by Ben Schaffer
This St. Patrick’s Day, like every year, the streets will run green with misguided alcoholic effluvia. But if we act fast, we still have a chance to rethink and update our strategy for the drinking holiday. Fortunately, the masterminds behind New York’s celebrated Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, can show the way. This year, eschew kelly-colored plastic derby hats and bright-green buttons proclaiming your kissability. This year, pour yourself the Wild Irish Rose, which is undeniably, unashamedly pink.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog is the incumbent holder of the title “World’s Best Bar,” garnered at Tales of the Cocktail, the industry equivalent of the Oscars. Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, the Belfast-born barmen who conceived, constructed and command it, are as passionate about making great drinks as they are about their Irish origins. From the beginning, their bar has offered a different view on the Anglo-Hibernian tavern tradition and what it means to drink like an Irishman. Instead of retreading the well-loved classics, they rehabilitated the forgotten drinks from the era of classic cocktails — and even earlier ones, pulling in punches from the 1660s and spiced wine from the 1830s — while adjusting for modern tastes and available ingredients.
That process, and the recipes that resulted, are chronicled in our book, The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. In the book, as on the original Dead Rabbit menu, drinks are grouped in historical categories, including punches, juleps, cobblers and sours. The sour is a notably refreshing family, consisting of booze, sugar and citrus. You’ve probably had a lot of them: Famous examples are the Sidecar, Daiquiri, Margarita and of course the Whiskey Sour. Another is the Jack Rose, featuring applejack as its base and grenadine as its sweetener.
When Jack McGarry sought to reimagine the Jack Rose, he turned to Jacques Straub’s encyclopedic Straub’s Manual of Mixed Drinks, from 1913. The Jack Rose (probably created between 1900 and 1905 in New Jersey, the ancestral home of applejack) is among the recipes delineated inside, in a pretty traditional composition. A few chapters later, another appears called the Irish Rose, but it’s barely a recipe at all, just whiskey cut with grenadine syrup. With both drinks turning rosy through pomegranate-based grenadine, Jack saw an opportunity for a fusion that would be far tastier than either.
The Jack Rose, refreshing as it may be, is a bit dull. The Irish Rose, as Straub describes it, is a gloopy mess. But adding a complex Irish whiskey, specifically one with a rich, peaty character, advanced the dowdy Jack Rose into a new league. And in the well-known style of McGarry, specialty bitters and absinthe found their part to play. Helping with texture and visual aesthetics is froth from an egg white.
So as all about you are collapsing in verdant heaps on March 17, you can be in the pink with this Irish-American creation that’s more authentic — and, hard as it may be to believe, more delicious — than keg beer doped with FD&C Green No. 3. Just spare a thought for the modern cocktail champions Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, who have made St. Patrick’s Day safe for civilized imbibing of all the colors of the rainbow.
Wild Irish Rose
3/4 ounce Pomegranate Syrup (recipe follows, or use your own)
1 ounce Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey
1 ounce Laird’s Applejack Bonded Proof
1 ounce Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3 dashes Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
3 dashes Pernod Absinthe
1 large egg white
Pre-chill a large cocktail glass. Add all the ingredients to a shaker. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into the glass.
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
Add the juice, sugar, and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat, but do not boil. Slowly stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Remove the pan from the heat. Use a funnel to pour into bottles. The syrup will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Yields about 2 1/2 cups
Photo courtesy of Gina Haase, www.nibblesip.com
Ben Schaffer acted as “the voice” of the Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, creating all its written material from before its launch right through its spirituous ascendancy. He then wrote the recipe and history book that tells the story of the landmark bar, The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, published in October 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Through their consulting company The Best Bar in the World LLC, Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Ben Schaffer launched bar-restaurant GreenRiver in Chicago in collaboration with hospitality legend Danny Meyer.