Guide To Drinking In Ireland – The Most Typical Irish Drinks
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 Ireland travel post, I share our tips on drinking in Ireland, with a focus on how to make the most of your trip to Ireland.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
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!
What To Drink In Ireland
Our list of what to drink includes traditional Irish drinks as well as a few of the most popular drinks in Ireland now. I will admit that some of these drinks I would never order, particularly the more modern drinks or cocktails. That’s because I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to drinking in Ireland.
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!
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. Guinness is brewed in Dublin at St. James Gate Brewery. In one of the most genius business decisions ever, the founder of Guinness signed a 1000 year lease for their property, which means they own prime property in Dublin, basically forever. Book a tour of the Guinness brewery here.
Guinness is not the only Irish Stout brand. In the South, near Cork, most locals drink Murphy’s Irish Stout. I felt a little odd ordering Guinness down there. Another alternative is Beamish. Many locals order Beamish because it is often a little bit cheaper, but I am not a fan. It doesn’t taste as round or rich as a good Guinness.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.
Other Beer In Ireland
Most Irish pubs in Ireland offer a selection of local beers and ciders in addition to Guinness. Ireland beer brands include a lot that are owned by Guinness anyway. Some of the most common international beers to find at pubs in Ireland are Heineken, Carlsberg, Coors Light, and Budweiser, none of which are Irish at all. Guinness produces a few other Irish beer labels, including 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!
Irish Craft Beer
Craft beer in Ireland is having its moment and there are almost 100 breweries on the island. 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 “home town” in Ireland.
Some of the more popular brands are White Hag, 8 Degrees, Franciscan Well, and Galway Bay Brewing. Cork is probably one of the best cities for craft beer in Ireland. We are partial to Treaty City, which is from Limerick Ireland. They just opened up a tap room in near King John’s Castle in Limerick.
When looking at the taps available in many pubs in Ireland, some of the local beers seem to be 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 Check out our Guide to Craft Beer In Cork
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 Artisan Cider In Ireland
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!
When it comes to what Ireland is famous for, beer is probably one of the top drinks in Ireland. But there is a world of other typical Irish drinks to try, most notable is Irish whiskey. Most people travel to Ireland in search of Jameson Irish Whiskey and search for popular Jameson drinks. But there is a whole world of Irish whiskey awaiting drink travelers.
Some of the most traditional whiskey brands include Powers and Paddy’s, but there are regional brands as well, like West Cork Irish Whiskey. When it comes to how to drink Irish whiskey, the most traditional way is neat, or with a little ice, or with a little water. It’s not traditional to mix Irish whiskey with coke or another soda.
When it comes to one of the most popular whiskey drinks, it has to be Irish coffee. Although Irish Coffee comes from Ireland, and from Limerick where we spend most of our time, it’s not super common to see at pubs. A proper Irish coffee is made in a warm glass, with brown sugar, whiskey, coffee, and fresh layered cream (not whipped cream). Traditionally, Powers whiskey is used, not Jameson.
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 as in many areas of Europe, gin is having its moment in Ireland. Many new, artisan distillers are opening up. Some attempting to make artisan Irish whiskey, but because it takes some time to age whiskey, they are producing gin in the short run to help pay the bills. Irish gins tend to be very mineral tasting, with flavors of peat and smoke. Some of the most popular gin brands include Dingle Gin, Gunpowder, and Cork Dry Gin.
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. I don’t think I’ve drank it since then. Poitín is more commonly known as potcheen in English. It’s a very 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, but this is a challenge. Do you know how many pubs there are in Ireland? There are over 7000 pubs in Ireland. That’s a lot. But, there are actually fewer pubs in Ireland today than there were even a decade ago. The number of pubs have decreased for a few reasons.
First, many people choose to drink and socialize at home because it is cheaper. And, there is less need to worry about drinking and driving. We heard an interesting story when we were in Limerick, Ireland for New Years 2018. About 10 years ago, the pub workers in Limerick went on strike demanding more pay. The strike fell over New Years and the pubs were closed. Before that year many people went to the pubs to celebrate the New Year. That year, people stayed home, hosted house parties, and realized it was much cheaper. Since that time, New Years has never been the same. This is just one example of a shift in Irish drinking culture trends.
Second, many young Irish are turning away from the pubs. Again, part of this is due to cost. Another part is that there are more alternatives. Young people are turning more to cocktail bars, wine bars, and gastro pubs, rather than taking advantage of the traditional pub culture in Ireland. This breaks my heart.
So, how do you find the best pubs in Ireland? Just go local! Open the door, check the atmosphere. If it is filled with locals, belly up to the bar, order a pint, and enjoy.
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
The Irish And Alcohol
I will say there is a reason why the Irish have a reputation for being heavy drinkers. It’s because the Irish drinking culture is strong and has been for a long time. Part of this probably the importance of the pub to everyday life. Maybe it’s the had weather that drives the Irish into the pubs. This also means that alcoholism and binge drinking in Ireland is a problem in modern society. 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.
Pin it to save for later
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.
If you like to use Pinterest to help plan your food and drink trips, feel free to pin this post to your favorite travel board.