and there’s a bag of Brussels sprouts beside it, so it’s like a Brussels sprout-infused cocktail, whatever they’re making. And as I’m sure anybody here will attest, I’m not a big fan of Brussels sprouts at the best of times so.
T: Hey, it’s been a good couple of years for Brussels sprouts. I will say this, the renaissance is real.
J: Well the Brussels sprouts over here are very different to what we had back home. I remember tasting Brussels sprouts over here with the bacon and there was honey and stuff.
T: Honey, they nuke them as well.
J: Yeah, that’s not what it was when I was growing up. It was boiled in water to death.
T: Boiled, gray.
T: Buy some Arm & Hammer, folks, Arm & Hammer, you know, for the freezer, the baking soda. Stick it in there, you get those boxes, you can get it. This is an aside again as well. But I believe someone told me Armie Hammer is an heir to that fortune. I don’t know.
J: He hasn’t had a good couple of years.
T: He’s not had a good couple of years.
J: So he’d probably need that fortune because he’ll not be doing too much else.
T: Apparently Brussels sprouts and Armie Hammer can’t be doing well at the same time. Anyway, we digress.
J: So keep your freezer clean. But anyway.
T: Keep the ice in a box.
J: Keep it clean or keep it sealed. So you would have your freezer, make sure your glass is completely frozen or as cold as possible. And then when it comes to building the drink, I would always advocate particularly for at-home cocktail makers, starting with the cheapest ingredients first. Because a lot of the time you see people making or putting everything in and then when it comes to the Angostura and completely messing that up and then you have to throw everything out and it’s expensive. So start with your bitters. So one to two for me, I do one to two dashes of angostura, same again of absinthe. Pernod absinthe is a fine absinthe, obviously there’s better ones out there but it’s pretty easy to get. And then depending on your sweetness level, for me personally, I like a quarter-ounce of the green chartreuse, and then one and a half of the sweet vermouth, one and a half of the single pot still Irish whiskey or your Irish whiskey of choice. And then you would stir, so fill the mixing glass right to the top. It’s another mistake I see a lot of at-home bartenders make, they just put enough ice to meet the liquid level. But when that happens, the lower amount, the less amount of ice you use and more water you’re getting, you’re not going to get the same temperature because with stirring a drink you want to get it bitingly cold like minus 7 Celsius. Don’t ask me for the Fahrenheit because I still haven’t made that adjustment yet. And you want to bring in about a half an ounce to three-quarters of an ounce of water per drink. So if you’re not stacking the ice right to the top and if the ice isn’t dry ice, so what I mean by dry, it’s right out of the freezer as opposed to you’ve left it in the bucket for half an hour and it’s starting to sweat. So you want good quality ice, you want it to be dry, fill it right to the top, and stir it until and taste it as you go through. So get a straw and taste it to make sure, because with the stir drink, you want the temperature to be cold but a good stirred drink should be viscous, it should be silky. And I’m sure you have seen when you’re out, it’s probably one of the tougher skills for bartenders. They always mess up the stirring. There’s a handful of bartenders that have served me over the years, like Phil Ward being one of them. I remember he was actually the first bartender that ever served me in New York when I came over and he actually made a Tipperary. Yeah, that’s crazy, how weird?
T: Weird, I was drinking with Phil last night.
J: Were you?
J: No way. So he was behind the bar and it was that cocktail bar in Williamsburg off the side. Can’t remember what you call it.
T: He was at Death and Co., somewhere else before that?
J: Yes, but it was one where, it was back then when it was a lot of the bar, they were doing these star appearances.
T: Maison Premiere.
J: No, it was another one. So Maison Premiere just opened after this one. But anyway, whatever it was called, I went in and it was just opened and he was behind the bar on his phone. Terrible hospitality.
T: Phil? The worst.
