A Celebration of Poitín and Irish Spirits – Bar 1661 Review
In 1661, poitín became illegal in Ireland. While the ban was lifted in 1997, the date was chosen to name what is set to be the “global flagship for Irish poitín”, as founder Dave Mulligan refers to Bar 1661, located on Green Street and dedicated to craft cocktails that exalt the original uisce beatha, as well as Irish whiskey, gin and other local spirits and drinks.
Mulligan, who created the brand Bán Poitín, made at The Echlinville Distillery in County Down, had already explored the idea of a premium poitín bar back in 2017, when he opened a six-weeks only pop-up bar with the same name in Dublin City Centre. After great feedback back then, this time he’s in town to stay.
I visited Bar 1661 on a Thursday evening. Only a couple of minutes away from Cineworld, it was an ideal spot for an after-movie cocktail. The decor feels timeless and elegant: leather top stools, wooden tables and dark green wall pannelling, along a few flowers and white pillars to brighten the mood.
You can feel a great deal of love for Irish drinks and hospitality in this place, and not just because of its looks. The menu at Bar 1661 offers a seasonal selection of cocktails featuring poitín and other Irish spirits. These are combined with Irish ingredients, from mixers to bitters to cordials, salts and botanicals sourced from foragers and local suppliers.
We started the evening with a Belfast Coffee (€9), made with Bán Poitín, Cold Brew, cream and nutmeg, and an Oxmantown (€12), which was accurately described to me as “a Manhattan style cocktail” made with Mad March Hare Poitín, Irish mead, red vermouth, Irish ice wine and Acchill salt. I appreciated the fact that numerous poitín brands were on the menu, instead of just the founder’s own. In fact, it has to be one of the most comprehensive poitín selections in Ireland and beyond.
The Belfast Coffee was creamy, not overly sweet and with a gentle flavour of poitín blending in with the coffee notes and the sweet spice. The Oxmantown was in the golden spot of bittersweet balance, with a herbacious note in lovely contrast with the mead’s luscious character.
We were delighted to realise how many of the drink’s names were inspired by local businesses, including a few northside icons such as Pantibar, Barney Kiernan’s and Market Hacienda.
We arrived a few days too early to try their sandwiches, but nowadays they open for lunch and have added a selecton to their offer. What we did try was a very generous and neatly presented meat and cheeseboard (€20) with an assortment of wonderful Irish artisan products including cured Irish beef, ham, chorizo, Gubbeen cheese and goats cheese, accompanied by mustard, quince, pickles and crackers.
Not only was it ideal for sharing, but everything was arranged with care and described enthusiastically by the staff.
Besides the cocktails and spirits, Bar 1661 has a small selection of wines, including a few Irish bottles rarely seen by the glass such as Killahora Orchards Apple Ice Wine made in Cork, Llewellyn’s Lusca Cabernet/Merlot from Dublin and Móinéir Strawberry Wine from Wicklow.
There is also a concise but carefully selected tap of rotating craft beers. I was lucky enough to spot the limited edition Red Noir from Yellowbelly Beer, a dark red ale that is pure malty awesomeness. I had a half pint of it (€3.50) and my date tried the Irish strawberry wine (€7).
In lieu of dessert, we decided to end the night with two cocktails on the sweet side. I had a Strawberry Beds (€12), made with Slane Whiskey, strawberry, vanilla and oats. It was lively and fruity but not cloying, very enjoyable. I appreciated the fact that the waiter informed me it was a sweet drink before I ordered it (he remembered my first choice was a Manhattan-style and that I had mentioned I didn’t want something too syrupy).
My date went for the Four Courts (€12), made with Weavers Gin, lavender, mead, raspberry and apple. While I enjoyed mine, I felt cocktail envy when I tried this bright and floral combination of all things summer.
We took our time with these, the music was at a volume that invited conversation and the seats were so comfy. Bar 1661 has become a new favourite, it is one of those places in which you can see there is a lot of love and care put into every detail.
The bill, including a large Irish meat and cheeseboard, four cocktails, a glass of beer and a glass of Irish wine came at €75.50.
If you’re passionate about Irish drinks or interested in getting to know them a little better, this is a must try. If you have guests from abroad and want to show them something outside of the touristy circuit, bring them here. If you are simply looking for a great Irish bar, check out Bar 1661.
ARTICLE BY GABY GUEDEZ