Dead Rabbit meets The Westbury: What it takes to make a residency work

04 October 2017

In a five-day residency that concluded this week, New York’s The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog returned to its motherland of Ireland to take over the acclaimed The Sidecar bar at The Westbury Hotel, Dublin.

To mark Dead Rabbit’s first takeover on the Emerald Isle, bar beverage director Jillian Vose and co-owners Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon crossed the Atlantic for the fully immersive pop-up. The Dead Rabbit himself, complete with beady red eyes, bushy ears and distinctive red shirt and braces, tagged along to cause mayhem and interact with guests in the opulent 1930s-themed Sidecar.

The Sidecar at The Westbury
The Sidecar at The Westbury

Revellers were transported to the Dead Rabbit’s home of downtown Manhattan, as bartenders were decked out in the Dead Rabbit’s signature attire, a live Irish band played, and two bespoke four-part comic book menus, 'Betrayal' and 'Resurrection', graced tables. On said menus, 10 cocktails put together by Vose, the majority being Irish whiskey-based, included Dead Rabbit favourites Jameson Irish Coffee, Gold Digger and Psycho Killer – Irish whiskey, cocoa nib–infused Campari, white cacao Marie Brizard, Giffard Banane du Brésil and absinthe.

The famous Irish Coffee – photo Kieran Harnett
The famous Irish Coffee – photo Kieran Harnett

Dead Rabbit is the fourth takeover in the Doyle Collection’s Club Residencies Project, which has previously hosted The Clumsies, The Baxter Inn and Blacktail. It's safe to say the most recent collaboration took some serious preparation. 'It took about 10 people to bring the residency to life, we also had to pre-batch around 5,000 cocktails,' revealed Karl Byrne, food and beverage manager of The Westbury.

'Jillian is very particular about the drinks, and if we didn’t manage to get the exact ingredient or brand, it wasn’t going on the menu. We had to really scour the country for items. Ireland only has double the population of Manchester, so things are a lot harder to come by.'

'It was interesting to see how such an acclaimed bar operates when doing a residency,' continued Byrne. 'We were sent over a detailed model, with the specific amount of glassware, spirits and ingredients we needed. It was all very organised.'

With all that goes on behind the scenes, why are bars such as The Sidecar leaving their bars in the hands of visitors for nights on end? Virtually unknown out of Dublin before the takeover, The Sidecar team hoped to set a precedent for Dublin's growing cocktail scene.

Psycho Killer – photo Kieran Harnett
Psycho Killer – photo Kieran Harnett

'We’re really hoping the takeover will give us exposure as a great cocktail bar,' said Michal Lis, bar manager of The Sidecar. 'Word of mouth and social media all come from a great residency. Three years ago, not many people knew about our bar, and today, almost everybody knows what Sidecar is.

'The most important thing is that it was a huge experience for the staff working here. When do you get to be under the supervision of somebody who’s top in the world? They’ve given us great feedback, even on all the small details. Running this kind of show requires a lot of effort from everybody, and everybody from management to glass collectors has gotten stronger due to this experience.

'For me, it’s about working with someone I look up to. Jillian has such an eye for detail. She knows how important flavour, accuracy and techniques are. She brought all her syrups and infusions over [from the States] and was spreading her knowledge. I really appreciated it.'

With residencies from some of the world’s best bars under its belt, The Doyle Collection shows no signs of slowing down, already scoping out the next resident for its Club Residencies project. ‘We’re talking to a few great bars at the moment, but it’s too soon to give anything away,’ teased sales and marketing manager for food and beverage at sister hotel, The Bloomsbury in London, Joshua Craddock.

Ahead of the World’s 50 Best Bar’s awards on Thursday, the Dead Rabbit will be continuing its tour with a short stop-over at Bethnal Green's Irish whiskey-haven The Sun Tavern today.

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