Wednesday, May 13, 2015
At the Dead Rabbit in the Five Points
Taking advantage of the good weather, we recently headed downtown to the historic Five Points area at the bottom of Manhattan island to The Dead Rabbit at 30 Water Street, to sample some of its legendary cocktails. Movie fans will associate the name with Martin Scorsese's epic 2002 film Gangs of New York, featuring Leonardo Di Caprio as Amsterdam Vallon and Daniel Day-Louis as Bill 'The Butcher" Cutting. Click on Gangs of New York to link to the 10th Anniversary trailer for Martin Scorsese's film.
The Dead Rabbits were an Irish American gang in New York City in the 1850s who gained renown as an organized group of thugs and thieves. In riots against rival gangs and against being drafted in the Union Army to fight the confederacy, they carried their symbol -- a dead rabbit impaled on a spike. Martin Scorsese based his movie on Herbert Asbury's 1928 novel "Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld". Some of the more colorfully named gangs included: Baxter Street Dudes (no joke), Corcoran's Roosters, Daybreak Boys, Dutch Mob, Gas House Gang, Hudson Dusters, Molasses Gang, Slaughter House Gang, Tub of Blood Bunch, Whyos, Yakey Yakes and Yiddish Black Hand. Click here for the entire list. Click on Dead Rabbits to link to one of the restaurant's web pages for a dollop of local history.
The "grocery and grog" is located in the historic Fraunces Tavern district, made famous by the tavern in which George Washington said farewell to his officers on December 4, 1783. Just one week after the British evacuated New York City, the tavern hosted an elaborate turtle feast for General Washington and his officers. The establishment has won several awards for its cocktails, so we decided to check it out. The drink menu is contained in a beautiful 65-page hard cover book that incorporates the history of the district. The current version recounts tales from the mid-19th century, told through the lens of Lewis Morris Pease. The drinks, arranged in two categories (By the Shaker and By the Mixing Glass) for Winter of 1850 and Spring, Summer and Fall of 1851, are all available, regardless of the actual calendar date. All drinks are $15, regardless of ingredients.
After much review and study of the sixty-four cocktails, we each made our selection. By coincidence, they were both from the Spring By the Shaker page. Valerie selected the Magdalene: Louis Royer "Force 53" Cognac, Cherry, Poppy Seed, Vanilla, Lemon, Apple and Piper-Heidsek Champagne, seen here in the tall flute.
While a large proportion of the selections feature artisanal and Irish whiskies (such as Redbreast 12 year old Irish Whiskey, Teelings Small Batch Irish Whisky and Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky), they also include interesting flavorings and mixers like Sassafras, Demerara, Pimento Bitters, Chicory and Tamarin. They include such colorful names as Fallen Angel, Psycho Killer, Roman Empire, Ramshackle, Sanhedrin, Hunger Striker, Lady Gopher, Death Knell and Moby Dick.
Jean selected The Panhandler: Fortleza Blanco Tequila, Barbancort White Haitian Rum, Curacao, Falernum, Lime and Tiki Bitters. A prize to whoever knows what the heck falernum is! (We do now, but we had to google it.)
Bottom line: the cocktails were extremely interesting and delicious. We declared the need to do further research on another occasion.
Attentive readers know that we like to mix and match our ingredients ("Can we have this drink, but instead of vodka, can you put in bubbly?" "Can we have that drink, and can you add the mango puree from this other drink?"). Some baristas praise our choices (after having first raised eyebrows and then done a taste test); some take it as a personal affront, as if we'd sat at the bar and made a gratuitous remark about the barista's mom. These drinks were so clearly curated that we behaved ourselves on our first visit, but we asked the host afterward how the establishment would take a request for substitutions. With the courtesy of a veteran politician, our host said something entirely opaque, so we had to re-ask the question and then re-interpret his answer. Finally we ascertained that he must have said NO. Well, asking is free.
When we emerged from The Dead Rabbit, we turned right and followed the sidewalk right past the building which was the residence of Elizabeth Seaton, America's first saint. (See, we told you it was the historic district!) Whom should spy cycling past the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, enjoying the gorgeous weather but that tap-dancing East Village denizen Lorraine Goodman? When we waved, she immediately spotted us and stopped for a chat. She took the opening shot of us and we returned the favor. Of course, we bent her ear about the wonders of The Dead Rabbit. Lorraine informed us that the long abandoned, recently renovated pier on the water at the western edge of Battery Park had recently opened and featured food and drink, so we now have a destination for another one of our adventures in the historic district of lower Manhattan.
And so a happy close to another small adventure.
No rabbits were killed - or harmed - or so much as touched - or even seen - in the making of this blog post.