Irish Pubs: Hospitable World Domination

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Greetings to all of our fellow Tales of the Cocktail 2015 attendees! We’re back and (mostly) recovered from a successful weeklong adventure in NOLA. We learned, we met some of the best bartenders, bar owners, brand ambassadors and interesting characters in the business and, of course, we partied with the best of you. Speaking of learning and partying…

Gerry Graham, Diageo’s Master of Whisky and Bar Rescue expert, and Tim Herlihy, Tullamore D.E.W. brand ambassador, put on an informative and entertaining education session about the proliferation of Irish pubs. Simply put, this type of venue is not just a force to be reckoned with in our industry, it’s the force. This particular type of bar is a global phenomenon, period, point-blank. To understand this, all you have to do is take a look at the countries in which they’re located. You may be surprised to learn, as we were, that there are Irish pubs in Argentina, Azerbaijan, Dubai, Ghana, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Peru and Nepal.

To understand the how, we need to understand the history of this Irish marvel. According to Irish folklore, the pub started with Blaí Briugu, known as Blaí the Landholder or Blaí the Hospitaller. He was an Ulster warrior, meaning his is a legend of heroism in Irish mythology. Part of his mythos is that he was the last word in hospitality. As a wealthy landholder he operated a hostel and believed in delivering complete hospitality. From Blaí’s hostel sprung the shebeen or sibín, illegal whisky dens located in rural Ireland and the slums of Dublin. Essentially, these were speakeasies and a good example of one you can visit today is Morgan’s Pub in Louth.

From the sibín came the spirit grocer. Visiting this type of establishment was like going to a 7-11…and then drinking. If you visit Dingle in Ireland you can find two fine examples of spirit grocers: Foxy John’s and J. Curran’s Pub. Next came the coach houses, which usually featured armed guards, stables for horses and overnight accommodations. To visit one, head to Avoca and check out the aptly named Old Coach House. After the coach house, the one-stop shop was the place to grab a drink. These were literally one-stop stores: the man behind the counter was the grocer, butcher and baker, ran a hardware store and served as undertaker. A great one to hit when you’re in Ireland is Morriseys in Abbeyleix. The styles of Irish pub with which you’re likely most familiar are the Edwardian and Victorian. These are much more lavish than their predecessors, featuring mirrors, polished wood, brass and a wonderful lack of televisions. Gerry and Tim suggest you check out The Stags Head in Dublin when you make it to Ireland for a bar tour.

So what makes a bar an Irish pub? First off, the bartender. Second, the conversation. As Gerry and Tim pointed out, when you spend time in an Irish pub you’ll likely end up speaking with strangers seated next to you as well as the person behind the stick. Third, you’ve got the hospitality that Blaí Briugu made famous. And finally, that atmosphere that those of us who have spent time inside Irish pubs know so well: no televisions, warm and welcoming.

There is, however, another reason that the Irish pub spread across the globe. At first it didn’t seem obvious but then it clicked: sport. Between rugby and football (yes, soccer), anyone of Irish descent looking to support their teams can head into most corners of the world and find a pub in which to watch their matches. As anyone who does heavy traveling can tell you, a familiar venue loaded with hospitality and the amenities of home – plus friendly conversation and a few pints – can do wonders for the homesick or out of place.

So there you have it. Why did the Irish pub take over the world? Legendary hospitality, friendly bartenders, welcoming atmosphere, 80 million people who claim Irish ancestry and St. Patrick’s Day. There’s no doubt that once we colonize another planet the first bar opened will be an Irish pub. We can’t wait.

You don't have to wait another year before being able to attend education sessions like this one. Make sure to grab your passes for the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show this fall!

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