Background: Sean Muldoon is the co-owner and general manager of the Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog in Lower Manhattan. Originally from Belfast, he has lived here for two and a half years.
Tell us about the first time you pulled a pint.
“I was 20, training as an apprentice bartender in the Regency Hotel in Belfast. It was Friday afternoon and a group of regular customers that the staff referred to as the Millionaires Club were in drinking.
“One of them approached me in the absence of the senior bartender and called out his round of drinks to me. He asked for a pint and a half of cider in that order and I spent the next few minutes looking everywhere for a pint and a half glass. I couldn't find one and returned to the gentleman and asked him if he would mind if I served it to him in a pint and in a half-pint glass. He appeared pretty dumbstruck by my question.”
The Dead Rabbit opened at the end of January. How has business been so far?
“Business has been fantastic thus far. We are extremely happy with how things are going and feel ourselves getting better every single day.”
Why did you name your bar after the Five Points gang Dead Rabbits?
“The idea was to bring Irish pub culture together with high end cocktail culture in a way that made sense. I had to bring together an Irish idea with a cocktail idea, so I thought about New York in the 1840s and ‘50s.
“I knew a million Irish immigrants had arrived to New York from famine torn Ireland in the between 1845-1851, and I knew that Jerry Thomas wrote the first ever published cocktail guide in New York in 1862. So I knew from the outset that something was happening here in that time period that brought both traditions together.
“During my research about the era I read about the gangs of New York, the Dead Rabbits and their one-time leader John Morrissey.
“Morrissey came from Ireland at the age of two with his parents in 1832 and was raised in Troy, upstate New York. He came to New York City at the age of 18 and got involved in a lot of gangland activity. He went to San Francisco to pan for gold in 1849, but instead got involved in gambling and opened a string of Faro houses. He was a prizefighter and became world heavyweight boxing champion in 1853 after defeating Yankee Sullivan in a bout that lasted 37 rounds.
“He came back to New York in 1854 and challenged all his old gangster friends. In February 1855 he got into a fight with William ‘Bill the Butcher’ Poole, which resulted in Poole's death. In 1857 he led his gang, the Dead Rabbits, to victory in what became known as the Battle of Paradise Square, and in doing so became king of the Five Points.”
You previously worked at the World’s Best Cocktail Bar. What is your craziest cocktail request you’ve ever had?
“We had a poem called ‘The Cocktail Shaker’ in one of the menus I did many years ago back in Belfast. The poem was all about a bartender making cocktails and described his technique, movements, etc. One of the lines in the poem was about the bartender’s hands and described them as ‘rhythmic, steady.’
“A woman saw all the beautiful looking concoctions being served on trays and came up the bar with a menu, and pointing to the line in the poem asked if she could have two rhythmic hands! That was definitely the silliest cocktail request I have ever heard anyone asking for!”
Interview by Molly Muldoon
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