Liquid legacies: 6 Ireland drinks and their stories

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The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

Heroic adventures, tales of adversity and ingenious inventors: raise a toast to the epic stories behind Ireland’s iconic drinks

A delicious Irish coffee
A delicious Irish coffee

1. Irish coffee, County Limerick

Rich coffee, golden whiskey, caramel sugar and a layer of whipped cream on top makes the perfect Irish coffee. This decadent drink was invented in County Limerick in 1942 by Chef Joe Sheridon at Foynes Port, where planes on route from Europe to America would stop to refuel. Whipped up one cold winter’s night as a warming treat for passengers who were delayed due to bad weather, the late night tipple went on to become a classic. According to legend, a hush came over the crowd as the group took the first taste. “Is this Brazilian coffee?”, someone asked. “No," replied Joe, "that's Irish Coffee." Get that story and more at the Flying Boat and Maritime Museum in Foynes.

Perfect pairing: Enjoy solo after a hearty meal.

2. Guinness, Dublin

The story of the black stuff goes way back to 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on an empty brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin at a yearly rental fee of just £45. Two centuries on this Irish stout is beloved all over the world (and that lease won’t be running out anytime soon).

The Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse
The Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse

Of course, the Guinness Storehouse is a must-see. A seven storey building in the shape of a giant pint of Guinness, this is where you’ll get the lowdown on the story behind the pint. The best part? The breath-taking 360 degree view of the city from the top of the Gravity Bar.

Perfect pairing: Fresh oysters.

3. Smithwick’s, County Kilkenny

Crafted in the oldest brewery in Ireland, Smithwick’s rich history is a tale woven in adversity. The story starts with 13th century monks at St Francis’s Abbey who first began brewing as a method to purify water. Dark days ensued over the next 300 years with penal laws, the closure of the abbey, and world wars casting a shadow over the beer’s brewing.

The Smithwick family’s move to Kilkenny ensured a new, even tastier ale (brewed in secret, of course). The happy ending came with the end of the penal laws and the Smithwick name finally hung proud over its doors. If want the full story – and trust us, you do ­– the Smithwick’s Experience takes you through the entire 300 years of history in one nifty tour.

Perfect pairing: Tender roast beef.

The Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry

4. Tom Crean Lager, County Kerry

The Dingle Brewing Company brews its lager using the finest Kerry spring water, which, according to local legend, has life-affirming powers. Just in case the name isn’t familiar, Tom Crean is a local Dingle legend and Ireland hero who ran away to join the Royal Navy at the tender age of fifteen (claiming he was sixteen).

He went on to join three of history’s most punishing Antarctic expeditions and even earned a medal for bravery. Some maintain that Crean was the real unsung hero of the tours. Done with his adventures, Crean returned home and opened The South Pole Inn, today one of Kerry’s most unique pubs.

Perfect pairing: Corned beef and cabbage or braised lamb.

5. Armagh cider, County Armagh

History tells us that Armagh has been bearing deliciously juicy apples for more than 3000 years. Apparently, even St Patrick himself planted an apple tree in the ancient settlement of Ceangoba in the city. And during festivals, the monks in the ancient Culdee monasteries were permitted the apple as a treat, in lieu of bread.

Back in the present, Armagh is enjoying a huge revival of its cider tradition with artisan cider makers getting back to the art of handcrafting. For the likes of the Armagh Cider Company, cider making is a family affair: the Troughtons have been growing apples since 1898 (they started off selling cooking apples), and craft their own bespoke cider using local Ballinteggart apples.

Perfect pairing: Succulent pulled pork.

The Bushmills Distillery, County Antrim

6. Bushmills, County Antrim

Some say that Irish whiskey is spelt with an ‘e’ because it’s triple distilled. Others say the extra letter is added because Irish whiskey is extra special. To get to the heart of the Irish whiskey tradition, take a trip to the Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, the oldest working distillery on the island of Ireland. This is one of the few distilleries in the world to distil, blend and bottle the whiskey under the same roof. Even the water they use is special – the nearby river is said to be blessed by St Columcille. Take a tour of the distillery and find out for yourself. After uncovering the fascinating history behind this curious craft, round it off with a wee dram.

Perfect pairing: Smoked salmon.

*Please remember to drink alcohol responsibly

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