The pubs of Christmas: Five bars worth a visit

From festive cocktails to bespoke decorations, these award-winning bars offer something different

Cask: The cocktail menu changes every 12 weeks.

Cask: The cocktail menu changes every 12 weeks.



48 MacCurtain Street, Cork, caskcorkcom

Located just off MacCurtain Street in Cork, Cask is part of a renaissance of Cork’s Victorian Quarter. The interiors are plush (rich, jewel-toned lighting fixtures and velvet trimmings) and uniquely Cork (a few stuffed otters thrown in for good measure). The cocktail menu changes every 12 weeks so the offering is seasonal, with “nature-led” ingredients. Manager and mixologist Andy Ferreira leads a team who pride themselves on thinking outside of the ordinary when it comes to their experimental concoctions. It’s not all cocktails at Cask, with more than 20 hand-picked wines to choose from and a tapas menu.

Best seat in the house: Take the window booth for optimum people-watching and a full view of the epic interiors.

Top tipple: Ask the barmen what his favourite invention of the week is – you won’t be disappointed.


54 Capel Street, Dublin 1, facebook.comthevirginmary

The Virgin Mary, on Capel Street in Dublin
The Virgin Mary, on Capel Street in Dublin

Launched to much media fanfare, and a little shock, earlier this year, non-alcoholic spot The Virgin Mary has managed to hold people’s interest. Those out Christmas shopping might do well to consider the smugness of enjoying a few festive drinks minus the hangover. The location on Dublin’s Capel Street makes it all the sweeter. The creative force behind the cocktails is manager Anna Walsh, who has represented Ireland in cocktail-making competitions around the globe. Tikki Street and Pink Preacher will continue to be a menu mainstay while non-alcoholic beers on the menu include Brooklyn Special Effects Hoppy Lager.

Best seat in the house: Cosy up in one of the leather booths at the back.

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Top tipple: The Cedars Spritz is the ultimate pick-me-up.


St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,

Where better to go for a wee dram at Christmas time than The Shelbourne Hotel? The five-star on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin’s city centre has a new whiskey bar called 1824, named after the year the hotel was founded. Located at the top of the grand staircase, the snug offers an intimate escape from the hustle and bustle outside, with an edit of top-shelf drinks on the menu.

Best seat in the house: Next to the fireplace, under bookcases heaving with Irish literature.

Top tipple: A Midleton Dair Ghaelach, if you’re feeling fond of yourself.


22-24 Dominick Street Upper, Galway,

Located in the west-end of Galway, John Keogh’s is an award-winning gastropub that’s one of the first places recommended by locals when tastemakers enquire about the city’s coolest spots. It has a substantial beer and wine menu and has won multiple awards for its service and overall quality. In 2019, it was awarded The Irish Pub of the Year by the McKenna Guide, describing its food as, “a celebration of life on the west coast”.

Best seat in the house: Perched at the bar, for a chinwag with the locals.

Top tipple: The Valdivieso organic wine is a treat for the senses.


1 Oxford Street, Belfast,

Located on Oxford Street, overlooking the banks of the River Lagan, it seats a humbling 40 people at a time. Try a gin on its mezzanine or an apéritif in the sister eatery, Ox Cave next door. It offers the coravin wine preservation system which allows customers to sample a glass of expensive wine, without the bottle being uncorked. No notions here.

Best seat in the house: Grab a seat near the window, perfect for watching falling snow.

Top tipple: Exiles gin from Co Kerry is a robust and rare brew – for true gin fans only.