For a nation known — fairly, or not — the world around for its drinking habits as well as its riches-to-rags economy, it’s disappointing that no Irish hostelries feature in a compilation of the planet’s 50 best bars.
The lure of the black stuff and a friendly Irish barman (substitute young Eastern European barmaid where appropriate) is not enough to make the list compiled by a British newspaper.
The list was put together by Paul Wootton, editor of UK magazine Pub & Bar, and features more than a dozen continental European venues.
His choice of great watering holes around the globe includes seven in London. But the bar at the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair is about the nearest — in name only — to an Irish pub on the list.
However, with the Connaught Martini costing a fresh €21.50, it’s a far cry from the stereotypical image of a bar in the Western province from the 1970s Guinness ad featuring a turf fire, thatched roof, and old Aran Islanders in peaked caps.
Or from Tígh Neachtain in Galway’s international hub on Quay St, where the clientele are more likely to be competing to be heard with a busker outside than with TV commentary on the latest global share index.
Even our fellow austerians from Greece find their way into the chart, featured in The Sunday Times travel section, with A for Athens singled out for its rooftop views of the Acropolis.
If in Barcelona, one of two recommended bars is at the Ohla Hotel, where a €12.50 whiskey-based creation poured from a crystal teapot has been christened the Irish Mermaid.
A far cry from our own capital city, where the Stag’s Head or O’Donoghue’s — where Ronnie Drew and The Dubliners first made sweet music together — are more likely to feature on the tourist trail than the kind of cosmopolitan bars chosen for the list.
The bar-top burlesque dancers promised to visitors to La Descarga in Los Angeles are unlikely to be found, either, in Cork’s Hi-B. More famed for its decorum than for architecturally inspired decor, veteran publican Brian O’Donnell’s timeless bar is certainly more Thackeray than daiquiri.
But perhaps some contenders for surroundings and reputation that might have made it into Mr Wootton’s list could be Cork’s Bodega on Cornmarket St. Or maybe the Horseshoe Bar at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, or the Gravity Bar at the St James’s Gate brewery where the duke of Edinburgh almost sipped some Guinness a year ago.
With its panoramic view of the capital, it would certainly be a tad nearer to the standard like those of the top 50 list, such as Bangkok’s Sky Bar — 63-storeys up and in the open air.
While visitors to Yeats Country might be advised locally to take a trip for fine food and drink to Hargadons in Sligo, others with a taste for literary liqueur visiting Havana, Cuba, are recommended to check out Ernest Hemingway’s noted haunt, the popular fish restaurant and cocktail bar Floridita.
While some people like to wine or dine in luxury while on holidays, Ireland can always rely for promoting its bar culture on the simple truth in the motto of Flann O’Brien’s brother: A pint of plain is your only man.
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