Drinking In Ireland Travel Guide
We’ve been traveling to Ireland since 1999. I remember before our first trip, when we were in college, Eric took me to a local Irish bar in New Jersey to “teach” me to drink Guinness. It is funny looking back at it, because now I love Guinness, along with loads of other typical Irish drinks. In this post, I share our tips on drinking in Ireland, with a focus on how to drink what’s local in Ireland.
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The Drinking Culture In Ireland
When it comes to what Ireland is known for, many people quickly think of Irish pubs. Socializing and alcohol in Ireland go hand in hand. It’s one of my favorite things about Ireland. There’s something about heading to the local pub and socializing, enjoying the craic, the conversation that goes along with pubs and music.
Of course, many people who head to the pub enjoy non-alcoholic Irish beverages as well, but for us, we have been known to enjoy a pint or two while visiting Ireland. But, there is more to typical Irish drinks than beer.
What you will learn in this Irish Drinks Post:
- What are some of the most classic Irish drinks and Irish liquor brands. Everyone knows Ireland for Guinness, but there’s more!
- How to find the best Irish drinks when traveling in Ireland. Our top tip is to walk into a pub and ask what is the most local beer, or local gin, or local whiskey. A good bartender is always happy to educate.
- How to find a good Irish pub in Ireland. There is no better experience when traveling in Ireland than checking out a good Irish pub!
Planning A Visit To Ireland
Looking to plan a tour to Ireland but don’t want to plan it yourself? I totally understand. Overall, Ireland is an easy place to travel to, particularly because they speak English. But, here are some travel tips to make the most of your stay.
Insurance: We recommend using World Nomads for travel insurance for every international trip you take. You never know and it is better to be safe than sorry. This is particularly true if renting a car or doing any hiking or outdoor activities in Ireland. They offer immediate quotes so you know the cost and coverage immediately. Check out World Nomads here.
Rental Cars: In order to see the best of the island, though, you need to hit the open roads. If looking to rent a car, we recommend RentalCars.com. They compare prices at the top rental car companies to get you the best deal. Some travelers don’t like the idea of renting a car in Ireland, though, because they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. It can be a challenge, particularly on narrow and windy roads.
Recommended Group Tour: As an alternative, we recommend booking a tour through Intrepid Travel. They offer an 8 day tour of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The tour visits Dublin, Belfast, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, and even the Aran Islands. Check out the full itinerary here. We took an Intrepid Tour in Morocco and we would definitely recommend them if you want to book a group tour.
What To Drink In Ireland
Our list of what to drink includes traditional Irish drinks and brands like Guinness, Jameson, and and Irish Coffee. After twenty years of traveling to Ireland, we’ve begun to expand our taste palettes partly because of the rise in Irish craft beer, Irish gin, and Irish whiskey producers. We included several of our favorite independent producers and highly encourage you to try them out.
The important thing to remember is that Irish people drinking are similar to people drinking anywhere else in the world. They drink what they like. Some people, like Eric’s aunt have never drank a drop in their lives. Some people, like Eric’s cousin, won’t go near a pint of Guinness. Others, like ourselves, can’t drink enough Guinness!
Traditional Irish Drinks Guide Pro Tip
Traditionally people always talked about the craic in Irish pubs. It’s still something people say, but what is craic and what does it mean? Craic is the term that refers to the talk, the banter, and the fun that goes on in an Irish pub. It’s not just about chatting with your friends, it’s about meeting strangers and becoming part of the community. Don’t be put off if a stranger starts talking to you. It’s one of the best parts of enjoying the traditional Irish drinks scene!
Drinking In Ireland – Irish Beer
It’s no joke that beer is extremely popular in Ireland. Ireland consistently ranks in the top 10 of per capita beer consumption. While Guinness is the undisputed King of beer in Ireland, it’s not the only game in town. From other mass produced beers to innovated independent Irish craft beer brewers, the options are endless.
If someone asked me about the national drink of Ireland, it would have to be Guinness. Even the smallest pubs in Ireland will have one or more taps of Guinness at the bar. Easily one of the most iconic drinks in the world, Guinness first started brewing its signature stout in 1759.
