By Colette Fitzpatrick
If I’m heading out for a drink nowadays, it’s probably to a cocktail bar. I love a good cocktail. In fact, I always say that I judge a bar on two things: the bathroom and how well they make a classic cocktail – a Whiskey Sour is my go-to, btw.
In recent years, my nights out have calmed down and I rarely see dawn after hitting some bars any longer. As a result, drinks have become much more about quality over quantity and ambience is far more important. I want to have a couple of nice drinks, to be able to hear the people I’m with and to relax in a pleasant and stylish setting. These things generally come with a heavier price tag, especially in Dublin, so you’d better bet your ass that I’m picky.
Through some boozy trial and error, I’ve found some absolute gems of cocktail bars in the city and, so you don’t have to encounter quite so much of the error side of things, I thought it might be helpful to share five of my favourites in Dublin.
Run by the same people behind the Vintage Cocktail Club, this bar is one of my locals and, perhaps, my favourite bar in the city. As with the Stella Cinema, to which it is attached, stepping into the Stella Cocktail Club feels like stepping back in time. The 1920s decor looks like something out of a noir, the jazz played in the background is charming and unobtrusive, the service is truly excellent and very friendly, the drinks are perfect and served beautifully, and the food menu is almost designed for me; we’re talking Korean pork, Churros and wonderfully crispy fries. It’s busy at the weekends, so you’ll have to book a table in advance but, during the week, it is quieter and more intimate and walk-ins are more likely to get a table readily. Cocktails start at €11 and the food is served as small plates and ranges from €5-€11.
2. Bonsai Bar
Bonsai Bar, located above the Rustic Stone is Dylan McGrath’s Japanese-inspired bar that has slick interiors with playful details like the anime-covered bathrooms and fake cherry blossom festooned ceiling as you walk up the stairs. The curation of cocktails is a collaborative effort between McGrath and two Japanese mixologists and is a more interesting than most in the city. It features some absolute revelations, like the Tokyo Fizz, a combination of pear vodka, spiced rum and pear purée. A pal and I have ordered a bunch now and I was delighted with all of my choices, though she was less pleased with one or two – order with care and, when in doubt, ask for an expert opinion. Service is a little slower than the Stella but, overall, the elegance of the venue (though there wasn’t snootiness, despite our just having returned from a hike on my first visit) and cocktails make for a great cocktail experience. Prices start at €11 here as well.
3. Bow Lane
Bow Lane is a little social hub on Aungier Street that often has people spilling out of its doors, and for good reason. Their establishment is one of those that pride themselves on showmanship and, if you pay attention, you’ll see the mixologists doing their thang theatrically behind the bar. Everything is served beautifully, the attention-to-detail is excellent (I had a flower in one of my drinks which is a sure-fire way to my heart) and there is quite a bit of choice. Shadowy and cool, with interesting artworks on the wall, leather booths and little else to distract, it is a minimalist but hip venue. It is also marginally cheaper, with cocktails starting at nine quid.
Located underneath the Clarence Hotel, this eclectic gem is great when you get it at the right time. If you head there late at the weekends, it gets incredibly loud (I know, I’m an old granny at heart) and dancey, which is not ideal for a quiet cocktail. However, earlier in the evening and during the week, it’s great, with wonderfully bizarre interiors that feature circus big-tops on the ceiling, wild west saloony booths, a taxidermied grizzly, and some creepy-ass old paintings (or prints of them, at least). The cocktail menu is an illustrated delight, inspired by women from Irish history, with short accounts about each woman and the beverages themselves a stunningly served (the Tread Softly is my favourite and comes in the cutest tea cups you’ve ever seen!). For the actual drinks alone, without any other external factors considered, this is my top cocktail pick in Dublin. Prices here begin at ten euros.
I got to hang out here when Glossier last came to Dublin and I honestly can’t wait for an excuse to go back. Located above Hang Dai, 2017’s hottest culinary opening, it consists of a small bar and terrace that protrudes over Camden Street. With truly delicious plates of snacks available and a neat but delicious cocktail menu to choose from, it is a continuation of the stylish and neon trendiness and excellence that caught many a food writer’s eye when the place opened last year.
So, with tomorrow being the hump day after a long weekend, maybe it’s time to pencil in a cocktail with some good people in one of these excellent venues. Just don’t blame me for any hangovers or confessions of love that may ensue!
If you’re looking for more foodie posts, check out Food Ed Kim’s discussion of a dumpling event in the Vintage Teapot or her Shakshouka recipe!