When Tracy asked if I would be interested in going to a Bulleit Bourbon tasting at a Lower Manhattan bar called The Dead Rabbit, I could not say yes fast enough. I mean, free bourbon AND the chance to meet maker Tom Bulleit in New York City? BOOM, I’m there.
We arrived, checked out the bar and sipped a few drinks, and then, I chatted with Tom Bulleit. Tom is a native Kentuckian, a Vietnam veteran, and was a practicing attorney for many years. His bourbon is inspired by his great-great grandfather’s recipe for high-rye whiskey from more than a century ago. I spoke with Tom for a while –– he is a colorful person who has a tendency to ramble on a bit, but who am I to judge? I could’ve listened to him all night while Tracy sipped her Manhattan.
Here’s an excerpt from our 30-minute conversation.
MK: How do you enjoy your bourbon?
TB: Two answers.
1. My contemporaries and I back home would say “any damn way you please.” (His response went on for about ten minutes, but his first sentence said it all. Eventually, he finished, but not until I learned that his Aunt was a nun and drank her bourbon straight. I resisted and did not tell any nun jokes.)
2. Personally, I like it with a little bit of ice and maybe a little water. You see, bourbon changes quite a bit with the introduction of water. It opens up and develops. A little bit of water is important. (Tom and I agree on this!)
MK: How would you convince me to have a bourbon cocktail and what would it be?
TB: Easy. I would get you a BLT –– 1.5 oz bourbon, 3 oz tonic and wedge of lime on the rim. (It was at this point that Tom digressed into the importance of a wedge on the rim and not squeezed and mixed into the drink.)
MK: Has anyone ever showed you anything new or interesting with bourbon cocktails?
TB: Every time I go to the bar! (Again, at this point Tom went on so many tangents that I needed a refresher course in high school trigonometry to keep up, but being a fellow southerner, I speak the language).
Tracy enjoyed meeting Tom too. He pulled her leg for about five minutes when he told her he might leave Kentucky and move to New York.
Now, here’s a little about The Dead Rabbit.
Down in the Financial District and a stone’s throw from South Ferry (for those of you not familiar, South Ferry is at the southernmost tip of Manhattan and where you catch the Staten Island Ferry), lies The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog, a watering hole specializing in craft beers and vintage cocktails. The executed idea of owners Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon, The Dead Rabbit is a no-frills, cozy bar that has its tap room on the first floor and cocktail parlor on the second floor.
During my visit, I could tell that the bartenders mean business. Let’s face it, a good bartender is like a sommelier or a doctor. You tell them what you like, and they recommend a drink that you may not have had before or a course of treatment depending on your malady. Am I right?
We nibbled on a tasty charcuterie platter while slinging our bourbon drinks. (I took mine straight while Tracy opted for cocktails.) Though the menu is a little on the pricey side, the quality is there. I would encourage you to order a few small plates to share while you imbibe. On our next visit, we plan to eat dinner to get a better sense of the food offerings, since we already know the cocktails rock.
Now, based on my previous post about bourbon, I know what you’re thinking. “But Mike, you don’t drink fancy-pants cocktails.” And, you would be right. However, if I’m going to partake, it might as well be at a place I can respect.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog
30 Water St
New York, NY 10004
(646) 422 7906
Bulleit Bourbon is available in fine spirits stores in New York City and around the US. For more info, visit the website.