What’s better than an Irish coffee on a brisk St. Patrick’s Day?
You may have a point if you say corned beef and cabbage, soda bread or a Guinness, but, if you’re in the mood, The Dead Rabbit pub in Manhattan may have the perfect Irish coffee recipe for you.
The Dead Rabbit claims to have gotten the recipe “just right” and even sells to New York area residents a mail-order Irish coffee kit with the recipe inside. So I asked The Dead Rabbit owners, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, what makes an Irish coffee so special in their pub, and what are their favorite Irish pubs in the USA and back home in Ireland.
“Most places around the world use too much coffee or whiskey, terrible cream or make the drink too sweet, dry or hot,” McGarry says. “An Irish coffee should be treated like a cocktail — all ingredients are evident but dominate. The Dead Rabbit also focuses on making sure it’s drinkable from the get-go, serving it at 75 degrees Celsius. We also use Bushmills Irish whiskey and Sumatra coffee from Indonesia, which has a good body with early chocolatey notes.”
The Dead Rabbit’s Irish coffee recipe calls for one ounce of Bushmills Irish whiskey, three-quarters ounce of rich demerara syrup and 3 ¼ ounces of Sumatra coffee. Pour all ingredients into a six-ounce glass, leaving a half inch of room at the top for freshly whipped heavy cream. Top with the cream and enjoy.
In 2019, The Dead Rabbit sold nearly 100,000 Irish coffee drinks — slightly less than Guinness sales — at its pub on Water Street in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District, McGarry says.
When The Dead Rabbit opened in 2013, media stories in the USA and Ireland said Irish pubs were dead, he says.
“I think that actually meant crappy Irish pubs were dead, because the cocktail and restaurant movements developed rapidly in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” McGarry says. “Many poor operators stayed stagnant and weren’t offering a compelling, authentic product to begin with and, therefore, started to struggle.”
The Dead Rabbit’s mission is “to bring the Irish pub into the 21st Century,” he says. “We want to challenge the misconceptions surrounding the inferiority of the Irish pub. Irish pubs are traditionally known for hospitality, but we want them to be also known for offering top products and overall experiences.”
The number of “bad” Irish pubs in the USA “far outweigh” the wonderful ones, McGarry says, but he has four favorites: McSorley’s Old Ale House, Molly’s and Swift in New York and The Dubliner in Washington.
Post-pandemic travelers to Ireland and Northern Ireland may want to stop at some of McGarry’s favorites.
“I love Kelly’s Cellars and The Duke of York in Belfast and John Kavanagh The Gravediggers in Dublin, which has a fantastic pint of Guinness,” he says. “We wrote a book (From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland written by McGarry, Muldoon and two other authors) that features Irish pubs all over Ireland, and all of them are incredible. They have authenticity, passion and hospitality. They aren’t trying to be anything other than what they are, and they are run by people who truly care about their business and serve their communities and customers.”