Ireland: Dublin's secret cocktail bars
Posted On: 21/03/2015
By: Scouse Bird
Let me take you back in time to the 1920’s when the USA banned alcohol. This is a decision made by a country that thinks it’s a good idea to let kids have guns and use the term ‘bae’ without any sense of irony though so they haven’t got a great track record of good ideas. Anyway, 1920’s prohibition sparked a wave of secret liquor joints called ‘speakeasies’ where you could still get your vodka on the down low away from the po po.
These days of course speak easy bars aren’t necessary but none the less this style of bar is tres fashionable at the moment. I visited a few of Dublin’s best.
The Liquor Rooms – Wellington Quay
I didn’t really get this place, it was a bit like having a prohibition theme but without actually prohibiting anyone or anything. It’s not hidden, it’s got a pretty large capacity, there’s no booking required (unless you’re in a large group) and no real air of secrecy about it. I imagine on a Friday and Saturday it can get quite crowded. It’s kind of like Jenny’s bar in Liverpool. The barman made a cursory recommendation on the cocktail selection and in the end we tried a cucumber cooler and a ‘fishwifes fancy’ – the latter was nice enough but the cooler was a bit too overpowered by the cucumber. I’d describe it as more of a hipster joint than a secret joint and it’s the best choice if you’re looking for a ‘trendy’ hangout with a party vibe.
The VCC (Vintage Cocktail Club) – Crown Alley, Temple Bar
This was so secret we walked past it twice. There’s no sign marking it out, it’s literally a door in what looks like a deserted building with tiny lettering saying ‘VCC’ on it. After ringing a doorbell you wait a few moments before a hostess comes down to let you in. Booking is required and you can have a table for a maximum of two and a half hours when busy. It’s dark in there and lit pretty much exclusively by candlelight with small tables, big squashy chairs and an early 20th century vibe. The cocktail menu is vast but the staff are extremely knowledgeable and are happy to take the time to discover your tastes and make a personal recommendation – we got through about 14 cocktails and each one was amazing. Try the ‘High Tea’ and the Cuban cake one – it gets served with pieces of warm rum cake. The food is fab here too, the roast potatoes are like eating actual clouds. Visiting here was basically like being in love with Berry & Rye (Liverpool) and then being introduced to his 6’2” Irish cousin with a fit accent and a twinkly eye. You’re never going to make a long distance relationship work but if he moved to Liverpool, well…
Peruke & Periwig – Dawson Street
From the outside this looks like an 18th century shop and from the inside not much different. Apparently in the 1700’s it used to be a wig shop and around the downstairs bar area you’ll find some originals on display, including a massive one worth about £3000. Upstairs it’s a different story; sumptuous red walls and carpets, old fashioned heavy tables and chairs all centre around a huge ornate fireplace. It’s like a Victorian members club. The cocktails are TO DIE FOR and definitely the best I’ve tasted in a long time. Highlights are the Nom De Plume (Gin, Elerflower, Rose water, Pomegranate, Lemon, Sugar & Whites) and the Mad Hatters Tea Party; which is just as much about the spectacle as the taste. Pure gin is infused with a variety of fruits in a vacuum flask heated under a Bunsen burner before being poured over dry ice into a teapot. The dry ice has the double effect of cooling the cocktail down and creating a fantastic smoking masterpiece. It tastes unreal too, you’d never guess you were practically drinking straight gin… It’s perfect for a day drinking adventure. Booking is required at busy times and tables are available for a maximum 2.5hrs. I’d come back to Dublin for this place alone.