Experienced travelers will think of three iconic alcoholic beverages when they think of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland: Guinness Draught, Jameson Irish Whiskey, and Irish Coffee. I, however, did not know about Ireland’s drink staples as I was a novice drinker at the time when I toured Ireland. I had no idea that the Irish drink liquor like its water. The bars were boisterous, full of music, and swarming with lively people. One of my favorite memories in Dublin was the night of a pub crawl. I had never heard of doing such an event until my first time and boy was I lucky I had a budget. Being new to alcohol, I wouldn’t have understood the consequences of drinking too much at one bar before heading to the next. To those who are new to bar crawls, I suggest limiting yourself to one drink per bar. Your head will thank you in the morning. I kick myself for not remembering the names of the bars that I went to that night but I thankfully remember the drinks I tried. Remember the drinks I mentioned earlier? When in Ireland, you gotta try the Irish drinks. I don’t have photos from that night but I do have photos of the drinks I tried and the locations. So let’s take a trip back in time to Ireland, 2017, when Instagram only had square photos and stories didn’t exist.
I tried Canadian whiskey in Minnesota but it doesn’t compare with Jameson Distillery‘s smooth whiskey. I remember taking a stab in the dark when asking local bartender about staple Irish drinks with a catch: it can’t taste like hard liquor. Back then, I liked my alcohol like my coffee. Sweet, sugary, and tasting like a dessert. The Dubliner seemed to be familiar with American female tourists that had my taste requirements. He introduced me to Elderflower Liqueur by whipping up a Bow Street Collins–a special at Jameson Brewery. Nervous at first, my taste buds hesitated as I tried the whiskey drink but I was pleasantly surprised by the syrup and soda. It was exactly what I had in mind and it was a delicious start to my adventures in Dublin.
Guinness is a whole other story. I knew I didn’t like beer, hops, pale ale, and most ciders. However, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to try the famous dark dry stout. I have a funny story that I still cringe at today: When the bartender in South Dublin prepared my first ever Guinness Draught he set the partially filled glass on a rubber mat in front of me. The mat was an arm’s length away so I contemplated if that’s how the Irish serve stout at the pubs. I thought it was possible he spilled Guinness over the glass and was letting it drip off for a second. After hesitating, I reached for the glass and grabbed hold of the tap brew. Immediately the bartender barked, “It’s not ready yet!” He swiped the glass from my hand and I sat there dumbfounded not understanding how beer in a glass couldn’t be “ready yet.” Eventually, the bartender served me my Guinness Draught on a coaster and shook his head while walking away. After talking with other locals, I found out that there is a very specific process to how the Irish and upstanding bars serve Guinness. It is a famous pouring technique and I at least should have known that after all. I felt even more embarrassed as when I tried the Draught it was absolutely disgusting. Seeing as my body doesn’t mix drinks well I had two choices: drink Guinness for the rest of the night or stick with water. I chose water and gave the rest of my Guinness to a travel mate.
“There are six steps to pouring an impeccable pint of Guinness; it’s all in the detail, from the tilt of the glass to the surge and the settle, culminating in a beer that’s made to be savored.”–Guinness
It wasn’t long after trying different Irish drinks that I finally found my favorite. The Irish Coffee was unlike any other coffee I had in the past. The heavy cream was so smooth and I often ordered a second. It was a drink that I had all over Ireland; I drank Irish coffee in Dublin, Killarney, around the Ring of Kerry, Belfast, and Galway. My favorite location to drink Irish coffee was in a humble little abode called The Shire Café & Bar. As a Lord of the Rings fan, it was my soul’s duty to stop at the hobbit inspired bar. Inside, the lights were green, the Irish live music blasted loudly, and many Irish accents were chatting all around me. The Shire was as merry in person as it was in the films.
Of course my trip to Ireland had to come to an end but that didn’t mean I couldn’t take the magic of Irish whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream home with me. I’ve made Irish coffee myself over the years and mostly make it on cold winter nights or St. Patrick’s Day. Homemade recipes are great but I had yet to discover a most wonderful Irish-inspired coffee within the United States. My boyfriend’s delightful mother hosted us for a day when we visited San Francisco and I discovered a close competitor to my beloved Irish coffee I had in Ireland. The Buena Vista has a reputable Irish coffee and I can understand why after trying the delishly soul-soothing coffee. It was as enjoyable to watch the bartender pour a row of Irish coffees as it was to sip on one. At only six ounces, the glass is heated with hot water before the sugar cubes are placed in the bottom followed by coffee. The sugar is mixed in quickly before the whiskey is skillfully added. The bartender then whisks the cream, drops it on a spoon, and lays it on top for the final touch. The video below mentions that the cream in Ireland is already a heavy cream that needn’t be fluffed unlike the heavy cream in the States. The one massive difference in taste that I noticed is that the cream in Ireland is what made the coffee so smooth; in San Francisco this coffee is smoothed out by the whiskey itself.
It is my desire to go back to Ireland–as well as the Buena Vista Cafe–for many reasons but a particular one is to try other original Irish drinks that may not be as well known as Guinness, Jameson, and Irish Coffee. A lot of my friends around the US like Jameson whiskey better than Guinness Draught, however, they didn’t try it straight from the distillery or brewery. Trying both Guinness Draught in the Guinness Brewery and Jameson Whiskey Distillery was an unexpected delight that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I know I’m not the only one that’s tried a drink from its maker. So tell me your stories in the comments below. Have you been to Ireland?
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