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The Warren American Whiskey Kitchen in Delray Beach will offer a unique selection of whiskey.
Fitzy has lived and gone to heaven.
A charismatic cocktail eminence in Delray Beach for two decades, John “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick helped define downtown nightlife culture behind the bar at such East Atlantic Avenue hot spots as 32 East and the Wine Room, as well as his own Fitzy’s Lounge 45.
But all of that was mere prelude to Fitzy’s debut this weekend in west Delray Beach at Warren American Whiskey Kitchen, a dramatic new stage for his special gifts — of gab and spirits expertise — and for a remarkable collection of whiskey that may be unrivaled in Florida.
This includes the international bourbon drinker’s white whale: Old Rip Van Winkle 25-year-old, also known as Pappy 25.
Encased in a wooden box made from the barrels that once held the whiskey, Warren’s bottle of Pappy 25 is one of just 710 produced by the revered Kentucky distillery. Released in April with a suggested retail price of $1,800, the secondary market is offering bottles in the $30,000 range.
“The bottles that are hardest to get we call unicorns. This Pappy 25 is not a unicorn — it’s the unicorn’s daddy,” Fitzy says.
To put it in more useful terms: A two-ounce shot of Pappy 25 at Warren will cost you $2,000.
If that encourages you to drop in on Fitzy this weekend, you’ll find him behind the intimate VIP bar, a beautiful, cathedral-like space bracketed by shelves that climb to the ceiling and hold more than 1,000 bottles, backlit and organized alphabetically. He keeps a ladder nearby.
“I’ve come to the mecca. It just blew me away,” Fitzy says of his first visit to the space.
Warm and welcoming, with dark woods, leather seating and velvet banquettes, Warren is foremost a restaurant. The dining area can accommodate 150 people inside and 50 outside, including seats on a turfed, shaded patio just off an indoor-outdoor bar.
Executive Chef Jen Knox’s menu, described as “American bistro with a world flair,” ranges from salads, crab cakes and burgers to Australian Carrara Wagyu steaks (from A Cut Above Butcher & Provisions in Fort Lauderdale) and wild-caught Scottish king salmon.
But, make no mistake, Warren wants to be a whiskey destination.
Its entrepreneurial owner Jeff John, Fort Lauderdale-based CEO of Damn Good Hospitality, has been collecting hard-to-find bottles for more than a decade, his bourbon bona fides on display at Stache Drinking Den + Coffee Bar in downtown Fort Lauderdale and the recently closed C.W.S. Kitchen & Bar in Lake Worth.
Along with Fitzpatrick, John’s leadership team at Warren includes two veterans of the South Florida spirits scene, general manager Michael “Iggy” Ignatowicz, longtime GM at City Cellar Wine Bar and Grill in West Palm Beach, and assistant general manager Wayne Pasik, veteran barkeep at City Oyster & Sushi Bar in Delray Beach.
John has made multiple trips to Kentucky distilleries, where he has his own barrels of aging whiskey and personal connections that have yielded the distinctive array of bottles on display at Warren.
Along with Pappy 25, Warren has a variety of the distillery’s other coveted bourbons, including Pappy 23, Pappy 20, Pappy 15 and Pappy 10. Each number indicates the years the whiskey has been aged in barrels — a lengthy process that ensures a limited supply.
“And I have multiple bottles. It’s insane,” says Fitzy, acknowledging that Warren also has the prized Macallan 50 and 20-year-old Double Eagle Very Rare. Their basic well drinks are made with often-scarce Buffalo Trace.
If these names are a mystery, but leave you bourbon curious, Fitzy wants to have a word with you.
As “spiritual adviser” at Warren (it’s on his business card), Fitzy takes the role of whiskey evangelist seriously. Part of his time during the pandemic was spent teaching whiskey classes.
“I’ve always taken an interest in helping people navigate spirits. I’ve always loved to be able to explain and talk to them about that,” he says. “I’m going to be creating an experience for the people in front of me.”
Fitzy may do so while riffing on classic cocktails — the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, the Boulevardier, Blood and Sand. His signature Smoked Old Fashioned is a show unto itself, the tumbler given smoky flavor via a fiery blast of cherry wood, maple, oak or cedar, depending on his mood.
The four stools at the VIP bar are open to anyone, first-come, first-served, though they also can be reserved. Warren’s Cocktail Club offers members exclusive access to whiskey events and discounts. For membership information, visit WarrenDelray.com.
Raised on Long Island, Fitzy got his start in the industry as general manager of comedian David Brenner’s Amsterdam Billiards Club in Manhattan. He looks forward to the word about Warren getting out among whiskey wiseguys.
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“You’re going to get whiskey lovers, aficionados, that come in and they’re going to be, like, ‘We heard you have the best.’ And then I’m gonna just look at them and go [rubs his hands together menacingly], ‘Watch this!’” he says, laughing. “Because I probably have more ammunition than any whiskey guy in the state and … more offerings of brown spirits than any single restaurant in the Southeast.”
And what will he tell them about Pappy 25? Is it worth $1,000 an ounce?
By the end of Warren’s opening night on Friday, the bottle still had not been opened. Fitzy’s gotten as far as Pappy 23, but he has yet to taste Pappy 25.
“I know enough about it and I know how special it is, but I want my sip to go to somebody that’s never had it,” he says. “But I will. I’ll probably get a little whistle wet at some point.”
Warren American Whiskey Kitchen is at 15084 Lyons Road, Delray Beach. Call 561-455-4177 or visit WarrenDelray.com.