When you’re about to visit the “World’s Best Bar”, you begin to develop notions about what that bar might be like, the drinks it might serve, and the crowd it might attract. Will it serve beer or cocktails? Will it retain its original character? Will it attract only enthusiasts seeking it out or seasoned locals as well? In the months since being declared the World’s Best Bar for the 2nd straight year, I sought to find out for myself, and finally visited Dead Rabbit Grocer & Grog over the weekend.
I met up with my cousin, my friend, and my financial advisor for a night of drinks and exploration in the Financial District. Just a few blocks from Wall Street is the Dead Rabbit, which occupies three stories that each present a slightly different experience than the other.
We started on the first floor – the Taproom. The Taproom is a classic pub in nearly every sense: a long room with simple wooden barstools down one side, sawdust on the floor, pictures stapled to the ceiling, and a generous selection of beer & whiskey – in fact, the largest Irish whiskey selection in the States. The din of the crowd packed shoulder to shoulder drowned out the music being played, and we got the sense that this was not only a spot for after-work drinks before catching a ferry home, but also for visitors, as we overheard a handful of different languages being spoken around us. We each had a cocktail from the Taproom’s menu as we waited for the main event, a table upstairs in the Parlor.
So far, the bar had not met World’s Best expectations. A very nice pub with a great crowd, lively ambience, diverse selection of spirits, and impressive assortment of drafts? Sure, but not the “World’s Best”. Then we took the trip upstairs…
We were led into a similarly sized long, narrow room, but this one had a distinctly different, almost hushed, feel. Everyone was seated at candlelit tables, the suspender-clad bartenders were working precisely and diligently behind a long mahogany bar, and the ambience was much more relaxed. We took our seats at our table and were handed a menu that doubled as a graphic novel, telling the story of the Dead Rabbit himself.
The browsing of the menu took entirely too long, which explains why we were greeted with a small brandy drink to welcome us upstairs. The service was incredible, as our server knew every ingredient in every cocktail we asked about, helping guide us based on our own tastes. After much deliberation, I ordered the Glitterball, because I was excited about its unique, somewhat foreign mix of ingredients – bourbon, Irish whiskey, armagnac, cream sherry, cocchi americano, tonka bean, and mace.
The Glitterball was served neat in a small inscribed coupe glass. It smelled strongly of bourbon and vanilla, and tasted much the same. The armagnac and cocchi americano added fruity, sweet notes for a well-rounded, quite boozy cocktail. I tried my best to not let the complimentary sips of my friends’ drinks interfere with the rich flavors of my own cocktail, which I continued to sip on while trying bites from the kitchen.
My first visit to the World’s Best Bar was an excellent experience that begs for an encore. Although the “academy” doles out their Best Bar awards based on the input of snobby historians and industry professionals, I am happy to give that designation to almost any bar I am in with superb service, interesting & delicious drinks, and an upbeat, yet relaxed atmosphere – as long as I’m surrounded by good company.
Dead Rabbit Grocer & Grog
30 Water Street
New York, NY