Q&A: A Financial District Bartender Spills His New York City Favorites

by  Jessica Colley | Jun 21, 2013
Taxis in NYC
Taxis in NYC / deberarr/iStock

New York City's financial district hasn't exactly been a haven for travelers in years' past. But an influx of young residents to the area, and visitors migrating (way) downtown to view the 9/11 Memorial have made this once-sleepy neighborhood a hotbed of up-and-coming cocktail lounges and gastropubs. They're reason enough to pay this overlooked part of the city a visit – in addition to the reasonable weekend hotel rates, which crop up when the weekday business travelers disappear.

One of the latest additions to the food-and-drink scene is The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, which offers a bible-sized drink menu, sawdust on the floor, and an old-time piano player. It brings together two historic bar cultures – that of immigrant-filled pubs (in its ground-floor tavern), and of the sporting man's cocktail lounge (in the upstairs parlor).

Head bartender and co-owner Jack McGarry, who hails from Belfast via London, spends his time behind the bar crafting cocktails, but knows New York – both past and present – very well. We asked him about his cocktail creations and his favorite New York City haunts.

ShermansTravel: If you need time off from cocktails – what's your ideal night in New York?

Jack McGarry: That's easy – a night on the black stuff (Guinness) listening to some music at the 11th Street Bar in the East Village. It’s an unpretentious, fun night out.

ST: Do you have any neighborhood favorites in the Financial District, home of the Dead Rabbit?

JM: This is the most historic part of the city and our bar is trying to tell that story. The neighborhood is filled with history – Federal Hall, the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street – but has new and modern elements, too. Upcoming neighborhood projects include the $40 million Pier A Project and the $110 million makeover of the Battery Maritime Building, which will include a gourmet food hall and concert hall.

ST: Who else in New York right now is doing exciting things with cocktails?

JM: I think Julie Reiner is doing great things with Clover Club. Her bar is comfortable and all the little things are just right – the lighting, the music, the temperature, and of course the food and drink are consistently good. It’s just a great all-around bar.

ST: If you were to sit down at the Dead Rabbit for a happy hour drink – what would you order?

JM: Our happy hour is called "L’Heure Verte" or "The Green Hour" – a name derived from history when Parisian cafés in the 19th century frequently served absinthe as an aperitif. Our menu includes specially priced absinthe drinks ($12) such as the Automobile – Pernod Absinthe, celery cordial, Parfait Armour, celery shrub, and Brut Champagne.

ST: Where else does the influence of history pop up on your menu?

JM: Punch is what inspired me to create the program we have here at the Dead Rabbit. I loved the fact that there was no pretension around the punch bowl, that people were gathering to simply drink and have some fun. It is naturally the first section of drinks on our menu, as it ruled the kingdom of mixed drinks from the 1670s through the 1850s.

ST: What surprised you about life in New York when you first moved here?

JM: The pace of life, the variety New York has to offer – it all surprised me. In the next few months Sean and I will start thinking about our next place. As always, the future in New York is bright.

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