Dublin and cocktails are in the honeymoon phase of their relationship.
It’s all ‘no you hang up, no you hang up’ and cocktail lovers are making the most of every last Whiskey soured matcha mojito grenadine gimlet golden-flaked minute of it.
It’s not that long ago when the sexiest cocktail you could get (read: afford) was a mix of long life cranberry juice, a thimble of turpentine flavour vodka and a splatter of nasty orange juice, stirred and sold as the most exotic thing we’d ever tasted.
But those were our Singapore sling salad days.
Now it’s all fresh fruit, ice bombs, posh herbs and spices, homemade syrups and Ferran Adria style mixology taking over the best cocktail bars. And Amen to that.
I’m yet to be convinced about the trend of matching food with cocktails, but I’m all for delicious, good value bites to go along with them. Here are some spots in the city centre that are doing just that.
The Meeting House
The Zombie cocktail at The Meeting House is one of my favourite cocktails in Dublin at the moment. Now, they will only allow you to order two in one visit, and this is for the good of your health as it’s packed with rums, liqueurs and fruit juices so packs quite the boozy punch. It’s got a Caribbean dreaminess that will transport you from Temple Bar to a sun-kissed Del Monte tropical beach. Well almost. They offer a food deal of three dishes for 27 euro, my favourites are the Sashimi tacos with tuna and the mini Asian burgers on steamed coconut buns. The manager Aaron really cares about cocktails here and has a clear and heart-warming passion for including Irish spirits and ingredients on their menu, they actually age some of their on spirits on-site. Two to try are the Teeling Swizzle with the gorgeous Teeling’s whiskey and the Irish Apple Mojito which works a treat with Kilkenny’s Highbank Orchard syrup.
The Exchequer has been one of my favourite spots since it opened in 2009. They take their cocktails very seriously, creating the weighty ledger of liquor as their cocktail bible a few years ago. It can be quite overwhelming trying to choose anything from the menu, but what a delicious problem. I love the Smokey Old Fashioned with Bulleit bourbon, maple syrup and Jerry Thomas bitters. It’s got a very special bit of theatre as it involves pouring the whiskey mix over a ball of ice which is what cocktails should be, fun. They do offer some bar bites but I prefer to order their cheese and charcuterie board which features some excellent Irish cheeses.
The Morrison Hotel
One of the loveliest spots to see the Liffey and Dublin lighting up for the night is in a window seat in The Morrison. Their ‘ Cabernet Cham’ was created by one of their many talented bartenders, Mihai, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambord liqueur, lemon juice and raspberry. I was sceptical that red wine would make it more like a Lanzarote Sangria but this is seductively fruity and perfectly balanced. They do a deal of three mini bites for 9 euros which is a steal, and a hell of a lot better than a packet of Scampi fries and a Dairy Milk. The ‘Cabernet Cham’ was sadly only a special limited edition cocktail, but if you ask Mihai nicely, he might just make it again.
The Merrion Hotel
My death row cocktail is the French 75, named after the gun used in WW1 by the French army. It’s made with gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and topped with champagne and a twist of lemon. The Merrion make the best one in Dublin. Have it on the terrace if the weather allows, where it tastes even better and don some big shades to make it all decadent and Cannesesque. Go for one of their seafood sandwiches to sate your appetite, the crab is fantastic, and daydream the day away.
Some of my other favourite cocktails in town:
The Shelbourne – The Champagne Mojito. Ok, it might be from the Ross O’Carroll Kelly side of the menu but it’s a cracking mojito with a great balance of minted limey sweetness. Order yourself a portion of their chips to bring you down to earth while you people watch over the Green with it and thank me later.
Fallon and Byrne – they make a Singapore sling to write home about, or a text at least. Originally created in Raffles hotel, it looks like a Knickerbocker glory but don’t be deceived as it’s got a devilish mix of gin, cherry brandy and Cointreau and is utterly delicious. If they are doing any cocktails here with jalapeno infused spirits I beseech you to order it.
37 Dawson Street – the Porn Star martini has an extra special side of prosecco to kiss your Friday night off with a bubbly flourish.
Saba – Their Aviation cocktail made with gin and Maraschino liqueur is divine and the addition of Creme de Violette gives it the most sumptuous Alice in Wonderland purple hue.
Ukiyo – the Espresso Martini – goes surprisingly well with their excellent value Bento, and a perfect pick me up if you are venturing downstairs to sing your heart out in their karaoke booths.
Now, who’s for cocktails?