Ask any musician: Mastering the classics is not an easy task but composing your own melodies can be as daunting, and even among those with the talent to flawlessly perform a difficult piece, creating new music is a challenge. Just like them, the best bartenders have to go beyond perfected techniques and fine instruments if they want to garnish their cocktails with their signatures.
And while coming up with a great recipe has its merit, doing so consistently and repeatedly to compile a cocktail menu that is both coherent and creative could be compared to launching a great album with numerous tracks worth listening to.
Below, some of the Irish bars featuring exciting and creative cocktail menus. Yes, you can get your Old Fashioned and Gin & Tonics if that’s what you fancy, but take your time and browse through their well thought out selection of signature cocktails, as they won’t only please your taste buds; they’ll tell you a story and delight you with a big dash of creativity – you may even learn something as you peruse.
One of Dublin’s most unique venues, this is a beach-inspired restaurant and bar serving innovative and mouth-watering small dishes with a very varied seafood offer. The maritime theme is not limited to the bites, as their cocktail menu is made of signature drinks of oceanic inspiration.
Colourful, exotic and unexpected, tipples like the pomegranate vodka “Beaches Be Crazy”, the rum-fueled “Drunken Salor” or the cheeky “Pink Bikini” will transport you to remote and tropical shores with every sip.
Where: 22, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
More information: urchin.ie
Elegance and quality combine at a bar where freshness is not just an ideal, it’s a principle. Enjoy drinks infused with fruits and herbs from their own garden while entertained by live music.
The venue’s signature cocktails are called “experiences” and each creation transports you to a time and a place as you sip: from the Far East inspired “Ichi-go Ichi-e”, to “The Enigma” of an afternoon in the 80’s trying to solve a Rubik’s cube to the intense “Shell Rum”, described as a journey through rough Nordic seas.
Where: 28 Washington St, Centre, Cork
More information: rachels.ie/piano-bar
This eclectic menu was created by award-winning bartender Darren Geraghty, and it is available at both Candlelight Bars (Malahide and Dundrum).
Beautifully printed on Egyptian paper specially sourced for this purpose and with artistic illustrations and design, it’s not just easy on the eyes, it contains a range of cocktails that masterfully balance Irish and Asian influences with the author’s own personal style.
Where: 1 The Green, Malahide, Co. Dublin
More information: candlelightbar.ie
This bar has us used to fine cocktails, and with its latest menu, it has really outdone itself. Named “Cróga”, it’s graced by gorgeous illustrations accompanying a selection of signature cocktails inspired in the stories of brave and spirited Irish women through history.
The product of plenty of research and equal parts of love, this is one of Ireland’s most creative cocktail menus. Heroines include Grace O’Malley, Madame Eliza Lynch, Queen Meadhbh and adventurer Lizzie Le Blond, among others.
Where: 6-8 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
More information: theliquorrooms.com
Run by veteran bartender Paul Lambert, this speakeasy style cocktail bar offers a parade of Prohibition-era inspired tipples made with only the finest Irish spirits.
The brilliance goes beyond a mere update on the classics, as there are many unique original drinks available that manage to retain the vintage charm, such as the Irish whiskey-based “Scarlett O’Hara” and “An Irishman in New York” or the Poitín must-try “An T-Asal.”
Where: Dublin 2
More information: theblindpig.ie
Come for the great craic, stay for their exciting cocktails (or vice versa!). The drinks list is in tune with their mantra: “high-end, low-key” and features an appealing combination of signature cocktails with an Irish accent and plenty of intense flavours.
Aiming to be bold, they’ve created a series of signature drinks so you’re encouraged to get out of your comfort zone and try one.
Where: 100 Upper Main Street, Letterkenny Co.Donegal
More information: warehousebk.com
This stylish cocktail bar is also a place of substance. Zozimus’ cocktail menu is filled with unique drinks and its creative bartenders are not afraid of unusual flavours. Herbs, spices and even marshmallows have a place on the list, and they also make liberal use of less known liqueurs and fine spirits to offer you sophistication on par with its Art Deco surroundings.
One really cool feature of the menu itself is that every cocktail is accompanied by a small illustration that shows you the type of glass and appearance of your tipple, which let’s be honest, in this Insta-friendly day an age, doesn’t hurt.
