Irish Whiskey lovers rejoice, New York City is officially home to the first-ever Irish Whiskey festival in America. The festival will take place on Saturday, November 2nd, and over 25 distilleries will be participating. Although the festival focuses on Irish whiskey, it’s also a festival to celebrate Irish culture.
To learn more about the festival and Irish Whiskey, I headed to the iconic Dead Rabbit bar and spoke with world-famous Irish Whiskey experts Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry. I also chatted with Moira Breslin, the owner of the experiential agency, Articulate Ventures, about Irish whiskey and the festival.
When it came to creating the festival, I was curious as to what inspired the idea, and Breslin told me that, “I just felt like Irish whiskey was greatly underserved… It wasn’t being celebrated on its own… you know it was surrounded by myths like old men, shooting, and that there wasn’t any versatility in cocktails and it couldn’t be used in cocktails, and I felt that there was so much that could be shared.”
After working with Muldoon and McGarry on another project, Breslin approached them and asked if they were interested in working together on the festival. The Irishmen were happy to work together on the project and started to create a plan to bring the Irish Whiskey festival to life.
When it comes to festival, the event was designed to be an introduction to the world of Irish whiskey; however, there are certain areas where connoisseurs can “nerd out.” Breslin also wanted to make sure that the festival was inclusive for all and told me that although the whiskey world can often feel closed off to women; she wants women to know that “Irish whiskey is accessible for girls.”
According to McGarry, the real goal of the festival is “for someone to come in and walk away with a greater understanding of Irish whiskey.”
Additionally, he added that “another huge goal for us is to give a great representation of Ireland in its entirety: the distilleries, the pub culture, Irish coffee, what we are, The Dead Rabbit, the food, the bands. We want people to walk away with a better understanding of Irish whiskey, and a better understanding of authentic Irish pubs and Irish hospitality.”
As someone who is very entry-level to Irish whiskey and knew little to nothing about traditional Irish pubs, I can’t imagine a better way than to start my education on Irish whiskey and Irish pubs than at The Dead Rabbit and The Irish Whiskey festival. Although I know I’ll learn about the festival, I had to ask the Irishmen a bit about the basics of Irish whiskey and more.
When I spoke with Muldoon and McGarry all about the Irish whiskey, the first thing they said is that most people are familiar with blends of whiskey, but there’s much more than just that, it’s a whole other world. There are single grain, single malt, and single pot still varieties as well. There are countless distilling methods, wood finishes and more.
When it comes to tasting Irish whiskey, McGarry recommends starting off your whiskey journey with a cocktail. McGarry told me there is a clear path when it comes to easing your way into Irish whiskey and he suggest blends and single grains or high grain blends a good place to start because “… because they’re accessible, they’re sweet, they’re inoffensive, and you can taste what you like and graduate your way into to the really floral single-malts, or the really vicious, creamy, single pot stills.” If you’re already a whiskey expert, Muldoon suggests starting off with a Green Spot whiskey at The Dead Rabbit.
The Dead Rabbit is famous for its whiskey-laden cocktails and the vast selection of Irish whiskey, which is the most extensive collection in the Americas. The whiskey list contains well over 230 varieties of the spirit, and some of the brands they carry can be found at the festival.
The Dead Rabbit is well-known for its incredible Irish coffee, and all festival-goers will get to taste some. If you can’t make the festival, you can always check out The Dead Rabbit. Muldoon told me that when you come to The Dead Rabbit, the first thing you should order is their Irish Coffee, he explained that it’s their pride and joy and folks drink it like water. He explained to me that when you go to a restaurant, people usually get a round of water first, but when you go to The Dead Rabbit, the first item you should order is their Irish Coffee.
Not to be dramatic or anything, but The Dead Rabbit’s Irish coffee changed my life. As a tea lover, I usually stay from coffee anything because of its bitter flavor, but this Irish coffee is a huge game-changer. I honestly cannot wait to drink it again. Muldoon credits its success to their perfected recipe. He told me if you change one ingredient, the drink becomes something else, and it’s no longer their recipe. So when you order it, order it how it is. The recipe for the Irish Coffee at The Dead Rabbit is simple, it has Bushmills Original, demerara syrup, Sumatra coffee, and cream, which one of the reasons why it’s so good. I promise you won’t regret it.
To start your Irish whiskey journey and taste the iconic and delicious Irish coffee, you can pick up tickets to the Irish Whiskey Festival, go to nyirishwhisketfest.com.