10 of the best things to drink in Dublin

Drinks worth toasting to in DublinDrinks worth toasting to in Dublin — Photo courtesy of E+ / MediaProduction

“Good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub,” muses James Joyce’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, in the epic tome Ulysses. Long known as a drinking town, in more recent years, Dublin’s culinary and cocktail culture has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to a new generation of restaurateurs, mixologists, makers and purveyors who are doing things their own way.

And while there’s nothing wrong with a tipple of Irish whiskey or a proper pint of Guinness – the good folks at Swan Bar, an institution on Pub Street circa 1661, will make sure you’re sorted in that category – a visit to Dublin nowadays would be incomplete without sampling any of the locally-made artisanal gins, an expertly-crafted cocktail or indulging in the grand tradition of afternoon tea in one of the city’s most iconic drawing rooms.

Here are 10 sips that celebrate Dublin’s past, present and future.

Seek out this speakeasy in Temple Bar

Blink and you’ll miss it. Smack in the heart of Dublin’s most famous pub-and-bar district is a nondescript, somewhat worse-for-wear black door only identifiable by the letters “VCC.” It leads to one of the city’s top cocktail havens, Vintage Cocktail Club.

Spread over three floors and furnished in true speakeasy fashion – velvet upholstered booths, richly textured wallpaper, plenty of vintage and antique finds – Vintage Cocktail Club boasts an extensive cocktail menu broken out by eras spanning from the early 1400s to late 1600s and to various periods of the 19th and 20th centuries, including “Prohibition” (1919-1930) and “The Roots of the Tiki Craze” (1935).

While it’s hard to go wrong, when in doubt, knowledgeable waitstaff will steer you in the right direction. Just be sure to book a reservation in advance so that when you ring the buzzer for entry, you won’t be turned away.

Cross the river for Dublin’s best Irish coffee

A hybrid live music venue plus bar/cafe and serious coffee shop – where else could Vice Coffee be located other than North City?

The hip n’hood is still quite central, located a short stroll across pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge from the Temple Bar district. But North City feels just far enough removed from the action on the south side of the River Liffey, and Vice Coffee’s Irish coffee is indeed worthy of the pilgrimage.

The Fancy Frankie –espresso, brown sugar simple syrup and Teeling small batch Irish whiskey topped with orange blossom-infused organic cream and freshly grated nutmeg – is one of several variations on offer. Come for the Irish coffee, stay for the toasties, which are essentially panini-pressed grilled cheese sandwiches with savory or sweet fillings.

Linger long enough and you just might be ready to go next door for one of the stronger coffee-infused libations Wigwam serves as the music venue heats up after dark.

Tap into Dublin’s burgeoning gin scene

Ireland will always be known for its whiskeys, but in recent years, small-batch distillers including Dublin City Gin, Chinnery and Ha’Penny Dublin have taken to producing artisanal gins with a wide variety of botanicals, ranging from rhubarb, grapefruit and cardamon to osmanthus and oolong tea.

There’s no better destination in town to sample these local offerings than The Gin Palace, which boasts Dublin’s largest gin selection (and just so happens to be located down the block from Wigwam and Vice Coffee). Compare and contrast the tasting notes of three different gins – and get to know your palate preferences – by ordering the Gin Sample Tasting Tray, which also includes a carafe of tonic water and fresh garnishes.

Toast to an occasion in ‘Dublin’s living room’

Located at 27 St. Stephen’s Green, the Shelbourne Dublin has presided over the city’s most famous park since 1824 and is a perennially popular destination for celebrations and special occasions large and small. You needn’t have an event to saddle up to one of the tall tables at No. 27, the main lobby bar; the people watching on any given night is reason enough.

Don’t leave without taking a peek inside Horseshoe Bar, a tucked-away venue that specializes in rare whiskeys and feels like a throwback to a bygone era in all the right ways. As a bonus, hotel guests have exclusive access to 1824 Bar, a cozy library lounge where bar service starts each evening at precisely 18:24 (aka 6:24 pm).