In one of the most genius business decisions ever, the founder of Guinness, Arthur Guinness, signed a 1000 year lease for their property, St. James Gate. When you are in Dublin, make sure to visit the Guinness Storehouse on the grounds of the brewery. Book a tour of the Guinness Storehouse here.
Murphy’s Irish Stout
Guinness is not the only Irish Stout brand. In the South, near Cork, most locals drink Murphy’s Irish Stout. First brewed in 1856 and now owned by Heineken, Murphy’s is similar in style and look to Guinness but with its own distinct taste. I’m not about to get into the great Guinness versus Murphy’s versus Beamish debate but I’m a Guinness drinker and prefer the taste of Guinness. That said, if you are in Cork, definitely order a Murphy’s and decide for yourself.
Beamish Irish Stout
As a fan of the “rule of threes” it nice knowing there are three legendary Irish stouts. Brewed in Cork since 1792, Beamish Irish Stout is another Irish beer worth sampling. Like Murphy’s, Beamish is owned and brewed by Heineken. And much like Guinness and Murphy’s, Beamish is a dark, creamy stout with its own distinct taste. Like all the legendary Irish stouts, Beamish has a devout customer base who prefer their Beamish to the others.
Love your Guinness? Check out our collection of Irish Dessert Recipes, including several made with this famous Irish stout.Book a Tour of The Guinness Brewery And Jameson Distillery In Dublin
FAQs – Drinking Guinness In Ireland
For me, when it comes to Irish beer names, there is only one. Although younger Irish tend to be turning away from Guinness in favor of cider and other beers, yes, the Irish still drink Guinness. It is not a drink for tourists at all!
The simplest way is to order a pint of Guinness. For people who want to try Guinness, but don’t want to commit to a full pint, order a half-pint, or a glass of Guinness.
Can I say heaven? It is an Irish stout and tends to be dark and creamy in the mouth, but it is not as heavy as people assume it is. For people who aren’t used to the taste of Guinness, some locals (including our cousin) will order a glass of Guinness with a little bit of black currant in it, which helps to sweeten it up.
From experts I’ve spoken with, it has to do with the length of the draw, meaning how long is the hose that connects the tap with the keg. It also has to do with how often the hoses are cleaned.
Drinking In Ireland – Other Beer In Ireland
Most Irish pubs in Ireland offer a selection of local beers and ciders in addition to Guinness. Some of the most common international beer brands to find at pubs in Ireland are Heineken, Coors Light (known locally simply as Coors), and Budweiser. In the highly competitive drinks industry, Irish brands like Guinness have expanded into the growing craft beer space with brands like Hop House 13 and Rockshore.
The point being that sometimes you will see a tap at an Irish pub that looks like it might be “craft beer” but it really is a commercial beer and not an independent at all. If you ever are confused, just ask the bartender what is the most local beer and they will steer you in the right direction!
Drinking In Ireland – Irish Craft Beer
Craft beer in Ireland is exploding and now there are almost 100 breweries on the island. The good news is there are new craft breweries and craft beer bars popping up all over the country. It’s best to Google “craft beer bar ____” and fill in the city you are traveling to in order to find the most local Irish drinks. Most bartenders are happy to chat about what is local as well. We are big fans of Mother Macs in Limerick, our local in Ireland.
We’ve had lots of fun exploring craft beer in Ireland. In our “research” we’ve discovered a few including the White Hag, Lough Gill Brewery, and Kinnegar Brewing that are certainly worth finding. Cork is probably one of the best cities for craft beer in Ireland. The city has its own “craft beer trail” that showcases great craft beers from Cork and around Ireland.
We are partial to Treaty City, which is from Limerick Ireland. Yes, being our local beer has something to do with it. After all, we are big fans of supporting local businesses. But they also make great beer. Their Sarsfield Stout and Harris Pale Ale are two of our absolute favorites. Things have gotten even more exciting with Treaty City and their opening of a brewery and tap room in Limerick.