Where: Centenary House, Anne’s Lane, Anne Street South, Dublin
More information: zozimusbar.ie
The majestic and multi award-winning bar at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel offers world class mixology and an extended menu worth visiting and revisiting. More a book than just a menu, it is one of the most comprehensive collections of fine cocktails in the island of Ireland.
Divided in ten distinctive chapters, its volumes separate the drinks by flavour profile, making it easier to navigate through its more than 100 pages. If you want to study it at home before your visit, have a look here.
Where: 16 Skipper Street
More information: themerchanthotel.com/bars-restaurants/the-cocktail-bar
Darren Costello and Ross Reilly have created a collection of quirky cocktails with unusual combinations of ingredients. While your thirst for classic drinks will be quenched, it is worth opening your mind to the pleasures of a “Cherry Popcorn Sour”, a rum-packed “Hanging Hemingway”, an exotic botanic journey to “Fiji” or a Poitín inspired trip “To the Moon and Back.”
Expect the unexpected as ingredients such as watermelon liqueur, kiwi puree, and beetroot juice keep your taste buds alert in each sip.
Where: 1 Royal Hibernian Way, Duke Lane Upper, Dublin
More information: lemonandduke.ie
Run by World Class Irish Bartender of the Year 2017, Andy Ferreira, this laid-back and friendly newcomer has already earned a top spot among the best bars in the country.
Their cocktail menu changes every eight weeks to adjust to what’s seasonal and the tipples of choice are created with the food menu in mind, which is also in constant evolution. Fresh and locally foraged ingredients are key to translate Andy’s creativity into delightful creations with a sense of provenance.
Where: 48 MacCurtain Street, Montenotte, Cork
More information: caskcork.com
This recent addition to Galway’s beloved coastal destination offers a very intriguing cocktail list that manages to integrate Irish and global influences in an exciting way. In this selection, anything goes: mezcal, gin infused in local seaweed and bacon whiskey are some of the flavours to explore.
The menu is a parade of creative mixology with a smart balance between flavour profiles, from the dessert-like “Creme Brulee” and “White Chocolate Key Lime Pie” to the oddly savoury and herbal “The Promenade” or the fruity yet smokey “Rude Mexican Cosmo”.
Where: 163 Upper Salthill, Galway
More information: saltgalway.com
The newest bar at the chic Bullitt Hotel in Belfast follows the trend of “shrub cocktails”, and their fresh and vibrant selection of drinks makes liberal use of the venue’s unique living wall, where plenty of edible herbs are grown and eventually turned into garnishes, infusions, shrub syrups and other concoctions to be added to the drinks.
Expect plenty of herbal flavours which will perfectly match the dishes inspired by East and South Asian cuisines from its kitchen.
Where: 40a Church Ln, Belfast
More information: bullitthotel.com/play/eat-and-drink/babel
This sleek bar has taken inspiration from the work of celebrated Irish author Jonathan Swift and features nods to the magic and curiosity of Gulliver’s Travels across both its decor and its delightful cocktail list.
Embark on an adventure as you discover the list’s chapters, with tipples linked to different episodes of the literary classic such as “Monkey See, Monkey Do”, “Isle in the Sky” and “Cue the Beam.”
Where: 2 Earlsfort Terrace, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin
More information: lemuelsdublin.com
Despite its name, this bar is not just a venue to sip on fine whiskeys (but if that’s what you’re into, you’ve certainly come to the right place). Their cocktail menu shines thanks to the skillful way in which it sits in the happiest of mediums between traditional and modern, translating global trends into something uniquely Irish.
In here, you’ll find plenty of Irish whiskey cocktails inspired in local landmarks as well as a fine use of rum, gins and less known liqueurs. Try a “Tipperary Cocktail No. 1” or a “Bog Warrior” for your fix of Uisce Beatha or indulge in a “Cheeky Tiki” for something a little bit sunnier.
Where: 93 New St, Killarney, Co. Kerry
More information: celticwhiskeybar.com
The phenomenon known as synesthesia comes to mind when thinking about this cocktail menu: this occurs when the stimulation of one sense automatically sparks experiences in another. In their case, the drinks inspired by classic music hits from different eras will awaken your taste buds while evoking the legendary tunes in your mind.
Try a rum-fueled “Jam-In” and transport yourself to a reggae realm, indulge in a “Tequila Me Softly” and let its sweet melody wrap you, and explore the full list to find the perfect track for your evening.
Where: 31 Dawson St, Dublin 2
More information: peruke.ie
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.