Gregory Buda, Director of Education and Training at The Dead Rabbit

Gregory Buda, Director of Education and Training at The Dead RabbitImage from https://www.facebook.com/deadrabbitnyc/

The Dead Rabbit bar in New York is one of the world's best bars, serving up killer cocktails in downtown Manhattan.

The Dead Rabbit has won a multitude awards over the years, including World's Best Bar twice. Owned by Irishmen Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, the bar is known for its dedication to top-class cocktails, as well as being known as the spot to go to in NYC for a good time.

Gregory Buda, Director of Education at The Dead Rabbit, was in Dublin this week to celebrate Spanish Wine Week with a sherry masterclass at Balfes at the Westbury. We were lucky enough to sit down with him while before the masterclass to pick his brain about sherry, The Dead Rabbit and more. Read on to find out more... 

The Dead Rabbit Bar in New York.

The Dead Rabbit Bar in New York.

Why do you think Sherry has seen a revival the past few years?

"I think that this is largely due to the cocktail industry, and the renewed interest of bartenders in older misunderstood ingredients. Sherry has played a huge part in cocktail history, yet is one of the most poorly understood categories of wine to our guests. I think bartenders, myself very much included, have fallen in love with sherry because of its versatility, as well as how well it works in cocktails, and have made it a mission to spread that love to our guests.

Sherry isn’t very accessible to consumers that just like wines like pinot grigio. Jumping to it is a big step, so cocktails have created a stepping stone for the industry to introduce sherry to more consumers. In New York, I get a lot more requests for sherry and sherry cocktails than I used to. Guests come in with a better understanding of it than they used to."

What makes a good sherry?

“Good is very subjective, but I would say that it depends very much on what the sherry is being used for. Are you using it in a cocktail? Pairing it with food? Sipping on it before or after dinner? In general, a good sherry would exhibit length, complexity, and balance, but one of the nice things about sherry is that with the number of styles and producers, there is something for everyone."

What are the distinctions to look for when choosing sherry?

"It really depends on the application. For a sherry that I am pairing with food, I might look for intensity or subtlety, depending on the food that it is going alongside. For use in a cocktail, sherry with a bit of body and intensity of flavour is often preferred because it can stand up to the other ingredients in the drink without getting lost or overpowered. When selecting sherry for a cocktail menu, price and availability come into play as well. Finally, as with most wines I drink, I often look for the best bang for my buck, so amazing sherries but at a reasonable price, and there are definitely a few producers that never disappoint."

Selection of sherry from the recent masterclass at Balfes. Image: Jordan Mooney.

Selection of sherry from the recent masterclass at Balfes. Image: Jordan Mooney.

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What's your favourite sherry cocktail?

"I have always loved the Adonis cocktail, which is equal parts fino or manzanilla sherry, sweet vermouth and orange bitters, served up with a lemon twist. It is a very simple cocktail, but I have always loved how dry and complex it is, as well as how it really allows the particular sherry you select to shine through. I love sherry cocktails and have used sherry in a large percentage of the cocktails that I created for our bars.

However, I think that my favorite way to enjoy sherry would be paired with dinner. I love to cook and there is something about the way that sherry works with food that is simply magical. It can compliment dishes in ways that I have never experienced with other drinks."

Do you serve a lot of sherry cocktails in The Dead Rabbit?

"In Dead Rabbit, we do not stock an excessive amount of sherry, usually just one of each main style. However, most of our bartenders love sherry so we use it quite a bit on our cocktail menus. Some of our drinks feature sherry as the primary ingredient, but many many others use sherry as a modifier. The smallest pour of the right sherry can absolutely transform a cocktail and it is often the missing ingredient that takes the cocktail from good to amazing."

Since we first opened, we've had a lot of interest from consumers and industry about how we do what we do. We do a lot of things really well and part of the reason the cocktail industry is thriving is that people are far more collaborative and open now, so it makes sense to share our knowledge. I try to take a little something back from every bar I go to and I attend seminars as often as I can to learn more. Ideas shouldn’t be hoarded, the should be shared."

Tell us about some trends you've seen in New York that you think we should watch out for here in Ireland.

"There’s a serious trend towards being health conscious, which ties into non-alcoholic and low-ABV cocktails. If that explodes in a bigger way, it will allow sherry to come into its own in a big way if people are smart about it.

I also think that the general knowledge about the industry has grown in our guests, so people ask me for a lot more specific spirits now. There’s been a surge in requests for brandy, like Cognac and Armagnac, which is so refreshing to me. Mezcal has also grown in popularity, I get so many more direct requests for it by itself and in cocktails than I used to even just five years ago. It’s encouraging to see how much people know, it makes them more open-minded to trying new things which is great for the industry."

What's happening in The Dead Rabbit over the next year?

"We recently acquired the building next door to The Dead Rabbit, so over the past several months, we have expanded our first and second floor bars into the additional space. It has meant hiring a lot of new staff, but the expansions have been extremely well-received by our guests and we are really excited to be able to grow our bar in this way. This past month we released our new menu in The Dead Rabbit parlour, along with our latest selection of cocktails, and it has been good fun to take the bar in a different direction with this latest release.

Finally, we have published two books: Mixology and Mayhem, which includes our past three years of comic book menus and the recipes to many of the drinks, and From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland, which covers many of the new whiskey distilleries that are opening up in Ireland, as well as a huge selection of traditional pubs and whiskey bars."

For more on Spanish Wine Week, click here. To find out more about The Dead Rabbit NYC, head to the bar's website.

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