Irish Food & Drink

Ireland’s Drinks

Ireland has the highest tea consumption in the world. Barry’s is probably the most popular brand.

Carageen moss is a type of seaweed used to make a sort of healthy infusion; it tastes disgusting!

Herbal infusions such as mint tea or camomile tea have become increasingly popular in the last few years.

Coffee is often appalling, although Continental influences have improved it in recent years, and good espressos, cappuccinos and lattes are now widely available. Starbucks has colonised most parts of Ireland.

Irish Coffee is for tourists.

Cocoa, hot chocolate, Horlicks and Ovaltine are popular bedtime drinks made with hot milk

Irish milk is excellent. For a special creamy treat, try milk from Jersey cows!

Irish tap water is perfectly potable, but bottled “mineral water” has become fashionable in recent years. It comes in two varieties, fizzy (“sparkling”) or without any gas or bubbles (“still”). The most popular brands are Ballygowan and imported Perrier. You can also buy “scented” water, with a rather sweet “hint” of lemon, raspberry etc. Ice cubes are totally safe.

Common soft drinks other than the usual international range include Miwadi orange or lemon squash, Ribina blackcurrant drink and Rose’s lime cordial, which have to be diluted. Red lemonade (unique to Ireland) is fizzy. Soda water, tonic water, bitter lemon and ginger ale are other popular “mixers” with alcoholic drinks.

Fruit juice is widely consumed, especially for breakfast. Apart from freshly squeezed citrus juices, the most popular varieties aside from myriad brands of orange juice are probably apple juice, grapefruit juice and pineapple juice, plus various mixtures involving berries and exotic tropical fruit.

Ireland is the world’s 11th largest exporter of alcoholic drinks.

Alcohol vending is strictly controlled and licensed, and very heavily taxed.

The place to purchase alcoholic beverages for consumption “off the premises” (i.e. not where you buy it) is in an “Off Licence” (equivalent to a Liquor Store in the USA), often attached to a supermarket or pub.

Pubs, hotel bars, nightclubs and most restaurants can serve customers alcohol to drink “ON the premises”, and are referred to as “licensed premises”. Pubs are the best place for social drinking, but have strict opening hours. Hotel bars are more flexible for guests.

Guinness stout is the most famous Irish beer, and a well-poured pint is undoubtedly worth waiting for. It should be served at less than room temperature, but never ice cold.

Murphy’s and Beamish are provincial brands of stout.

Other popular beers include Harp (lager) and Smithwicks (dark ale). These and other beers, including many imported brands, are widely available in bottles and cans, but most people prefer pints or “glasses” (half pints) of draught beer in a pub or hotel bar. Unlike the English, Irish people do not drink warm beer; nor are we interested in different types of ale (mild, bitter etc.).

Cider (sparkling) is also popular, and consumed in much the same way as beer. Irish cider, mostly made in the Clonmel area, competes with English brands.

Irish whiskey (note spelling, as opposed to Scotch or other whisky) is the most widely consumed spirit. It should be drunk by itself or with a little water. Bushmills and Tullamore Dew are more expensive brands than Jameson’s or Paddy. Smaller producers have recently re-appeared.

Cork Dry gin is another popular spirit, but faces stiff competition from British brands.

Trendy youngsters drink imported vodka, rum, tequila etc. All spirit measures are tiny, but not as minuscule as their English counterparts.

Bailey’s Irish Cream is the most famous Irish liqueur, and has many imitators at home and abroad.

Poitín (anglicized as poteen / potcheen) one of the strongest alcoholic beverages in the world (60%-90% ABV), traditionally distilled in a small pot still from malted barley grain or potatoes, was long a type of illegal hooch / moonshine popular in rural areas, even though sometimes poisonous. A tame form of it is nowadays available legally.

Other mildly exotic drinks commercially produced in Ireland include mead (made from honey), perry (made from pears) and still cider.

Sloe gin and various “wines” derived from berries and flowers are usually homemade.

Wine consumption has risen a lot in recent years. Irish wine does exist, but as yet is produced on such a small scale as to be very hard to find. Popular places of origin include France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Chile, Argentina, California, Australia and New Zealand. Quality varies enormously, as do prices, but few bottles are cheap.

French champagne is very expensive, but Spanish cava and other sparkling wines are sold at relatively low prices.

Many restaurants charge exorbitant prices for wine; a few allow you to bring your own, charging only a “corkage” fee.

Fortified wines commonly available include sherry (traditionally popular with maiden aunts and nuns) and port.

French cognac  and Spanish brandy are both widely consumed. French armagnac and calvados are also available.

Mulled wine or hot claret / port / brandy / whiskey served with lemon, cloves and sugar make lovely winter drinks.