FOR years the Irish and alcohol have gone hand in hand. Not only were we famous for producing fine drinks, but our history is littered with songs, stories and poetry about the water of life. From Whiskey in the Jar to Oscar Wilde’s “Work is the curse of the drinking classes,” it is ingrained in each and every one of us and the loss of the pubs in 2020 has left a gaping hole in each of our social lives.
Unfortunately, since the Irish gained independence, our drinks industry has suffered through years of neglect in the sector. Ireland once boasted of having the world’s most whiskey distilleries, but by the 1980s that number had dwindled down to just three. This was a disaster, not only for the Irish economy, but it was also a national disgrace from the country who gave the world whiskey—that’s right we taught the Scots!
But, like everything when it comes to Ireland, you can’t keep us down for long. We now have a host of new distilleries and Irish whiskey is one of the fastest growing drinks in the world. We also boast an expanding gin, vodka, Irish cream and craft beer market, with cocktails is at the heart of this renaissance too.
When I started working in bars in the 1990s, if someone asked for a shandy they would normally be met with: “We don’t do cocktails!” However, one day I got a job in a cocktail bar and all of a sudden I understood that quality overtook quantity and I wanted to make great drinks.
Around the same time, an Irish Bar in New York was sweeping the boards at various, prestigious drinks industry awards. This bar has won the World’s Best Bar Award and is constantly named as one of the World’s Top 50 Bars to visit. Two lads Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon from Belfast landed in New York with a dream, determined to find the best ingredients they could to mix the best cocktails and that ingredient was whiskey, more importantly, Irish whiskey. What followed will change the Irish drinks industry for years to come. Their bar, The Dead Rabbit, is now world famous!
Today, the Irish drinks market is booming, with a rise in everything Irish. It’s no surprise as the Irish are now emigrating to places that they never did before like Dubai, Hong Kong and Tokyo and their sense of Irishness goes with them. We see an explosion of GAA teams worldwide, who now take part in a World Games tournament and more often than not, it is an Irish Bar sponsoring the teams. In Scotland too our Gaelic football clubs are sponsored by the likes of Malones, Kitty O’Shea’s, O’Donoghue’s, Connolly’s and The Dolphin, with many more on the jerseys of University GAA teams. Our pubs and culture go hand in hand.
So the Irish still travel the world, but it’s not like before, when we travelled to survive. Now, we travel for adventure, to educate ourselves, to explore and we Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom home to family and friends. Some go into traditional industries like the construction sector, while our new highly-educated generation are finding jobs in the finance and e-commerce sectors, but more and more are choosing a career in hospitality and not just as a stop-gap, but a long-term career path and that has filtered back to the pubs of Dublin, Cork and Belfast.
A weekend break in Belfast will see the Cathedral Quarter bouncing to the sound of Irish and modern music, and the bars will be stocked with high end spirits to mix fine cocktails and this scene is being repeated all over Ireland. As someone who loves the Irish drinks market as much as me, I am excited for the future.
So can you make cocktails at home? Of course, you can. One of my favourites is one of the easiest to make at home and that is the Irish Coffee (above). Here’s how you make it.
—25ml of whiskey (I recommend a Jameson Stout Cask, Teeling Stout Cask or Dead Rabbit Irish whiskey)
—One shot of coffee
—A teaspoon of demerara sugar
—Add coffee to a latte glass. It can be instant coffee and fill to about 2cm below the rim or a shot of expresso from a coffee machine and fill with hot water to 2cm below the rim.
—Add a teaspoon of demerara sugar or brown sugar. If you are using a syrup use 25ml.
—Add the 25ml of whiskey.
—Give it all a stir.
—Add your cream to a shaker to make it thicker with a shake. Adding ice cubes to the cream helps speed up the process. Try not to make the cream too thick or it won’t pour.
—Pour the cream onto a spoon just on top of the coffee slowly and let it layer.
—And there you have it. For an extra touch you can top the cream with chocolate powder or ground nutmeg. Sláinte!
Mickey Mullan is a proud Derryman, an award-winning spirit enthusiast and the Manager of Malones Bar in Glasgow