I recently received an invitation from Bar 1661 in Dublin to come in and taste their new range of cocktails.
This is a very cool bar, staffed by people who spend a huge amount of time and effort researching Irish drinks and creating amazing cocktails. It is hardly surprising that it recently won the Bar of the Year 2022 award from Hospitality Ireland. If you haven’t dropped into the bar, on Green Street, just off the top of Capel Street, then you really should.
I am not always a huge fan of the cocktails sold in some bars and restaurants, many are sweet or acidic, and expensive. However, I could happily while away an evening or two in Bar 1661 sipping some of these creations. They are reasonably priced too at €9-€15.
Dave Mulligan and his team have put together an amazing array of 32 cocktails representing the history of drink over the past 300-odd years. “We want to be the best cocktail bar in town,” says Mulligan. “I look after the garnishes and the ice and I set the concept. The team takes it from there.” I tasted my way through all 32 cocktails (just a small sip from each) and these are sophisticated, balanced and very moreish drinks that tease, seduce and captivate.
Mulligan has always championed the cause of poitín, arguing that it was and is simply a white (ie unoaked) whiskey, made from barley and malted barley by craftsmen. “Sixty per cent of the cocktails we sell include poitín,” he says. Bar 1661 imported their own sherry casks from Jerez, and age their finished cocktails in oloroso, palo cortado or PX.
To give you an idea of what is on offer, my favourites included the Generation Six (1848, Micil poitín, tequila, Empirical Ayuuk, mango, bell pepper, sumac, lime, chipotle); The Gibney (1785, Redbreast 12-year-old whiskey, rum, pineapple, black cardamom, aromatised wine, oloroso, all aged in oloroso cask); and Paperwork (1760, Teeling poitín, Valentia island vermouth, Kinsale Atlantic Dry Mead, Off the Cuffe marmalade, citrus bitters, lavender, soda).
If you can’t make it to the pub, the team at Bar 1661 also produce a fine range of ready-to-drink cocktails that can be delivered nationwide. See craftcocktails.ie.
Here are four poitíns to include in your cocktail kit, all available online or from specialist retailers.
Micil Connemeara Poitín
44%, €35 for a 50cl bottle
Made from malted barley and Connemara bogbean at the Micil distillery in Galway.
Mulroy Bay Irish Poitín, Baoilleach, Donegal
47%, €38 for a 50cl bottle
Distilled in Donegal from a mash of malted barley and potatoes.
Bán Irish Poitín
A blend of barley, potatoes and sugar made by Echlinville Distillery.
Mad March Hare Irish Poitín
Distilled in west Cork from locally sourced malted barley.