What Should I Order in an Irish Pub?
Believe it or not this is the number one question we are asked on tour! It may seem that the obvious answer is Guinness, but many people will have their initial celebratory pint of Guinness and then ask “what else can I drink”, while some will decide that the Guinness is better in Ireland (and it is) and stick with Guinness for the rest of the trip.
There are several possible answers beyond Guinness, but they depend on the person asking:
- A Beer Drinker that doesn’t like Porters (Guinness)
- Not a beer drinker
- Not really a drinker … but I’m in Ireland and on Holiday
- Not a Drinker
For the non-Guinness beer drinkers, the minimum pub has 3 or 4 additional beer options. The selection may include Smithwick’s, Hop House 13, Heineken, Carlsberg, Coors Light (yes, really), and Budweiser. Many pubs have a few more taps (up to 20 or 30) where you’ll see some additional local beers. In the Galway area some of my favorite locals are Galway Hooker and Bogman from the Spiddal River Brewery.
In general, a beer drinker will find that the Irish beers are less hoppy than US beers. But if you like hoppy, the bartender can make a local recommendation that matches your pallet. He may even give you little tastes until you find the one you like. Recently, several pubs have specialized in boutique beers, similar to the US. At these pubs, you can choose from a wide selection of the small Irish (and European and US) breweries. BTW, Coors Light is sold everywhere in Ireland, but it is given the respect it deserves as it is usually served over ice. (Yes, you read that correctly 😉)
For drinkers who don’t like beer, there are many options. The cocktail drinkers are generally out of luck except at a few pubs in the larger cities, but mixed drinks are available in every pub. Carol’s favorite in this category is Jameson and Ginger (ginger ale). You can also order other mixers and usually most of the international brands of hard liquor are available.
Of course, there is always a selection of Irish whiskeys in every pub, and in general, you will find them an excellent value compared to the US.
Wine drinkers will need to choose wisely when to order wine. There usually will be little or no choice beyond Merlot, Cabernet, white, and pink (white zinfandel). Many pubs are now upgrading their wine offerings and some even have Prossecco on tap.
For the “not really a drinker” drinkers, the preferred drink is Hard Cider. The predominant brand is Bulmers (known as Magners throughout the rest of the world… a typically Irish story). You will also see Orchard Thieves. Most of the time one of these is on tap. You can also get a wider selection of hard ciders in bottles. Bulmers comes in pint and “longneck” bottles. BTW, it is acceptable to pour hard cider over ice. ”I’ll have a Bulmers longneck on ice please” is a common order. Some of the bottled ciders come with other fruit juices mixed in for the really “not really a drinker” crowd.
Irish Cream (usually Baileys) is another possibility for the non-drinker drinkers. You can order this sweet cream and Irish whiskey concoction neat or on ice. I prefer it as an after dinner drink but some drink it all night or with coffee.
The weather in Ireland is variable, and a cold rain shower eventually chills everyone. This is especially true for Americans who are not used to the weather. The cure for this chill is a Hot Powers. This drink consists of a little hot water, a little sugar, a shot of whiskey, a clove, and a lemon twist. It is guaranteed to kill the chill and get you on your way. BTW, Irish Coffee is generally not available except at the "tourist pubs".
Many people are surprised that there are many non-alcohol choices in the pubs. Of course tea and coffee are almost always available, but be careful to ask if the coffee is instant if this is an issue for you. There are also all of the mixers. My favorite mixer is Club Orange, a tangy orange drink that is also used as a mixer. Another local drink is MiWadi (My Wa Dee). It is a concentrated fruit drink that is diluted with water and sometimes served on ice. It is also available as a “hot MiWadi”. There are several flavors including Black Currant, Lemon, and Orange. Black Currant is my preference.
Irish Pubs have their own version of Irish-English that may be confusing. A “glass” is a half-pint. A “pint” is an imperial pint … about 17+ oz. If a man asks for a Guinness/Smithwick's/Bulmers..., the assumption will be a pint. If a woman asks for a Guinness/Smithwick's/Bulmers/..., the question will be asked "pint or glass?" Whiskey (spelled with an e) comes "neat" (no ice), or “on the rocks” or “with one or two ice cubes”. This is similar to the US. You may be offered a “drip” with your whiskey, a glass of tap water on the side. You will encounter more variations on the language, but that’s part of the adventure.
You now have the knowledge to enter an Irish Pub and order with confidence and authority!
See You In the Pub!