Women Behind ’World’s Best Bar’ Dead Rabbit Share Their Bespoke Cocktail Recipes Ahead of NYE

Women Behind ’World’s Best Bar’

Dead Rabbit Share Their Bespoke Cocktail Recipes Ahead of NYE

Open since 2013, The Dead Rabbit has been a stalwart of the New York cocktail scene. Out of 20 bartenders over its three floors, 15 are women, a mean feat in an industry that has certainly been slow to get women behind the bar. Among them, are the General Manager Melissa Couzens, Assistant General Manager Jessica Friedman and Beverage Director Jillian Vose. With the festivities of New Year’s Eve fast approaching, we chatted with 10 of the ladies behind the bar about their careers, New York’s female-forward bar scene, and their creative concoctions that put your favorite French martinis to shame. Each of the ladies have shared one of their bespoke cocktail recipes with SWAAY. If you dare, take your favorite to the test and see how you fair as we enter into 2018. 

Photos courtesy of Gregory J. Buda.

Jillian Vose

As the Beverage Director of the bar, Vose has created a host of cocktails for each of its quaint levels, many of which have featured in the Dead Rabbit's Drink Manual. Vose moved to New York having started her career in Arizona, and quickly assimilated to the city's cocktail scene, of which she says, "New York definitely has a strong female bartender presence. There are some women, especially [here] who have given a lot of us inspiration to get out here into a male dominated industry and succeed."

Featured Cocktail:
Beauty Parlor
2 Lemon Twists
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
4 Dash Peychaud's Bitters
1 tsp Rich Cane Syrup (2 parts cane sugar: 1 part water)
1 tsp Giffard Creme de Cacao
1 tsp Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Remy 1738 Cognac
1 oz Torres 15 yo Spanish Brandy
Rocks Glass
Aromatize with Absinthe

Anna Kremen

You'll find Kremen in the Taproom, where she says, "there's no shortage of fun and frivolity." Having opened the bar alongside a few of the ladies here, Kremen is very optimistic about women in the New York bar scene. "I think the New York cocktail scene is really progressive and new opportunities are constantly appearing," she comments, and encourages anyone in the downtown vicinity to come in and try her cocktail "Sour Grapes," below.

Featured Cocktail: Sour Grapes

2d burlesque bitters
.75oz lime
.75oz grapefruit
.75oz apple tarragon
1oz nolets gin
1oz pisco porton in cheater
Rocks glass
Garnish Lime wheel  


Jessica Friedman

Friedman, who bartends in the Parlor, also bares the title of Assistant General Manager. "Bartending was a natural progression for me," she states. "I started serving guests at 14 in a bagel store and just loved making people happy." Of her three cocktails on the menu, the aptly-titled "Smart Alec," below is her favorite.

Featured Cocktail: Smart Alec
1 Dash Celery Bitters
0.5 Teaspoon Cinnamon Syrup
0.5 oz Verjus
0.25 oz Manzanilla Sherry
0.5 oz Pineau des Charentes
0.5 oz Linie Aquavit
1.5 oz Montreuil Selection Calvados
Nick & Nora glass


Erin Smyth

The youngest of the group at just 22, Smyth was working as a barista before one of the coffee shop regulars convinced her that her hospitality could be best used elsewhere. "Starting as one of the first female barbacks behind the bar, with zero knowledge of anything at all, I fell in love and was determined to be the best," says Smyth, who has now been working at one of the world's best bars for nearly a year.

Featured Cocktail: Lovebird
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
3/4oz Lemon Juice
3/4oz Cranberry Syrup
1/4oz Ginger Syrup
1 1/2oz Blood Orange Juice
2oz Tullamore Dew 12 Year
Shake & Strain
Garnish with nutmeg


Madeleine Solo Rapp

Rapp's been bartending since she was 18, when, upon graduating from high school, "I realized that it was the best job in the world so I didn't leave." Given her 13 years of experience, Rapp believes it better not to equate bartenders by gender, instead by merit. "I think it's important to see it that we are not good because we are female, we are good because we really care about what we do and we love it."

