Every few months, Velveteen Rabbit makes a new specialty drink menu, swapping its summer drinks for autumnal libations and so on. In this way, owners Christina and Pamela Dylag have aligned Velveteen Rabbit with the exploding artisanal cocktail culture, while giving us a reason to keep coming back to the stylish Arts District bar: The décor and address don’t change, but everything else does.
This also means that the bar must reprint its menus every few months. And this summer, the Dylags have figured out how to make them seasonal, too: Collaborating with local designer Hernan Valencia, Velveteen Rabbit now offers its menu as a one-of-a-kind zine.
“We’re featuring local artists and writers, in addition to our cocktail menu and our full spirits list,” Pamela Dylag says. True to her word, the premiere issue features poetry by Michael Berger and Carla Bivins; art by Tatiana Hantig, Chelsea Rayl, Victoria Pupa and Travis Jackson; and even two pages of parlor games. (And that full spirits list is spiced up with quotations from Sylvia Plath and Tom Waits.)
The zine is an idea that’s been much on Valencia’s mind since he checked out the Portland Zine Symposium a few years back.
“The Symposium completely blew me away,” Valencia says. “Later, I spotted the Dead Rabbit NYC Bar’s Instagram account, where they were featuring one of their rotating menu designs for sale—a dark story told in comic format. It reminded me of the Symposium and all the different ways a message could be expressed. Instead of solely a cocktail menu, it could be a way to showcase poetry and art. It was perfect for Velveteen Rabbit.”
The zine is pocket-size, which has reportedly emboldened customers to pocket them at the end of the night. (The owners are flattered, but respectfully ask $1 per zine to keep the tradition going.) Despite its small size, however, the Velveteen zine has already pulled off a huge coup—it’s gotten the bar’s patrons to put their phones down, at least for a moment.
“It encourages discussion, and veers people away from staring into the abyss of social media,” Dylag says.