J: He didn’t know who we were at that point. Not that it would. Even if he did, I’m sure the experience wouldn’t have been any different. But I remember we sat down and he made us a bunch of drinks and they were all… And I was like, “Is this the level?” Because we were coming over to open up a great cocktail bar and I thought that would’ve been relatively straightforward. And then this was the first bartender that served us and I was like, “Geez,” because the cocktails are unbelievable. And he made a drink called the Flipperary, which it wasn’t really a flip, it was his recipes essentially, this CM recipe that we use in the bar. But he made it and the silkiness was there, the temperature was unbelievable. And that was like, that’s the way stirred drinks need to be. But only those top-tier bartenders have that skill and it’s the same. You’ll see that skill with the dash, the way they use salt and pepper. When I say salt and pepper, I mean bitters and the consistency of their measurements and stuff. But yeah, so I digress. But you would always start out with the cheapest ingredients, build it, make sure you’re stirring it perfectly to get that perfect drink and then strain it. Now again, when you strain it, it’s another mistake you see, you’ll always see a lot of bartenders and their spackles of ice on the top. Make sure that that doesn’t happen because that affects the integrity of the experience, so make sure it’s strained. So we use a julep strainer, but when you have it, you make sure the gate’s completely closed and if it’s not closed or you’re using bad ice, I would advocate using the fine strainer to make sure that you’ve got all of the ice shards out and then you would do your twist. So I prefer a lemon twist because I think it brightens the whole drink up. And I don’t ever put the twist in the drink because I don’t like towards the end through osmosis or whatever, your drink would just taste more and more like lemon where you just want that little accent on the top. And that’s because my old philosophy with cocktails is that the first sip should be exactly the same as the last sip. So a big part of that’s garnish, a big part of that’s ice, there’s a lot of factors in there. But yeah, that’s how a would make a Tipperary.
T: What glassware are you going for here?
J: A Nick & Nora.
T: Nick & Nora, felt like a movie.
J: Not a big V-shaped. Although there are some lovely V-shaped cocktail glasses coming out these days.
T: There are, yeah.
J: But I prefer a Nick & Nora because it’s easier to handle, where a V-shaped Martini glasses, even though they’re smaller, and I am more along the lines of the sophisticated drinking culture. They’re very unforgiving if you tilt it even slightly wrong, where a Nick & Nora, you have a bit more give.
T: You do. Keeps cocktails colder for longer apparently as well, so they say. I haven’t done the experiments.
J: Haven’t had a drink last long enough.
T: It doesn’t last long. They’re not big enough for me. All right then, any final thoughts on the Tipperary before we move onto the next section of the show?
J: No, go to Dead Rabbit and try it.
T: Go to Dead Rabbit and try it.
J: Tell me what you think.
T: Hey, speaking of which, what are you doing on Nov. 29th?
J: Oh yeah.
T: I know what I’m doing.
J: Yeah, so we restructured the bar recently. So my longtime collaborator Sean, he has left to go and do his own project in Charleston. And obviously, my whole focus now is growing Dead Rabbit and moving away from all the crazy illustrative merchandise type stuff, and focusing on what’s happening back home and trying to lift the tide of all the wonderful stuff that’s going on in Ireland throughout all of our makers. So one of the fun things that we thought would be cool would be to do an Irish Christmas pop-up. And obviously you’re seeing there’s the proliferation of Christmas-type themed bars is pretty expansive, which has been kickstarted really with Greg Boehm’s Miracle, which is great. But with everything that we’re trying to do in Dead Rabbit now, we’re trying to make sure it’s strategically cohesive and integrated. So all of the decorations we’re getting from craft people in Ireland.
T: Nice. It’s called Jingle Jangle by the way.
J: So it’s an actual term from a song that was popularized by the Pogues. Like you were talking about Bono, Bono and Glen Hansard of the Frames would sing on Grafton Street every Christmas.
T: I just thought it was a Bob Dylan, “Jingle Jangle Morning.”
J: It’s not. But yeah, so David sang “The Old Triangle,” which is a very famous Irish song and there’s a sentence in it that says jingle jangle, and I was trying to think of a name that harkens back to Ireland but makes sense to American consumers. And Jingle Jangle is playful because the whole thing is also — the Dead Rabbit has been synonymous over the years of being very serious. And I want to bring a bit of levity and fun. Yes, we’re serious and yes, we want to do all these really cool things, but we also have a bit of fun and lean into Irish time. Christmas in Ireland is unreal, and I have to be fair, New York does it great as well. But it’s something that we — the Dead Rabbit is a winter bar and we really want to own it. So we close on the 28th of November, do all the decorations, flip the menu. We’ve done 10 really cool Christmas-inspired cocktails, heavily utilizing Irish spirits and Irish flavors, and we open on the 29th. So you’ll have 10 drinks of some food dishes, a lot of decorations.
T: That’s running through to the second?
J: It’s running right through the end of the first week of January.
T: Oh through the first week of January.
J: The first week of January. I think it’s the 3rd of January we go to the-
T: Oh nice, so right the way through.
J: Right the way through. And then we actually have an emerging Irish artist called Ryan McMullin coming over and he’s going to busk in front of the bar for 30 minutes while we hand out Irish Coffees to everybody. Maybe we’ll have somebody on the fire escape throwing snow. We’ll really go in.
