When you visit Ireland you’ll inevitably try the local cuisine, some uniquely Irish dishes and high quality fresh produce that’s available across the country in restaurants, artisan food shops and country markets. Ireland really has a lot to offer for food lovers with some of the best farmhouse cheeses and freshest seafood imaginable. As well as the great food Ireland has to offer – it also has a variety of drinks that must be tried to experience the true taste of Ireland. There are many to sample but here are five that I know you’ll love…
#5 Murphy’s Irish Stout
Similar in appearance to Guinness and brewed in Cork, this black stout is un-carbonated and has a lighter, less bitter flavour than the better known Guinness. It requires a two part pour, whereby the person pulling the pint fills the glass until it is about 2/3 full then leaves it settle for a few minutes before filling it to the brim. The creamy white foam head is usually an inch thick. You should wait for the stout to turn from dark brown to black before drinking it. There is a long standing rivalry between Murphy’s and Guinness drinkers – both believing their chosen beverage to be superior. Try both and make up your own mind. For those with a sweet tooth a dash of black current cordial can be added before pouring the pint – however most seasoned Murphy’s drinkers will consider this practice sacrilegious.
#4 Bailey’s Irish Cream
This luxurious, utterly indulgent blend of dairy cream and triple distilled whiskey is a firm favourite amongst the Irish, especially at Christmas time. The cream used is from grass fed cows and sourced from small Irish farms. Usually served over ice, it can be enjoyed anytime but its creamy sweetness is perfect after a meal. Although there are lots of new flavours available, such as orange truffle and coffee flavour, the original is possibly the best and is often used to flavour cheese cakes and truffles. Although Bailey’s Irish Cream is now available in 150 countries around the world – sipping it next to an open fire overlooking the green fields of Ireland makes it all the sweeter!
#3 Irish Coffee
Drinking an Irish coffee is the perfect way to warm up after a blustery walk or an ideal accompaniment to a dessert. The hot cocktail is a mix of coffee, whiskey, brown muscovado sugar and cold double cream. This warming drink is credited to Joe Sheridan, a head chef in Foynes, County Limerick in the 1940s, who is said to have made the drink for American visitors. The method of mixing the drinks is crucial and the ingredients, of course should be the best. Rich flavoursome coffee should fill the glass to 2/3 full to leave space for the cream. The sugar is then added and stirred until fully dissolved. Then the whiskey (none of the cheap stuff) is added. The coffee is stirred again before the double cream is added. Avoid the sweet canned cream – for an authentic Irish coffee, whisk good quality Irish double cream gently and pour it in slowly over the back of the spoon. A dusting of nutmeg on top - Perfect!
#2 Middleton Very Rare Whiskey
Irish speakers call whiskey ‘uisce beatha’ (pronounced ishka ba-ha) which, directly translated, means ‘water of life’. If you too believe that whiskey is the water of life then you’ll want to try the award winning Middleton Very Rare – produced annually by Irish Distillers at the New Midleton Distillery, in Midleton, East Cork. It’s a mix of pot still and grain whiskeys, matured for twelve to twenty years in ex-bourbon American Oak barrels. Each vintage is unique and only a limited amount of individually numbered bottles are produced, making it quite collectible. For the whiskey enthusiast you can visit the Distillery in Midleton to see where the magic happens. For €300 you can have the Academy Experience Package, where you learn how to make whiskey and leave with a bottle of Middleton Very Rare Whiskey at the end of the day.
No top five list of Irish beverages would be complete without the country’s longstanding favourite – Guinness. You haven’t tried Guinness until you’ve tasted it in Ireland. I know many an Irish Guinness drinker who wouldn’t touch a pint of the black stuff in any country other than their own - ‘It doesn’t travel well’, they say. Made from barley, roast malt extract, hops, and brewer's yeast and the essential ingredient – Irish water (this is said to give it its superior taste). Arthur Guinness started brewing ales in 1759 at the St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin. This Irish dry stout is still brewed in the city centre. You can visit the Storehouse and learn about the fascinating history of Ireland’s favourite drink and you’ll even be given a free pint in the world-famous rooftop Gravity Bar at the end of the tour. One for the bucket list for sure. After the Guinness tour why not have another pint in the Brazen Head. The pub, on Lower Bridge Street, is said to be the oldest in Ireland, dating back to 1198, and is a stone’s throw from St James’s Gate Brewery and the Guinness Storehouse.
As well as these well-known favourites, Ireland has an abundance of relatively new craft breweries, such as the West Cork Brewing Co. and brewpubs like the Franciscan Well and Rising Sons, in Cork, where you can taste a variety of local beers that are produced on the premises. Small distilleries including the Glendalough Distillery and the Black Water Distillery are producing great products that are worth a try. Don’t be afraid to ask bar staff for their recommendations – they’ll be happy to help. Happy tasting!