You've probably seen or heard of Irish pubs but are you familiar with Irish pub culture?
The pubs of the Emerald Isle aren't like your typical bar in North America.
Pubs are characterized by a unique culture and fascinating pub etiquette. The Irish pub is an essential stop for anyone visiting the country.
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The History of Irish Pubs
Irish pubs have been around for a long time, about a millennium in fact. Sean's bar claims to be the oldest pub still standing today in Athlone, County Westmeath. It dates back to around 900 AD.
Pubs play an integral role in Irish history. Originally Irish pubs, also known as public houses, were where working men went to drink, to avoid paying the entry fees to drink in private establishments.
Irish pubs are often named after their owners or the street they are located on. In the 19th century, pubs began to transform to include a grocery, hardware, or other ancillary business on the same premises, to counter the decline in spirit sales.
In the 19th century a temperance movement in Ireland, went from strength to strength, with a noticeable decrease in the amount of alcohol consumed.
This decline in spirit sales forced pub owners to diversify their businesses, so Spirit Grocery was born.
This was a type of business that combined a public house with a retail business, usually a grocery or hardware. They were pretty common in Ireland in the 19th and early 20th century.
Later, pub owners were forced to choose between the two sides of their businesses. This is why you won't find any pubs with spirit grocery stores in the North.
Most pubs are independently owned or owned by a chain with no brewery involvement, meaning that nearly every pub sells very similar products.
Due to Ireland's indoor smoking ban, many pubs offer enclosed, outdoor, and even heated outdoor smoking areas.
Why Are Irish Pubs Famous?
The Irish people love their pubs. Alcohol and pubs play a huge role in Irish culture, and not just because the Irish love a drink and having a good time.
Pubs are more than your average bar and are a place to come together. Pubs are famous for being a place to gather together to get to know other people over a few drinks.
There is a level of togetherness you get to experience at an Irish pub that you aren't likely to find in an American bar. It's not just about a pint of Guinness, although that's great too, but about spending time with friends.
What is Pub Culture?
There is a deep sense of camaraderie present in Irish pubs. Local pubs are the pubs that Irish people in an area frequent most often, and here the friendliness of Irish pubs can be felt by newcomers.
Most often, many of the regulars know each other and will invite tourists to join in the conversation. The relationship between customers and staff is informal, adding an extra layer of friendliness and community.
Irish pubs, in a way, serve as the community center, They're a place where you can come, let your hair down, and enjoy a few alcoholic drinks with some new friends and old friends.
Buying Rounds in Irish Pubs
In Ireland, you'll find a phenomenon known as 'buying rounds' in the pub. You may be unsure of how this system works. But fear not, I'm here to clear up any confusion.
If you're drinking in a group, typical pub etiquette involves buying the drinks in 'rounds.'
Each person in the group will purchase and pay for a drink for each drinker in their specific group.
The first round of drinks will be purchased by the first person to volunteer to start the evening off with a drink. Drinker number two will follow up and buy a drink for everyone. The system continues until everyone in the group has purchased a round of drinks for their companions.
The system goes on until the group stops drinking. But be fair warned! Try to finish up before a repeat-round gets going. It's difficult to leave before you buy your obligatory round.
Plus, if you're part of an extensive group, I advise you to split into two groups to buy rounds. Otherwise, you could pass out before it's your turn to buy a drink for everyone.
Irish people truly value generosity. Since the time of the Great Famine, Irish people have feared appearing poor or unable to purchase a drink for friends. The round system was adopted by the Irish so that they could appear to be well off when socializing.
Pubs are an important meeting place in Irish society. People gather in their local pub to meet with friends and families. Pubs are a place of interaction, conversation, music, stories, jokes, tales, and coming together.
Slagging As Part of Irish Pub Culture
If you visit an Irish pub, you may become the subject of a few witty jokes. Don't be shocked. Instead, be receptive and appreciative of this form of acceptance. For the Irish, banter and joking are seen as a way to build rapport.
Do not be surprised if someone "slags'' you in an Irish pub. In other words, a fellow patron in an Irish pub may jokingly insult you. Please avoid taking this teasing to heart. This Irish banter or slagging is never ill-intended; it is simply a means to break down barriers and begin a conversation.
If you're in Ireland, and especially if you visit an Irish pub, there's a good chance you will experience this part of Irish society.
The Irish people are renowned worldwide for their love of witty humor that can often be sarcastic. Some visitors are surprised by the level of insults and teasing shared by Irish people.
Visitors to Ireland often think this practice is hurtful, but the Irish do not take slagging negatively or seriously. It's all part of Irish pub culture.
Good humor is vital to the Irish. They view wit and charm as a means to create warmth and connection when in good company. By sharing witty stories and jokes, the Irish form close relationships and build solid connections with friends and strangers during social events.
The traditional Irish toast is "Sláinte" (SLAWN-cha), meaning cheers. It is typically not expected to tip the bar staff at pubs, although if you are being served food by wait staff, depending on the pub, you may want to tip.
But generally speaking, if you are ordering a drink over the counter, you are not expected to tip unless you receive table service. You're in the clear if you buy your table a round of drinks, when it's your turn.
Some of Ireland's Most Famous Pubs
Some of the best pubs in Ireland can be found scattered throughout the island.
Here are several pubs worth visiting, such as The Gravediggers in Dublin, Teach Hiúdaí Beag in Letterkenny, County Donegal, and O'Connell's bar in Galway, plus so many more! You can enjoy a range of Irish drinks and live music at many local pubs.
Some of Dublin's most famous pubs include:
- The Long Hall
- The Brazen Head
If you're new to the country, an Irish pub is a perfect place to meet new people and experience the local culture.
Irish Pubs in America
If you aren't in Ireland, some of the cities in the U.S. do have relatively authentic Irish pub options. Consider looking up the best and most authentic Irish pubs in your local town and try them out.
Our local Irish pub in Louisville, Kentucky is Molly Malone's. It's owned by two Irish men from County Cork and County Tipperary. Stop by for some good Irish food and drink.
An evening in an Irish pub can be such a great experience. It can help build your excitement for your next trip to the Emerald Isle to enjoy a glass of Guinness.
Each pub in small Irish towns is unique. Visiting a small town pub for the first time will be a different experience from enjoying a craft beer in a big pub in the middle of Dublin.
Magic often happens in small-town pubs. You never know when a fellow patron will pull out a tin whistle or a fiddle and start playing an Irish tune. Someone may break into song, and a sing-song will be underway before you know it.
The Irish often enjoy delicious Irish whiskey in a cozy pub atmosphere. If you want to truly experience Irish culture, a local pub is the best place to do it!
If you'd like to learn more about the best things to do in Ireland, check out my blog post: 11 Things to do in Dublin, Ireland You Don't Want to Miss.
Here are some Irish drinks you might enjoy.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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