Mikey McFerran, Whiskey Expert and Owner of The Spaniard, NYC

He’s worked every job imaginable at bars that span global borders, wants to make people less afraid of whiskeys and is relying on his “get shit done” attitude to get through these times...

We're so inspired by Mikey's attitude, not only in working his way through every job imaginable at bars around the world but by also doing whatever he needs to do to get through these tough times. Learn more about his story, and consider buying a drink at The Spaniard now, for later.

You grew up in Ireland, Scotland and spent some time in London. What was your childhood like and what pieces of your upbringing have survived your time in NYC (apart from the accent!)?

It was fun and family-oriented with a mix of living in cities but spending time in the countryside. Good times, free and easy - what childhood should be, I think. I still keep that connection with family and friends, and my directness - or abruptness, as my girlfriend puts it - from Scotland and that Irish sense of humor have prevailed and have definitely stayed with me.

Your bartending skills are extensive and span global borders! When and how did you start working in bars and how did you end up in NYC?

My dad got me a job in a bar when I was 18 in Glasgow while I was studying at University through his friend who was the owner. I started as a glass collector and worked my way up to busser and through all the other staff positions. By the time I left I was one of the most senior bartenders. I continued to work in bars until I moved to London to try and put my degree in politics to good use but I quickly learned it wasn’t for me. My cousin had opened a bar in NYC and I came to visit him and he offered me the chance to come over and work with him in 2006 and haven’t looked back since. We are now partners on the Spaniard.

You’re well known for your passion and expertise in whiskey. How did this passion and knowledge come about? Where do you hope to take it?

It didn’t really come about until I left Scotland. Only then did I realize how global and important Scottish whiskey was to Scotland. Understanding the time, dedication, and skill that goes into making great whiskey - there is almost a sense of a mini homesickness or nostalgia for my time in Glasgow/Scotland. The whole point of the Spaniard was to make people less afraid of whiskeys by broadening their horizons and opening the category up to more people. I’m proud to say that, though I love it too, I finally got my girlfriend to like something other than Jameson Irish Whiskey. So I guess you could say that I’ve converted at least one person :)

"The whole point of the Spaniard was to make people less afraid of whiskeys by broadening their horizons and opening the category up to more people."

Opening and running a popular restaurant and bar in NYC is no easy feat. What inspired you to open The Spaniard? How has the dream of being a NYC restauranteur lived up to the reality of it?

The Spaniard is a bar first and foremost. We wanted to open a great bar that had nods to Scotland, Ireland and classic New York bars. We didn’t want it to be too ‘themey’ or gimmicky and intended to open a place that was symbolic of great bars where people come together. The reality is that it's hard work and a lot of people think they can do it but don't realize what it takes to succeed. But if you surround yourself with the right people it can be a great experience. That has luckily been mine.

"We didn’t want it to be too ‘themey’ or gimmicky and intended to open a place that was symbolic of great bars where people come together."

The restaurant industry has faced an incredible hardship with the onset of COVID-19. What has your experience been through this difficult time?

Learning, changing, and adapting with an ever uncertain world has been key for us. But I have seen the bar and restaurant industries come together and the city come together like I know it knows how to. I’m lucky to have partners who are very experienced and are built to handle situations like this. I’ve learned a lot from them. Personally, I thrive under pressure and am able to maintain calm and a get shit done attitude in a sea of uncertainty. I’ve never needed these skill sets more.

If people want to help you and your team/community, how can they help?

We look forward to reopening the doors of The Spaniard and welcoming people again as soon as it’s allowed. We’ve had some time over the past month to come to terms with our current, and collective, situation and are remaining hopeful that New Yorkers will band together and do what’s needed. When the time comes, we want to make sure there will be a drink there waiting for you. We are offering our guests and anyone who wants to support us, the chance to 'buy a drink' now and as soon as we are back open you’ll be invited to join us for that very well-earned drink. All the proceeds from your pre-ordered drinks will go towards further supporting our staff during these in-between times. We are in this together and we will all raise a glass together soon.

As well we are selling our much-loved “staff only” sweatshirts which are super cozy for these quarantine times. You can find out more about both here.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Mikey. We can’t wait to raise a glass with you at The Spaniard! We have also placed an order for some missing staples in our home bars as discovered in your “Making a Home Bar for Pandemic Cocktails” list--an essential list for any cocktail creator!

April 21, 2020

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