Not Done Fancy, Just Done Right

Joel Lee Kulp’s The Richardson in Brooklyn, New York is a proper American bar.

At The Richardson in Brooklyn, New York, Joe Lee Kulp curates a menu where no category is ignored.
At The Richardson in Brooklyn, New York, Joe Lee Kulp curates a menu where no category is ignored.

It’s no small feat to keep a bar running in New York City for 15 years, but Joel Lee Kulp has done just that with The Richardson in Brooklyn. He’s been in the industry since graduating college in the late ’90s, landing his first real bartending gig in New York City at Café Luxembourg in 1998. “I’ve tended bars and managed various venues ever since,” he says. “I managed a neighborhood bar in Nolita for five years before venturing out on my own and opening The Richardson in 2008.” 

Kulp says that The Richardson was always meant to be a “proper American bar,” which to him means “a place where every aspect of the beverage program is curated, nothing is an afterthought.” When the venue was being created, there was a trend of “compartmentalization” in bars, he adds. “Cocktails were served in ‘cocktail bars,’ beer in ‘beer bars,’ and forget about trying to order a glass of wine if you weren’t in a ‘wine bar’ or a restaurant,” he notes. “It was 2007 and North Brooklyn was cornering the market on bars in which to drink little else outside of budget-friendly brews. The Richardson was never about reinventing the wheel, but rather establishing a long-term neighborhood bar that could serve all, properly.” 

One and a half decades later, The Richardson has held strong to that identity. “Our motto from day one has been, ‘not done fancy, just done right,’” Kulp says. He proudly eschews pretension, recalling a time when a guest was embarrassed to ask for a Manhattan on the rocks because she had been ridiculed for the order by a bartender at a prominent Manhattan cocktail bar who refused to make it for her. “I told her I wouldn’t go back to that bar and now she knows where to come for the truth,” he says. “It’s her drink and she can have it any way she likes.” 

Kulp notes that The Richardson’s defining cocktail style (drinks are $14-$17) is what he calls spirit-forward mixing. “This doesn’t mean ‘strong drinks,’ but rather drinks that are spirit-focused,” he explains. For instance, his Russell’s Island ($17, recipe below) blends Bourbon, coconut-washed Campari, and sweet vermouth, while his Rigor Mortis ($15; recipe below), comprises reposado Tequila, mezcal, agave syrup, and orange bitters. “When creating new drinks, we mostly begin with the base spirit and concoct the best ways to highlight it, not mask it,” he says. “And if a cocktail is going to have a fifth ingredient, it better damn well serve a purpose.” 

Joel Lee Kulp’s Recipes

Russell’s Island


1 ounce Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon1; 

1 ounce coconut-washed Campari aperitif2; 

1 ounce Dolin Rouge vermouth. 


In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine Bourbon, Campari, and vermouth. Stir and strain into a double rocks glass over fresh ice.

Rigor Mortis


½ ounce Arette Reposado Tequila; 

1½ ounces Banhez Ensamble mezcal; 

¼ ounce agave syrup; 

6 dashes Regans’ No. 6 Orange bitters; 

Grapefruit twist. 


In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine Tequila, mezcal, syrup, and bitters. 

Stir and strain into a double rocks glass over a large ice cube. Express a 

grapefruit twist over the drink, then use as garnish.