As writers of food travel, it’s our job to inform. So, when looking at the taps available in many pubs in Ireland, some beers are marketed as “Irish craft beer”, but really aren’t. This is particularly true when seeing Hop House 13 and Rockshore, which are both produced by Guinness. Some of the recent beer marketing includes statements like “brought to you by the brewers at St. James Gate.” This really means produced by Guinness and is not craft at all. I can’t say this enough. Even Franciscan Well is considered a craft beer in Cork, but they are actually owned by Molson Coors.Check out our Ultimate Guide To Craft Beer In Ireland
Drinking Cider In Ireland
Hard cider seems to be more popular than ever in Ireland. It can be served on tap, or in a can or bottle. When served from a can or bottle, most people drink it over ice. This is a sweet alcoholic cider and to me tastes a little syrupy. This is different from the traditional hard cider from England and craft cider that is well known in cities like Bristol. The most popular cider brands in Ireland include Bulmer’s (which is known as Manger’s outside of Ireland), Appleman’s, and Orchard Thieves.
Drinking In Ireland – Artisan Cider
As much as I am not a fan of Bulmer’s there are a handful of companies in Ireland producing small batch, artisan cider. The Longueville House Hotel in Mallow is producing artisan cider as well as apple brandy. Dan Kelly’s Cider from County Louth is producing cider from hand-picked apples from their family orchard an hour north of Dublin.
Craigies Irish Craft Cider is from County Wicklow. They’ve been using nothing but 100% Irish grown apples since 2012. Longways Irish Craft Cider is from County Tipperary and they are a Gold Medal winning producer of Irish Craft Cider. Their farm is surrounded by nature and home to sixteen Irish honeybee colonies that pollinate the entire orchard. That’s local! For something super unique, check out their Elderflower Cider, which is actually pink!
Drinking In Ireland – Irish Whiskey
Second only to Guinness, Irish whiskey is incredibly popular in Ireland. Once only considered a “man’s drink”, Irish whiskey now transcends gender. And much like Irish craft beer, there’s been a renaissance in distilling Irish whiskey.
In a market still dominated by the likes of iconic Irish whiskey brands like Jameson, Powers, and Paddy’s, there’s been a significant increase in new distilleries making Irish whiskey. If you are a whiskey drinker this is great news.
If you are new to drinking Irish whiskey, the most traditional way is neat, or with a little ice, or with a little water. This helps to open up the whiskey. With that in mind, it’s not traditional to mix Irish whiskey with coke or another soda.
From Donegal in the north, down to the Dingle Peninsula and Cork, and over to Dublin, whiskey lovers will find plenty of whiskey distilleries to visit. Here are some of the Irish whiskey distillers we’ve discovered that are certainly worth trying out.
Teeling has a family whiskey making legacy dating back to 1782. Opened in 2015, the distillery is the first new distillery to open in Dublin in over 125 years. Teeling produces a wide range of whiskeys including reserve whiskey ranging from 18 to 30 years of age. Tours of the distillery are available and pre-booking is recommended.
Roe & Co
Honoring Dublin’s whiskey distilling history, Roe & Co. is Dublin’s newest distillery. Named after famous 19th-century distiller George Roe, Roe & Co aims to redefine whiskey distilling in Ireland. Their whiskey is made using only the finest, hand-selected Irish malt and grains. Aged in bourbon casks, the whiskey has a gentle yet spiced taste. Tours of the distillery are available for €19.50 including whiskey tasting.
JJ Corry Irish Whiskey Bonders
Located in Co. Clare and a stone’s throw from Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, JJ Corry is bring back the tradition of bonding, aging, and blending Irish whiskey. Lead by drinks industry veteran Louise Mc Guane, JJ Corry produces a portfolio of Irish whiskey each carefully aged in a variety of former wine and spirit casks.
Drinking In Ireland – Whiskey Drinks
When it comes to THE most popular whiskey drinks, it has to be an Irish coffee. The invention of the Irish coffee is credited to chef Joe Sheridan back in 1943. Like many great inventions, his invention happened by chance one storming evening out in Foyes, Co. Limerick. You can learn the full story by visiting the Foyes Flying Boat Museum and sample one for yourself.