Featured Cocktail: Punk Rocker
1 oz Lemon juice
0.25 oz Pineapple juice
0.5 oz Fennel syrup
0.25 oz Macademia Syrup
0.5 oz Dolin génépy
0.5 oz Altos Reposado
1.5 oz Grilled Pineapple-infused Bols Genever
Smash Glass, Ice nugget
Garnish with nutmeg


Brooke Smith

Smith, who got her start at wing joint in Alabama, has been at The Dead Rabbit since its conception, approaching on five years behind its wooden enclaves. "At the Dead Rabbit we have an 80% female bar staff which is huge," she remarks. "Coming from a very conservative place like Alabama, I'm very proud to work for people that not only supports the ladies but gives us amazing opportunities to shine as well."

Featured Cocktail: Nut Job
2 oz Jameson Black Barrel
1oz maple syrup (1:1)
.25oz walnut liqueur
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Rocks glass
Garnish lemon zest

Brooke Baker

Baker's, whose role at The Rabbit extends beyond the bar and into events directing, has been with the bar for four years now. "Over the years, I have tried other fields but always found that I was more passionate about the hospitality industry," says Baker. "I love the quick pace, the people, and that every day is a little different."

Featured Cocktail: The Armed Robber
.5oz Pear Balsamic Shrub
.5oz Vanilla Syrup
.25oz Cane Syrup
1oz Lemon Juice
.75oz Batch (2 parts Strega, 1 Part Pear Eau de Vie)
1.5oz Bulleit Rye 
Garnish with lemon twist


Becca Pesce

Pesce, a musical theatre graduate, began bartending to put herself through school, only for it to dawn on her that her future lay within the bar rather than on stage. "I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet some of the most badass female bartenders from around the country who are doing amazingly innovative things in their markets," says Pesce, who has been at The Rabbit for a year now. "I feel like the industry as a whole is becoming more female-forward."

Featured Cocktail: Wheeler Dealer
1 Dash black cardamon tincture
0.5 oz Lemon juice
0.5 oz Green Apple Juice
0.25 oz ginger syrup
0.5 oz Pistachio syrup
0.5 oz Vida Mezcal 
1.5 oz Red Breast 12 
Smash glass with ice nugget
Garnish with nutmeg

Genesis Cruz

Cruz, just 24, has been behind the stick at The Rabbit for a year and a half now. Having started work in New York handing leaflets out at the nearby Wall St. bull, Cruz's quick rise within the industry ranks is certainly indicative of its progressive nature. "New York is one of the few cities I know that has a strong female presence behind the bar," states Cruz. "I think we still have so much ground to cover but I’ve been over to other countries where I couldn’t find a single female bartender during my stay which is unfortunate. I find it exciting to work in a city that’s a front runner in making this a more balanced industry."

Featured Cocktail: Fighter Pilot
2 dashes decanter 

2 dashes Orange 
.75 oz lemon
.5oz vanilla syrup 
.25 orgeat 
.25 mer et Creme de peche
.5 oz PX Sherry 
.5 oz carpano antica 
.5 oz Banks 7 rum 
1oz buillet bourbon
Hi-Ball glass
Garnish with nutmeg


Melissa Markert

Markert's career began as a server in a diner, in Austin, Texas. Now at the summit of bartending in NYC, her creations include that of "Firing On All Cylinders," below which is sure to test the boundaries of your household bar and mixology skills (or lack thereof, in our case).

Featured Cocktail: Firing On All Cylinders
1 oz Cutty Sark Prohibition 
.5 Ardbeg 10
.5 oz Cynar
.25 oz Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz Benedictine
.25 oz Green Chartruese
1 tsp Crème de Peche
.5 tsp Maple Syrup
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
Old Fashioned Glass / Big Rock
Garnish with orange oils

Amy Corcoran

Head of Content at SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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