06 Oct Pubs and Drink
The Irish have always had a close relationship with drink. Public houses or bars began as illicit drink shops or shebeens where people met to exchange news and drink poitin, a raw fiery spirit whose history is traced in John McGuffin’s entertaining book In Praise of Poteen. Pubs are still very much a social centre and a convivial meeting place where you can chat to local people in informal surroundings. Dont miss them on Ireland tours.
Many pubs have preserved their original decor with features such as solid mahogany bar furniture, brass lamps, lovely old mirrors and stained glass. To experience a traditional Irish pub it is best to head for one of these and avoid brash, modern places.
You will find every Irish town is well endowed with pubs. You should have no trouble finding a welcoming hearth, a blazing turf fire and cheering glass.
Visit them on your tours of Ireland.
When someone asks for a pint they usually mean Guinness, the dark stout with a white head which is synonymous with Ireland. There is hardly a pub in the country that does not stock Guinness on draught or in bottles. Try it on its own or with some oysters.
Visitors are welcome at the Guinness brewery in Dublin. This is the oldest brewery in Ireland; Arthur Guinness (Uncle Arthur as he is affectionately known) began brewing at St James’s Gate in 1759.
Equally famous is Irish whiskey. The word comes from the Irish uisce beatha meaning water of life and there is an old saying “There’s more friendship in a glass of spirit than in a barrel of buttermilk!” The whiskey is matured for 7 to 12 years and has a mellow distinct flavour. It is made from malted and unmalted barley, yeast and pure spring water.
The oldest (legal) distillery is at Bushmills near the Giant’s Causeway, dating from1609. Irish people often drink their whiskey diluted with water. So if you order ‘a ball of malt’ you will usually get a jug of water with it. Try it on its own first. Some of the 12 year old whiskies are like nectar and are as good as a fine brandy.
Irish coffee is now world famous and often drunk at the end of a meal or on a cold day. Another warming drink is a hot whiskey which is simply whiskey with hot water, sugar, lemon and cloves. Black velvet is a delicious mixture of Guinness and champagne.