Head underground to find this glamorous debutant

Named the Best New Cocktail Bar at the 2018 Irish Craft Cocktail Awards, the subterranean Art Deco-styled cocktail den 9Below has been turning heads since it arrived on the scene, both for its sophistication and its panache.

Bartenders hand-carve ice from a massive block for all stirred drinks. And 9Below is the only venue in Dublin to stock such high-end spirits as Casamigos Anejo tequila – famously co-founded by George Clooney – and to offer such rare pours as a 1998 Dom Perignon P2 by the glass.

Quiet corners and cozy nooks invite lingering and conversation; all the better to sample another offering from the seasonally-driven cocktail menu, another glass of champagne or one of more than 70 whiskeys from around the world.

Sample Irish cheese, charcuterie and natural wines

Occupying a sliver of a storefront at the Drury Street entrance to George’s Market Arcade, Loose Canon Cheese & Wine has gained a cult following among Dublin gourmands and oenophiles since opening in summer 2018. That’s thanks to its ultra-niche specialties: Irish cheeses, charcuterie and a highly-curated selection of natural wines (imported).

From the team behind Meet Me in the Morning – an always-humming breakfast and lunch spot down the block – this minimalist shop does double duty as retail store and is also an easy pit stop for various small plates, hot sandwiches, cheese and charcuterie, which in the evenings can be paired with a selection of natural wines by the glass.

Pause for the perfect scone and a spot of…

Tucked away on the second floor of the Powerscourt House on a balcony overlooking the retail complex’s interior courtyard, The Pepper Pot is known for its first-rate baked goods. The cafe’s scones, bagels, assorted breads and scrumptious cakes are made on-site throughout the day and are the basis for sandwiches and various breakfast platters, all served on charmingly mismatched plates.

The Pepper Pot’s artisanal ethos extends to its beverage selections, too. The cafe taps local suppliers for its coffee beans, loose leaf teas, apple cider and hot ginger beer and makes its own iced tea, seasonal lemonades, fresh-pressed juices and other specialty beverages.

Delight in Dublin’s most refined afternoon tea

At the landmark Shelbourne hotel, afternoon tea is held daily in Lord Mayor’s Lounge, which is sophisticated without pretension. Yes, the teacups are porcelain, the cutlery is silver and paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland adorn the walls, but the waitstaff is friendly and there’s a palpable joviality in the air – perhaps thanks to the Laurent-Perrier Champagne being poured, in addition to nearly two dozen tea blends on offer.

Tiered towers of sweet and savory indulgences include freshly-baked gingerbread and scones (with sides of clotted cream and fruit preserves, of course), savory finger sandwiches and desserts almost too pretty to eat…almost.

Sip the city’s legendary hot chocolate

Since opening on Wicklow Street two decades ago, Butlers Chocolate Cafe has grown into a mini-global empire. Still, there’s nothing quite like visiting the original location to understand what all the fuss is about – and you know that if a business stakes its reputation on its hot chocolate that it’s going to be exceptional.

The challenge is deciding which variation to try first. Butlers serves up 11 signature options ranging from dark hot chocolate to white hot chocolate to almond, peppermint, coconut and chili hot chocolate. You’ll also find seasonal specialties, such as honeycomb or winter spice hot chocolate during the colder months and iced chocolate in the summertime.

Every beverage ordered, including all coffee and tea drinks, is served with a complimentary piece of – what else? – chocolate.

Ice cream lovers, take note

Caramelized brown bread, Dingle sea salt, Irish coffee, caramel honeycomb, rum n’ raisin – ask any Dubliner what their favorite flavor of Murphy’s Ice Cream is and you’ll likely get answers as varied as the beloved ice cream shop’s menu is long.

Founded in the town of Dingle in County Kerry, Murphy’s has over the years expanded to a total of five locations, including the Dublin outpost on Wicklow Street. Naturally, Murphy’s signature, Ireland-inspired flavors have a boozy twist. In addition to their signature Irish coffee ice cream flavor, the Dublin shop also has an Irish cream liqueur offering. While this might not be a traditional “sip” of Baileys, it’s sure to be a memorable one!

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