Drinking in the city that made the pub its own.
Drinking culture in Dublin is part of the way of life. Because of this pubs and bars, really without exception, are set up to deliver a friendly, efficient and excellent service to the many locals and visitors who use them. There’s never a wait, there’s always a smile and chances are you get a decent drink. In some respects this is the least you might expect when €10 doesn’t get you two pints. But where speed of service, customer interaction and quality control are too often a sideshow in other cities, in Dublin it remains an unquestioned part of the experience. It might be because the profession of bartender was traditionally considered a trade, for which an apprenticeship was typically served. It was a profession that its members treated seriously and that attitude still lives on today. It’s true that you need to find the right places to enjoy Guinness at its best – dense, not too cold and left to stand – but they do exist. It would be folly to not seek out such an iconic emblem of Ireland, but there is also now more to see and drink at experimental cocktail bars and the first new whiskey distillery to open in over a century.
There’s one question that regularly gets asked in this city: “Where can you get the best pint of Guinness?” Being the most famous Irish export, it should come as no surprise that people want to know where they can find the original and best.
One answer you will hear often is: “At Grogan’s.” Of course others will say elsewhere, but there’s nowhere quite like Grogan’s: dark, beautifully scruffy and brooding, and staffed by people whose welcome make it glow. It’s been here forever and as such still welcomes many locals for its peerless pint, but of late, given its proximity to the ‘creative quarter’, in the evening has become a favourite for the heritage-hunting hipster too.
In Dublin, the two jostle just fine.
Grogan’s is the kind of place where no one will bat an eyelash if you order a pint before midday. You can order a ‘normal’ or a ‘posh’ coffee and a toastie too, since it acts as a quasi-café during the day: old boys talk politics, students read books at the bar, local, eclectic art hangs for sale on the walls. Grogan’s belongs to a different era, with a charm and authenticity that remains unspoiled. (http://www.groganspub.ie/)
Peruke & Periwig is a fabulous Georgian drinking den, even if some of the design is deliberately and stylistically in the mould of ‘ye olde’. This romantic little bar by St Stephen’s Green possesses the sort of atmosphere that encourages a night of true and decadent revelry. Regency décor, antique portraits in ornate frames and lots of Burgundy upholstery lend it a bewitchingly surreal edge, despite (or perhaps because of) its proximity moments away from Dublin’s busiest high street. It can be found full of Friday-nighters dressed to the nines or huddled suits gulping beer because – as is the form in Dublin – even if you can make great cocktails, you’re still, as a bar, only ever as good as the pint you pull. Alongside a traditional offer from big-brand breweries, the brilliant bartenders here concoct elaborate (but unpretentious) cocktails from rarefied sprits, bitters and mixers – though they will just as happily fashion anything classic in their nonchalant way from behind the beautiful dark wood and brass bar. An indication of Peruke & Periwig’s real age can also be found in their dude-food menu and pulled pork buns and beef dip sandwiches.
This multi-purpose music and culture venue, run by Bodytonic’s ‘Head Promoter & Shoe Shiner’ Eoin Cregan, re-opened in its current guise in November 2015.
Famously, the ground floor bar boasts a list of 100 rums, as well as good cocktails and a short but solid wine list. Downstairs the club has moved on from the days of hard-hitting techno to nights featuring some of Dublin’s most interesting and progressive sounds – more funk, disco and Chicago house – from DJs such as Andrew Weatherall, Rahaan and Horse Meat Disco. By day, there’s brunch-style food from chef Pedro Ferraz, fusing his Brazilian roots, Italian training and Irish base. There are toasties too, including one with banana, Nutella and espresso-whipped mascarpone. These come from the Vice Coffee concession (11am-6pm every day), overseen by Tom Stafford, which showcases a rotating range of coffees from the best roasteries across Europe. As such, it is home to this year’s World Aeropress Championships – a fringe event of the World Barista Championship. Stafford is known for, among other things, his triumph in the recent Irish Coffee Making Championships.
Teeling is the first new whiskey distillery to open in Dublin in 125 years, and the city’s only current operational whiskey distillery. The Teeling family has been crafting whiskey since 1782 close to the site in Newmarket where the current generation – Jack and Stephen – have revived their ancestors’ brand. The core range, which can increasingly be found in bars across the city, includes three signature styles: “small batch”, “single grain” and “single malt”. The latter two are carefully finished in a range of French and American oak barrels, though some of the sprits might also age inside Nicaraguan rum casks – such is the apparent selectivity and niche knowledge the current distillers and blenders have over their craft. The Teeling guys are part of the renascent craft culture that is being cradled by Dublin’s new creative set – Vice Coffee’s Tom Stafford used Teeling’s Small Batch in his prize-winning Irish coffee. The distillery only recently opened, and offers tours and tasting experiences for enthusiasts, connoisseurs and anyone interested in the story not just of Teeling, but the history of Irish whiskey itself.