T: You can check him out on Spotify, by the way, he’s up there. He’s a big guy.
J: He’s brilliant. Yeah, he’s very good. The big one everybody knows is Dermot Kennedy. But I think he’s in the next one right behind him. So he is somebody we’re very excited about and we’re actually going to be in a whole lot more of those. So for the 10th anniversary, we’ve got a whole bunch, like five Irish artists coming over and we’re going to be looking to do an Irish artist coming over once a month. So it’s exciting. But yeah, so he’ll be singing for half an hour outside and then we’ll go inside and it’ll just be a whole thing. So it’ll be exciting. So there’ll be some Christmas songs in the playlists. It’ll not be as… Because Miracle, I think every song is a Christmas song. We’re not going to go that far.
T: It’s pretty full on.
J: So I think we’ve got a music director who’s based in Ireland too. All of her playlists are emerging Irish artists. So you’re not going to go in and hear the Dubliners or Dropkick Murphys or any of that type of stuff. But the formula he’s using is one Christmas song every six songs. So that’s digestible for me and probably for the staff as well. They’d not be blowing their brains out every time they listen to Mariah Carey or something like that.
T: I tell you what, I know what I’m doing for December and the end of November.
J: It’ll be good fun. So I don’t think anybody will get offended by it. And if you go to Dead Rabbit for a pint of Guinness and Scotch eggs or whatever, they’re all still there.
T: They’ll still be there.
J: You can still get all that. Yeah, you’ll be there chilled with a pilsner.
Getting to Know Jack McGarry
T: Looking forward to it. All right, let’s do this. Quick hit questions to finish this, says here on the sheet of paper, what we like to say. Not that quick. Question number one though, what style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?
J: Irish whiskey, obviously. As I said, we have 300 labels on the back bar at the moment, but we’re looking to shrink that down to about 60 to 80. But even at that 60 to 80, it’s still by far more than anything else. So Irish whiskey, Irish spirits. We’re adding more to, obviously with the plethora of Irish gin, vodka. We’re also going to be doing a bit more Poitín, which is a spirit native to Ireland. But obviously the big thing would be Irish whiskey. We have a good Scotch selection, obviously our beverage director, he’s from Scotland so he’s-
T: He’s advocating for that one.
J: Every day going, there’s like a bit more Scotch on the back bar, but it’ll always be Irish whiskey.
T: Makes sense. Would’ve been weird if he came on and said mezcal. But it happens.
J: That’s the thing, we used to have a big selection of everything, but with the restructure we’ve really distilled everything down to four to five things, what we call our facts. So food, obviously you’ve been to the bar. So food’s a big thing that we do and we do it really well for a pub. Authenticity, so that’s our authenticity of experience and hospitality. Cocktails, which are Irish Coffee, Guinness, and Irish whiskey. And then speed, we like to do everything fast because a lot of these cocktail bars, and that’s why I’m delighted to call us a pub because I don’t want to be known as a cocktail bar. When you go to a lot of cocktail bars it’s stuffy, pretentious, and you wait 20 minutes for a drink. I want everything fast. When you go to Dead Rabbit, like your Tipperary or those types of drinks, we pre-dilute them and put them in the freezer and they’re served in seconds. And some customers are like, “Oh my God, I can’t…” Or “I want to see the theater of the bartender.” I’m like that customer is one compared to 99 people who want the drink and they want a beautiful drink consistently right away. So I’m always going to land on the 99 as opposed to the one. If you want that beautiful thing you can go to Attaboy or somewhere else.
T: If you can get in.
J: Yeah, if you can get in.
T: Not a slight at Attaboy, by the way there.
J: No, but it’s extremely hard to get into.
T: Same with Dead Rabbit. You always have space at Dead Rabbit but it’s busy every time I come down. You guys are doing good work. Question number two for you. Which ingredient or tool is the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?