So what exactly is a proper Irish coffee? A proper Irish coffee is made in a warm glass, with brown sugar, Powers whiskey, not Jameson, freshly brewed coffee, and fresh layered cream (not whipped cream).
Another of the Irish whiskey drinks, and one I tend to drink the most when traveling in Ireland, is called a hot whiskey. It’s similar to a hot toddy. I’ll drink a hot whiskey on a cold winter day, or when I am feeling a little under the weather. A hot whiskey is normally not made with a high-end whiskey, but is a mix of whiskey with hot water, sugar or honey, lemon, and cloves. Just what the doctor ordered.
Drinking In Ireland – Irish Gin
Irish gin has taken a backseat to Irish whiskey for years. In fact, gin has long been considered more of a ladies drink (not our words) in Ireland. Over the past decade there’s been a revolution with Irish gin. As Irish whiskey distillers wait for their whiskeys to age, they are also producing high quality artisan gin.
Years of living in and traveling to Spain has given us a taste for gin. So it’s exciting to have so many great Irish gins to taste. While most Spanish gins feature Mediterranean botanicals like lemon and other citrus fruits, Irish gin’s feature distinctly Irish botanicals such as meadowsweet, bog myrtle, and dillusk, a type of local seaweed.
Even with the growth in new Irish gins, there’s one brand that has stood the test of time. First distilled in Cork back in 1793, Cork Dry Gin is to Irish gin what Gordon’s is to English. A mass produced gin, it’s still a very drinkable gin. In my humble opinion, it’s better than most mass produced gins like Gordon’s and Beefeaters.
When visiting Ireland, it’s worth keeping an eye out for some of these new Irish gins we are alluding to. As I mentioned, we love our gin and here are just a few worth asking for.
A super easy drinking gin, Glendalough sources its botanicals from the mountains and forests surrounding the distillery in Co. Wicklow. Distilled in small batches, these local botanicals shine through giving Glendalough a wild, yet refreshing taste.
Influenced by the land and the sea of Co. Kerry, this award-winning Irish gin makes the perfect gin tonic cocktail. A truly Irish gin, Dingle gin features local Irish botanicals like ash trees, fuchsia, bog myrtle, and hawthorn. Using water from their own well, Dingle gin is as Irish as a gin can be.
Bertha’s Revenge Gin
Don’t let the name scare you off, there’s no impending revenge if you enjoy this Irish gin from Co. Kerry. Made using whey alcohol from nearby cow’s milk, Bertha’s Revenge Gin is the first of its kind. The taste is unlike any other gin we’ve ever tried and a must try when in Ireland.
Drinking In Ireland – Other Spirits
Most interesting is the Kinsale Mead Company, located at the edge of the village of Kinsale in County Cork. Mead is a honey-based liquor that is sort of produced the same way as wine. There is a long history of mead production in Ireland going back thousands of years. More recently, it’s sort of been forgotten. That is until the Kinsale Mead Company came along.
Kinsale Mead was founded in 2016 to rediscover the ancient art of mead making and to create a delicious, refreshing new Irish drink. Kinsale Mead lovingly hand-crafts each batch of mead sourcing the best natural local ingredients. Although it can be drank on its own, look for it at specialty cocktail bars as an ingredient in unique drinks. They offer tours for €12 a person with advanced booking. Tours include a history of mead, how mead is made and a sampling of various meads.
Poitin or Potcheen
I remember our first trip to Ireland in 1999 and trying Poitin. I even brought a bottle back to the US. 20 years later, I don’t think I’ve drank poitin since. Poitín is more commonly known as potcheen in English. It’s a traditional Irish distilled liquor, most known as Irish “moonshine.” The name refers to its method of production. Pocheen is distilled in a small pot, or pota in Irish Gaelic.
All this said, and as much as this is a traditional Irish drink, I don’t often see it at pubs or if it is there, it’s sometimes more for decoration. It’s worth trying at least once if you see it in a pub but I am not sure it is a drink commonly consumed by the locals, at least not the ones we know.
