The phrase “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met,” is often attributed to the lyrical Irish poet William Butler Yeats. The source of his inspiration is clear—the adage easily applies to the typical Irish tavern, a setting of friendly congregation and instinctive good cheer. Throughout the Emerald Isle, inns are organised by an unspoken but firmly applied code of ethics: Irish pub etiquette. Here we outline the code’s core tenets, which you can enjoy in practice at Ashford Castle’s The Prince of Wales Bar and The Lodge at Ashford Castle’s Quay Bar.
What to drink…
The obvious choice of Irish beverage is the iconic Guinness. So signature is the brand that it’s synonymous with the simple order of ‘a pint’ throughout Ireland. The famous dry stout dates back more than 250 years and is deeply rooted in Ireland’s cultural history—the preeminent Guinness family produced several Irish politicians and were even proud owners of 800-year-old Ashford Castle for over a century. While it may be a relic of a bygone era, the ritual of the Guinness double-pour is still observed with dignified solemnity throughout the Emerald Isle. The perfectly pulled pint should take just under two minutes; this is not a drink for the impatient.
Irish whiskey has recently undergone a rebirth. New distilleries around the island are reigniting the world’s love for the Irish spirit—almost 100 years after the American Prohibition trade embargoes and the invention of blended Scotch gradually repressed the cherished industry. Irish whiskey is defined by a signature velvety smoothness and a touch of caramel deriving from the unique distilling process. Guests at Ashford Castle are invited to learn more about the fascinating complexities of Irish whiskey at our regular tastings. Or, for a tipple of whiskey befitting the prestige of Ashford Castle, guests can purchase the extremely rare Midleton Whiskey, bottled exclusively for Ashford Castle.
Other Irish spirit sensations include local gin, which combines traditional distilling processes with indigenous botanicals such as wild fuchsia and honeysuckle for complex and subtle flavourings. There’s also Irish vodca, flavoured by the natural springs of local Irish streams.
…And how to drink it
Irish pub etiquette is informed by the ethics of a cooperative. The economic unit of local pub transactions is not the euro but the round, a collective noun referring to the communal drink orders of your clique. When joining a group, enjoy conversing uninterrupted without having to make frequent trips to the bar—but be sure to honour the contract when it’s your turn. When placing an order, it’s polite practice to start with the longest pours first, leaving shorter, less complicated orders to the end.
Drinks are savoured in Ireland. The Emerald Isle’s signature concoctions are replete with flavours as subtle as they are dynamic. Guinness retains its signature creamy head long after it’s been poured, so relish its rich texture with each sip. Likewise, Irish whiskey takes a different Ceili dance across your taste buds as it progresses to the back of your throat; the best way to unlock its complexity is by taking your time over each dram.