J: The most undervalued? I think the most undervalued, and it goes back to that stirring thing is your mixing glass and a spoon. Shaken drinks are pretty consistent across the board. The one thing that drives me nuts with shaken drinks is when bartenders shake a drink and then they leave it for a minute before they strain it. So it’s essentially dish water by the time it gets out, because it’s like when you’re shaking a drink or as soon as you’ve added ice to something, that’s like putting a steak on a grill. Temperature and time is everything. So, that would be the most undervalued thing to me. It’s understanding how important ice and temperature and time is for shaken and stirred — but particularly stirred — drinks. Because the buffer for shaken drinks is a bit more elongated compared to a stir drink. If you over-stir a drink for five seconds, it’s done. Where if you over shake a drink for five seconds and you strain it right away, it’s still going to be a good drink. It’s going to lose a bit where a stirred drink is going to lose a lot. So I’d say make sure you’ve got a good stirring vessel and you’ve got a spoon that you’re comfortable stirring with. Cocktail Kingdom makes a whole bunch of really good glasses and the stainless-steel beakers that they do are pretty good too, because they get the temperature much quicker. Albeit that starts to go problematic towards there’s not enough water in the drink, then, which is as big a problem. But definitely I’d say you’re mixing glass and your spoon.
T: Nice. Question number three here. What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?
J: “Listen to the building,” from Jim Meehan. So I don’t know what way he meant it, and he didn’t obviously mean put your ear against the bricks and mortar and wait for it to talk to you or whatever. But it was a big piece of advice for, when we opened the Dead Rabbit all I focused on was this. I didn’t really pay attention to the totality of the experience and that’s the reason why I wouldn’t call myself a bartender now because to me, this is just one small part of the whole experience. How did you get treated on the way in? Was there a lot of friction at the door? Did the doorman, was he an architect of hospitality or was he prohibitive? He or she. When you get in, were the windows clean? Was the sidewalk clear of cigarette butts? Were the lights at the right level? Were all the lights on? There’s a million and one things that make that experience one. So listen to the building basically encompasses that, anytime I walk into a bar, did the bartender, did the person look at me? Are they dressed befitting the place? Is everything working? I’ve been to the likes of a, not to call out Attaboy or anything like that, but these great cocktail bars and you go in and you run your hand underneath the table and there’s chewing gum. Because I’m a big believer in the way you do one thing is the way everything is done. So I’m obviously obsessive about that across every single aspect. So that was the best piece of advice that I got, because I think bartenders and particularly in our industry, they hyper focus on this to the detriment of the entirety of the experience. So I’m glad I got that advice.
T: Yeah, nice wise words there from Jim Meehan, as we like to call him here on the show. Friend of the show.
J: No, he’s brilliant.
T: He’s good, isn’t he? All right, penultimate question. Question number four. If you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?
J: Kelly Cellars in Belfast. It’s an iconic pub in Belfast. You have a couple, obviously Ireland is coming down with iconic pubs. But to me the pub is a third place. In Ireland, pubs were essentially community centers. They were where you went to get christened or did your wake or you got married or you broke up with somebody, whatever, everything was done in the pub. And that’s even more in the south, pubs are the grocery shops, pubs are DIY stores. There’s a pub that’s an undertaker, so the undertakers are the pubs right there. It’s crazy. So the pub that has always been a part of my life growing up in Belfast was Kelly Cellars. And it would be, not to get political, but that part of Belfast was the only part the Catholics in the north of Ireland and Belfast, it’s only part of the city center they felt safe in. Because you had Kelly Cellars, which is my favorite pub obviously. And then around the corner you had another bar called Maddens, which is like a living room but there’s a session there on a Sunday and Monday night and the whole bar just turns into a session and they’re a stone throw away from each other. But that would be the bar I would go to if it was the last bar. And then I would go around to Maddens right after because it’s just across the street and even though it’s cheating but they’re right beside each other.
T: Yeah, speaking of iconic bars in Belfast as well. The Merchant, you used to work there, the hotel?
T: Remind me, you had some like 20, 30 year old rum for the original Mai Tai, this came up.
J: Yes. So we had a bottle of Wray and Nephew 17 Year Old.
T: That’s the one.
J: They’d found a barrel of this rum, that was a rum that was used in the Mai Tai. And they bottled it, I think they got 12 bottles out of the barrel because obviously the angel’s share — by the time they got to the barrel most of the barrel had evaporated. So they bottled these 12 bottles and I think it came in at about 70-odd percent, 70 ABV or 70 percent alcohol. And that was the type of rum that was used in the Mai Tai when it originated. I think it was created in 1944. And the reason why they used such a heavy rum was to cut through because you had orgeat and curaçao, so it was the cut through the sweetness of that. So we got a bottle and I think back then, this probably doesn’t — still a lot relative to what you would pay for an entry-level cocktail now, but back then we were charging 750 pounds per drink.
T: And that would’ve been what? About $1,000 in dollars?