How To Find The Best Pubs In Ireland
People often ask me about finding the best Irish pubs in Ireland. It’s a tough questions to answer. First, there are over 7000 pubs in Ireland. Second, is there really such a thing as a “bad pub?” Perhaps a pub that’s run out of Guinness is a bad pub.
Our best advice with finding a great pub is the advice we always give when traveling. Avoid touristy areas. Yes, Temple Bar in Dublin is one of the main draws and worth a walk through. But, like most places that cater to tourists, the pints are more expensive and not exactly for the locals.
If you can avoid the main tourist areas odds are you’ll find a local pub. From there, simply open the door, belly up to the bar, order a pint, and enjoy. If you strike up a conversation with somebody, ask the question, “who’s got the best pint?”
Food And Drink In Ireland – What To Pair With Irish Cuisine
It’s normally said that what grows together, goes together. That’s why when we write about what to drink in Italy, my goal is to encourage travelers to drink the wine that is local to the region you are traveling in. Don’t drink Prosecco, which is from the Veneto, when traveling in Naples. The same in Spain. We don’t drink Rioja when traveling in Seville or Girona.
It’s a little different when it comes to Irish food and drink. Today, many Irish will pair wine with most Ireland cuisine, even though there isn’t a traditional wine culture in Ireland. For me, there’s nothing better than a good Guinness paired with fresh fish and chips, or a cold craft beer to wash down spicy buffalo wings. What is important about Ireland food culture is that pub drinking doesn’t tend to pair with food at all. Sure, there are gastropubs where people go for dinner. But, for the most part, and traditionally, pubs were pubs, and didn’t serve food at all.Check Out Our Guide On What To Eat In Ireland
Drinking In Ireland – The Rules
It should come as no surprise that Ireland has a strong drinking culture. Having been to nearly 70 countries around the world, we’ve come to discover other countries who’s drinking culture rivals or exceeds that of Ireland. That said, going to the pub is ingrained Irish culture and as a traveler to Ireland it’s important to know a few things about the drinking laws in Ireland.
First, the legal drinking age in Ireland is 18, which is obviously much lower than in the US. It’s also pretty common to see children in pubs in Ireland, as it is part of the culture. Many pubs will have signs that say no children after 7pm or 8pm.
Drink driving in Ireland has historically been a big problem and the government has taken it seriously in recent years. The drink drive limit in Ireland is next to zero. They take a zero tolerance policy towards drinking and driving. So much so that they are doing road stops in the mornings to test for traces of liquor from the night before. For example, under Irish law, if you drink 10 pints of Guinness (I know, that’s a lot) and your last pint is at midnight, then under Irish law you cannot drive until 8 pm the following night. In other words, it’s just not worth it. Book a hotel or Airbnb in the center of a town or village, enjoy Irish pub culture, and don’t drive.
Drinking In Ireland – For The Non-Drinker
Plenty of people who travel to Ireland don’t drink alcohol. If this is you, here are a couple things to look forward to when visiting.
Thanks to its proximity to England, drinking tea is a deeply routed part of Irish culture. Beginning and ending your day with a cup of tea is a way of life for many. In fact, tea is such an important part of life in Ireland, there’s a bit Coke versus Pepsi thing going on with the two main tea brands, Barry’s and Lyons. If you don’t believe stop anyone one on the street and ask which brand is better. But just remember, you’ve been warned.
Ireland’s Coffee Culture
Not to be overshadowed by the rise in craft beer and gin, Ireland has witness a rapid increase in local coffee shops producing their own roasted coffee. As a coffee drinker I applaud this development. While I love my tea, there’s nothing better than a perfectly roasted and brewed cup of coffee. All across Ireland, new coffee shops and coffee roasters have sprung up bring a smile to the faces of coffee loving travelers.
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Guide To Drinking In Ireland – The Most Typical Irish Drinks
When we first started traveling to Ireland, we drank as much Guinness as we could and that was it. But, it’s so exciting to see so much variety in the Irish drinks on offer, from craft beer to artisan cider to cocktails.
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