Enjoying the Craic

Peter Mulryan takes us round the fair city
By Peter Mulryan
For centuries Dublin was the centre of the whiskey universe. It was home to the world's biggest and finest distilleries and the birth place of the much-imitated Irish Pub.

The city itself has a compact centre, spread out either side of the River Liffey. The south is where you'll find the posh shops, but the north side has plenty to offer to the curious mind.

After the madness of the Celtic Tiger there has never been a better time to visit. The Irish economy is flat lining, so hotels are cheaper than ever and eating out is now affordable. The city has rediscovered its mojo and despite or maybe because of the recession, Dublin is yet again the home of chat and fun (better known locally as The Craic)

.If you're visiting for a weekend, get around on the LUAS tram or pick up a Dublin Bike on arrival, at only €2 for three days it's a real bargain and will bring every bar on this list within easy reach.

The Temple Bar Pub

47/48 Temple Bar, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 672 5286/7

The narrow cobbled streets of Dublin’s Temple Bar lie between the river Liffey and Trinity College, it’s Dublin’s cultural quarter and it lends its name to our first bar. This area is where the young and young at heart come to play so any time you decide to visit, night or day, the place will be throbbing.

The Temple Bar boasts the largest collection of whiskey in the city, some 450 bottles and counting, so there is sure to be something here to excite. It’s the only place you can taste real rarities like Dungourney 1964, Midleton Single Pot Still 1973 and a real curiosity, the ill fated (and very lovely) Bailey’s Whiskey.

If you are new to the joys of Irish whiskey consider taking the Whiskey Sample Menu, for €16 you get three measures of whiskey, a brief history of the spirit and tasting notes to get you started.
The bar itself is large, yet full of inviting nooks, there’s traditional Irish music every evening and the Irish Coffee is pretty good too.


28 Parkgate Street, Dublin
Tel: 01 677 6097

Known affectionately to Dubliners as Bongo Ryan’s, this bar sits of the Western tip of the city, beside the Phoenix Park and opposite the Guinness Brewery. But it’s not that far out of town, the LUAS passes nearby and it’s a good spot for lunch.

Parkgate Street itself is busy and noisy, but with its all year around hanging baskets Ryan’s is a real oasis of calm. The bar itself dates back to the nineteenth century and it has to be one of the finest Victorian pub interiors in the world, I have heard Americans gasp as the door swings shut behind them. The decor is restrained, there are some nice old photos of the city, but they have resisted the temptation to hang bicycles from the ceiling.

The selection of whiskey on offer is good, as is the Guinness, this is as perfect location to try a traditional ‘chaser’, a pint of the black stuff washed down by a shot of Powers. Drink the Guinness as you want, but you must knock the Powers back in no more than three swallows. If you don’t believe me, the proof is on the neck label of a bottle.

Doheny and Nesbitt

4/5 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 676 2945

If Dublin is a city of two halves, then Doheny and Nesbitt would have to be the Southsiders bar of choice. Situated on Baggot Street it is within strolling distance of Stephen’s Green, the National Gallery and Natural History Museum, but most importantly it’s on the road to Donnybrook, home of Leinster rugby.

The whiskey list is extensive.

L. Mulligan Grocer

18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
Tel: 01 670 9889

Mulligan’s has been around since forever and after a string of owners, it’s finally found its niche. The crowd here is young, the food drives footfall and each dish on the menu comes with suggested beers and whiskeys to accompany it. As there’s more than 200 bottles of whiskey to sample, it could be a long night.

The Brazen Head

20 Lower Bridge Street, Dublin 8
Tel: 01 677 9549

A thousand years ago much of Dublin City Centre didn’t exist, it had yet to be reclaimed from the sea, so Viking Dublin started pretty much where The Brazen Head is found today. But there has been a tavern on this site since 1198, making The Brazen Head the oldest pub in Ireland. The bar itself is a snug string of caverns, with a respectable selection of Irish, Scotch and American whiskey.

Hedigan’s ‘The Brian Boru’

5 Prospect Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9
Tel: 01 830 4527

There’s been a pub on this site for more than 200 years, in those days this was rural farmland, nowadays it’s in the inner suburbs. The Brian Boru is a stone’s throw from Glasnevin Cemetery, which has also been around for two centuries and is the burial place of many of Ireland’s greatest patriots. This then is a watering hole of some renown and at one time was the only place you could taste Power’s White Label, so it’s not surprising that whiskey enthusiast James Joyce gives it a mention in Ulysses.

The range of whiskey on sale is solid, with an emphasis on Irish and as we’re slightly out of town, prices are competitive. The owners also make it worth your while to visit and stay, with great food and an eclectic variety of live entertainment – everything from comedy, to traditional music, even the occasional art house cinema evening.

Yamamori Sushi Bar

38/39 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1
Tel: 01 872 0003

Sitting right in front of Dublin’s iconic Ha’penny Bridge, this is a culture smash-up to wreck the head. Two Georgian town houses, with four dining areas, and a bamboo garden all featuring great Japanese food and whisky. If you like the style, finish the evening at their Izakaya Bar on nearby South Great Georges Street, for the largest selection of Japanese whisky in Ireland served with bite sized Japanese treats.

The Palace Bar

21 Fleet Street, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 671 7388

Until the late 1960s Irish distilleries didn’t bottle their own whiskey, they left it to wholesalers or even to individual bars. Most old pubs in the city have the words ‘Whiskey Bonder’ above the shop or engraved on the window. It means they bought casks of mature whiskey straight from the distillery and bottled it in bond. Larger bars went a step further taking new make spirit straight from John Jameson or John Power, filling their own casks and laying it down under the pub for anything up to a decade.

Last year The Palace Bar restarted the tradition with its own bottling of a 9 Years Old Cooley single malt. It joined the hundred or so other bottles, of mostly Irish and Scotch that line the bar.

The bar itself is small and narrow and has changed little since the Victorian period, it’s all shiny mahogany and bevelled mirrors and there’s a great snug up front where Michael Collins went to plan treason. This is a real family run pub, as opposed to a manufactured one, so it’s not surprising that it’s long been a haunt for the cities writers. It’s where Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O’Brien and Brendan Behan held court and where R.M. Smyllie, Editor of The Irish Times held his infamous editorial meetings.

Take a tour

Although they haven’t made Jameson whiskey in Dublin since the early 1970’s, you can still visit the old distillery in Smithfield and take in the story of Irish whiskey. Along with the Guinness Storehouse on the far side of the river Liffey, the Old Jameson Distillery is one Ireland’s top visitor attractions and is open seven days a week. If you don’t know anything about distilling the tour is entertaining enough, but just walking through the old buildings is an experience to savour. There’s a well stocked shop and bar, but before you call it’s worth visiting the website to see if there’s an evening of traditional music planned. If so expect to take a taxi home.