J: Yeah. And I made a couple. We had these connoisseurs clubs where we flew people over. So that connoisseur club we had Dale Degroff, Audrey Saunders, Sasha Petraske, Mickey McElroy, Sammy Ross, Tony Conigliaro from London
T: 69 Cobra.
J: So we had a whole bunch of people in, so that table, everybody left and it was me, my old business partner Sean, and those people at the table. And we made it and we all got to try it and it was unbelievable. The Mai Tai was the cocktail that got me into this industry. My email was maitaimadness. People in the industry back in Belfast called me Mai Tai McGarry because I went to The Merchant before I worked there and I tried their house-level Mai Tai, and it was the first time I tasted a homemade syrup and homemade liqueur in a drink and fresh-squeezed lime juice and the beautiful ice. It was perfectly clear. And that’s when I realized, God, you can do this at an okay level or you can do this at an absolute world-class level. And that’s when I realized I wanted to do the world-class level.
T: You know who’s a big fan of your Mai Tai? This has come up on this show before and he’s also very bitter. He never got to taste that bottle or that Mai Tai.
J: Who is it?
T: Brian Miller.
J: He makes amazing Mai Tais.
T: Makes a very good Mai Tai. But yeah, it came up on that show, he was talking about that and he’s talking about that bottle, and he is very disappointed that he never got to try that.
J: I think they’re re-releasing.
T: They are?
J: So I remember hearing about it, but you’re obviously tasting history. So even if they… I’ve tasted, Brian’s Mai Tai is unreal. I’ve tried a Mai Tai from Giuseppe Gonzales, it blew me away. I’ve tried a couple from different places, Audrey’s Mai Thai was exceptional. And obviously they’re re-creating their version of the Wray and Nephew 17 year old and getting to that same ABV. But you were literally tasting history, and that’s one thing. Salvatore Calabrese in London, he’s all about that liquor history and making Martinis pre-World War and all that type of stuff. So a lot of it I think is, it’s a bit naff but you are drinking history so it’s pretty cool.
T: Very nice. All right, last question for today. If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?
J: What would I order or make for the last one? So my favorite cocktail, and this is completely off brand, is a Turf Club. I love the Turf Club cocktail. So I love it in a 50/50 format. So it’s a dry vermouth London dry gin. I like a big bold London dry, like a Tanqueray that’s very juniper-driven. A very dry vermouth, a hint of maraschino, absinthe, and orange bitters with a lemon twist. I loved… So obviously I still taste but I haven’t drank in seven years. But that was my go-to drink. Go-to cocktail. Go-to drink was obviously Guinness. But I loved that, I just loved the cleanness. It was a bone-dry Martini. I love 50/50 Martinis. So if somebody made me a… I love that whole style of Martini. I’m a big Martini fan. Not the dry ones. A lot of the London cocktail hotel bars, their ones are just like drinking straight gin.
T: Dukes literally.
J: I just don’t get it. I remember going in and it was, yes it’s cold but you’re drinking a shallow gin, which I worked in Milk & Honey for a year and that was a house shot you had every couple of hours and it’s a fine shot of gin but it’s certainly not a Martini. So I’m a big-
T: Not a Mai Tai then?
J: No, well I love tropical drinks.
T: Might be the one to go out on, though, I don’t think.
J: No because you can’t drink… Listen, you’re meant obviously to drink responsibly. You’re not meant to drink a lot of Martinis. But I drank plenty in my time. Whereas those types of tropical sweet rum, you can only do so many of them before you’re like, that’s enough. And that’s my problem with a lot of these cocktail bars. And I think Europe definitely has an edge on us there because our cocktails are smaller, they’re more sessionable. You can drink more of them. Where over here, I still think we’re heavily influenced by the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan and big boozy bombs. So that’s one thing in the bar, actually, we’re trying to get more… You still obviously have to cater to them, because that’s still the major constituency. But I want to introduce more sessionability to the drinks. Because even Dead Rabbit right now, if you go and you have three cocktails, that’s good night, Irene.
T: That’s it.
J: That’s the same at any cocktail bar.
T: Or it should be.
J: I would like to get to the point where you could have three drinks and you still know your phone number.
T: All right, Jack, thank you so much.
J: Thanks for having me. I had a blast.
T: It’s been a blast. Sure has. Maybe I’ll take a couple of weeks off before — the booze, not the podcast — before Nov. 29th because I’m setting up camp down in the Dead Rabbit.
J: I’ll get the aquavit in the freezer for you.
T: Sounds good. All right then. Cheers.
J: Thank you very much.
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Now, for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.