THE summer is almost over and given that I’m known to be a walking cliche I feel like breaking into the Bagatelle song Boston Rose, as the tourists have all gone and the children are all back to school. Another thing that is also very clichéd is how much the Irish are proud to be Irish. We love a good GAA top on our holidays, telling everyone who will listen about Ireland and how much we always try to sell the Emerald Isle to potential visitors.
If you have been following my column from the beginning, you will know I love to talk about the Irish drinks industry. If you meet me in the pub, I will happily talk the leg of the table about whiskey, Irish whiskey, the real stuff, with a Guinness in hand. The bartenders who know me, dread the moment when I point over and say those magic words: “Irish Coffee please.”
In my first column many months ago I wrote about the Irish Coffee, but I also spoke about how it has changed the art of bartending in Ireland. Many of the pubs in Ireland that I use for inspiration have recently won prestigious awards and rightly so. I think they are doing some amazing work. I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting them all, but I fully intend to. Here is a list of the must visit bars that I recommend.
The Rusty Mackerel, Teelin, Donegal
Lonelyplanet top 20 pubs in Ireland also has just won Gastro Pub of the year. Outstanding food, music with a open fire
Friels Bar, Swatragh, Derry
One of the best pints of Guinness in Derry. A fifth generation of family run this bar, which has a cracking beer garden. The walls are lined with the awards they have won over the years.
One of the best bars for traditional music in Belfast, offering a solid pint of Guinness and a great whiskey collection.
No food, no music just great pints of plain—made famous recently for not selling half pints. They also have a massive whiskey collection—believed to be over 1000 bottles. A former winner of Ulster Whiskey Bar of the Year makes it a must visit.
Named after Henry Joy McCracken, it encompasses both Henrys and the Jailhouse. This is one of my favourite bars in Belfast for music, food and cocktails, I highly recommend it.
Thomas Connolly’s, Sligo
Winner of Pub of the Year 2017. If you are exploring the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s a fine pit stop. Famous for its Guinness and having more than 200 Irish whiskeys to choose from. A old haunt of WB Yeats too.
Sonny Malloys, Galway
One of the best whiskey bars in Ireland—a solid 10/10. If you have deep pockets, they have an amazing whiskey platter that’s a snip at €2700. If you can’t stretch to that then they have more affordable floats as well as their own Redbreast. If whiskey isn’t your thing, they also have a banging cocktail menu.
McGinns Hop House, Galway
Compared to some on the list, this is the new kid on the block. In the last few years it has established itself as one of the best sports bars in Galway with good food and great craic
An Pucan, Galway
People’s Choice Award Winner 2022 and one of the coolest bars in Galway. They have an amazing cocktail menu and some of the best live music in the west. A solid whiskey collection too.
Franciscan Well Bar and Brewery, Cork Irish Craft Beer Bar of the Year. Take the brewery tour and sample some incredible beers on offer.
The Shelbourne, Cork
Ireland’s Whiskey Bar of the Year 2016, 2017, 2019 and now 2022, Munster Whiskey Bar of the Year 2018 and 2019. Also renowned for its Irish Coffees, I could go on and on about this bar, but I think the sheer amount of awards speaks for itself.
Dick Macks, Dingle, Kerry
This is another must visit for any serious whiskey fan. Their bar takes you back to the days when a bar served more than one purpose. The bar is also a leather shop, so if you ever need a saddle and a stiff drink Dick Macks is the place to go
An Poitín Stil, Rathcoole
Won Silver in 2022 Local Pub of the Year. On the edge of the city sits this amazing pub with a thatched roof. They also have the football that was used in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday on display, which is a very cool thing to have in your pub.
Seans Bar Athlone, Westmeath
Dating back to 900AD, it is claims to be one of the oldest bars in the world and is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest bar in Ireland. A great whiskey selection.
The Palace Bar, Fleet Street
Possibly the best whiskey bar in Dublin. Winner of Leinster and Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year on several occasions, it is a mecca for Irish whiskey fans.
John Kavanagh, The Gravediggers, Glasnevin
A classic old pub, with no TV, zero modern touches, just good pints. Voted Best Pint of Plain in Ireland—so the world then—it’s a tourist attraction on its own. After your pint can nip next door to the graveyard and visit the grave of the man himself, Arthur Guinness.
Bar 1661, Dublin 7
Last but not least, the pub voted recently as Ireland’s 2022 Bar of the Year. I have never set foot in this bar but, even before the award, I was a massive fan. Ireland’s first Poitín Bar, I’m reliably informed that their cocktails are amazing. 1661 was the year poitín was outlawed and they have made poitín their go-to spirit, making their signature world famous as an Irish coffee. They have even created their own Belfast Coffee. And here’s how you make yours.
—25ml of Poitin (I recommend Killowen)
—One shot of coffee
—A teaspoon of demerara sugar
—Add coffee to an Irish coffee glass. It can be instant coffee and fill to about 2cm below the rim or a shot of espresso from a coffee machine and fill with hot water to 2cm below the rim.
—Add a teaspoon of demerara sugar or brown sugar. If you are using a syrup use 25ml.
—Add the 25ml of Poitin.
—Give it all a stir.
—Add your cream to a shaker to make it thicker with a shake. Adding ice cubes to the cream helps speed up the process. Try not to make the cream too thick or it won’t pour.
—Pour the cream onto a spoon just on top of the coffee slowly and let it layer.
—And some ground nutmeg to the top and sláinte!
Mickey Mullan is a proud Derryman, an award-winning spirit enthusiast and the Manager of Malones Bar in Glasgow