Grace O’Malley, explains Danny McDonald–the veteran bar owner behind Swift Hibernian Lounge, Puck Fair, Ulysses’ Folk House, Harry’s Café and Steak, The Growler Bites and Brews, and The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog–is legendary in Irish lore for her extensive travels, life as a pirate, and exalted place in society. “She was an unsual woman in her time, and that’s something I wanted to celebrate,” says McDonald.
And so he and his partners Peter Poulakakos and Michael Jewell are dedicating their next bar to her: Grace is set to open at 365 Third Avenue in Kips Bay in just a few days.
By focusing on this woman, the guys will try to subtly shift the perception of Irish bars here in the States. “A lot of the time, the Irish pub formula in this country becomes a little bit male,” explains McDonald. “But growing up in Ireland, my mum taught me hospitality. A lot of bars there host a wide demographic, from children to grandparents. It’s this inter-generational rite of passage thing. The femininity is lost here. Now is the time to bring Grace alive.”
It’s a vision he’s had for many years: The owner says he originally wanted to call Ulysses “Grace.” Because his partner Poulakakos is Greek, though, the pair settled on Ulysses because it was meaningful in both of their cultures. Now rolling with the Grace concept, McDonald insists that his new bar be welcoming and neighborhood-focused, adhering to an old Irish law that enforced a code of hospitality. The spot will be open 365 days a year and will serve food from a seafood-based menu until 4 a.m., a nod to shift-workers, night owls, and, says McDonald, journalists, who don’t always keep regular hours. “The business is supposed to be fun and can be fun,” says the owner. “The industry can get a little pretentious. I try and steer away from that.”
That philosophy recalls a neighborhood joint where comfort is the pull despite a mediocre selection of drinks and beers, but McDonald and his crew have also put together a fairly serious drinks syllabus–and it’s one that has a very feminine touch. They enlisted the help of some of the best women bartenders in the city, who they met at the Dead Rabbit. “Everyone behind the bar should understand beers and a great mixed drink, but the girls I ended up aligned with are beyond that,” he says. “They’re at the top of the food chain.”
It is, indeed, an all-star line-up: Eryn Reece (Death & Co. and Mayahuel), Ms. Franky Marshall (The Dead Rabbit and The Tippler), Ivy Mix (Clover Club and Speed Rack Co-Founder), Jane Danger (The NoMad), Jane Elkins (formerly of Booker & Dax), Lucinda Sterling (Middle Branch), Lynnette Marrero (a Speed Rack co-founder), Meaghan Dorman (Raines Law Room), and Pamela Wiznitzer (The Dead Rabbit) all contributed to the cocktail list, every drink from which is somehow tied to Grace O’Malley’s life and legacy. “I threw the stories at the girls and gave them no limitations,” McDonald explains. “They did their homework. We have a dozen really great cocktails created by these ladies of the industry with the story line attached.”
He cites the White Seahorse from Jane Danger, a blend of gin and plum eau de vie named for the symbol of the O’Malley clan, and the Gallow Glass from Meaghan Dorman, a Scotch and Campari concoction that pays homage to the warriors who worked under Grace. “Each drink title has a story,” McDonald reiterates, and he says the list will continue to evolve. And drinks will be supplemented by a selection of craft beers, wine, and Irish whiskey.
McDonald and his team pulled the drew inspiration from Grace’s nautical nature for the decor in the bar; prints depicting the woman’s life will adorn the walls.
If all goes according to plan, says McDonald, Grace will open right after Labor Day.
Hit the next page for a couple of drink photos.