Dublin’s Cocktail Bars Are Just As Great as the City’s Pubs
Dublin nights—and, hell, lazy afternoons—are well spent holed up in atmospheric old pubs like the beloved Toners and John Kavanagh. This bombardment of dark-wood interiors and frothy Guinness pints, however, often overshadows an excellent, diverse cocktail scene that’s percolating quietly throughout the city.
Consider the cozy, blue-walled restaurant Delahunt on Brooklyn-esque Camden Street. Before dining, say, on hake with crushed potatoes and preserved lemon butter amid mahogany and lace curtains, make your way to the upstairs Sitting Room and indulge in a bright, imaginative aperitif like the Little Bird (tequila blanco, Aperol, yellow Chartreuse, lime, honey, orange marmalade, smoked sea salt). With a mirror-topped fireplace and overhead chandelier, the room feels like a Victorian-era parlor.
② Hang Dai
Barely a minute away is Hang Dai, a contemporary Chinese joint whose disco vibe makes it decidedly more upbeat than its neighbor. Patrons congregate around the dark dining room's mirrored bar for mapo tofu and truffle fried rice; the playful, food-friendly cocktails, meanwhile, incorporate ingredients ranging from homemade cola to vanilla rice milk. Once the DJ gets going, you’ll want to stick around for a Smash Hopper, a refined riff on the traditional Grasshopper, which melds Ireland's native moonshine-esque Bán Poitín with crème de menthe, Tio Pepe sherry, lemon, sugar and an egg white.
Elegance is always on display at Sidecar, set within the luxe Westbury hotel smack in Dublin's city center. At this Art Deco den, which is chock-full of marble and mirror, you can sip a glass of bubbly and enjoy the spectacle of tableside martinis. Opt for one of the bar’s numerous gin and tonics, and don’t shy away from variations made with Irish gin (like Gunpowder or Bertha's Revenge). The white-jacketed bartenders also turn out lovely versions of the bar's namesake tipple with Hennessy cognac and Pierre Ferrand curaçao.
Between the scuffed wooden bar and gilt-framed portraits, one might think Peruke & Periwig, near St. Stephen's Green, is a timeworn saloon. Nostalgic aura aside, this bar and restaurant from the hospitality behemoths behind well-loved institutions like Vintage Cocktail Club and The Liquor Rooms has a vast menu peppered with zany but well-balanced drinks. A recent order for the Beet Goes On (Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin, crème de mûre, Aperol, beetroot, balsamic, lemon, an egg white, strawberry) from the Soul section of the menu prompted the bartender to proclaim, "This is one of our weirdest." Perhaps. Still, the bold spin on the classic Clover Club is wonderfully savory.
The hefty, pickle-laden burgers and the clever updates on classic libations are both good reasons to visit The Exchequer. Close to Dublin Castle and the gorgeous Chester Beatty Library, this relaxed gastropub—there's a sister wine bar in the posh suburb of Ranelagh—is where local barkeeps spend their days off, unwinding on one of the window-facing stools with an Irish Penicillin (Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey, Connemara Peated Irish Whiskey, ginger and honey syrup, Irish honey, lemon juice) in hand.
Irish whiskey is booming stateside, and in its homeland, it’s constantly clamored for at bars. Jameson is the bigwig—don't miss the state-of-the-art tasting tour at the Bow Street visitor center—but the two-year-old Teeling Distillery in the Liberties neighborhood is fast becoming a destination for aficionados of the brown spirit. Founded by a new generation of Teelings resuscitating the family's 18th-century whiskey-making roots, the distillery offers eye-opening guided tours and The Bang Bang Bar, an on-site drinking den where a sublime Irish coffee—laced with stout syrup and crowned with a dreamy blob of nutmeg-dusted fresh cream—reigns supreme.
Alia Akkam writes about food, drink, travel and design. A native New Yorker, she now lives in Budapest. Follow her on Twitter at @aliakkam.
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