The Menu: The best Irish cocktail

Food news with Joe McNamee


The 21st century revival of cocktails in Ireland continues apace, with the third Irish Cocktail Festival (Oct 9-14) taking place throughout the 32 counties with any bar, restaurant or hotel welcome to get involved. Showcasing many of the fine Irish distilled spirits available, not least from the plethora of boutique operations around the country, and harnessing the creative drive of a new cadre of young mixologists, the local scene has never been so vibrant and those businesses wishing to get involved simply need to concoct a cocktail of their own made using one of the festival’s official Irish brands. Once the festival kicks off, punters are invited to vote for their choice of #BestIrishCocktail. (


Tickets for most events at the 41st Kinsale Gourmet Festival (Oct 14-15) are almost entirely sold out but The Menu highly recommends putting in a call on the off-chance of procuring one of those precious remaining few as the little seaside town’s finest restaurants put on their best bib and tucker to entertain and feed the influx over the weekend, with the Mad Hatter’s Taste of Kinsale, a delightfully decadent eating and drinking tour of the town, while the festival concludes with the Fruits de Mer luncheon including gin and champagne reception followed by a feast of fine Irish seafood. (


One of the world’s top BBQ competitions comes to the People’s Park, in Limerick (Oct 13-15) with 650 chefs cooking over real fire in a bid to become the WBQA World BBQ Champion with Cork’s Holy Smoke Head Chef John Relihan acting as Irish ‘ambassador’ to the championships.

Two more very worthwhile classes on offer from Dingle Cookery School include Low and Slow – take time with your cooking (Oct 14) and a Biscuit Making Workshop (Oct 21), all taking place in the glorious West Kerry seaside town. (

With larders and store cupboards full to the brim with the harvest of finest, local, seasonal Irish produce, it is one of The Menu’s most favourite times to eat in Ireland and Persiana (Oct 14) is an especially intriguing offering with Galway-based Levantine food specialist Mitzi’s Mezze coming for just one night to Tot’s Pub, Ballygurteen, in wonderful West Cork. (


The Menu first met Fionntán Gogarty, the alchemist behind Wildwoods Vinegar at the Burren Slow Food Festival earlier this year and was quite blown away by his range of vinegars. A more recent encounter at the Dingle Food Festival enabled The Menu to procure another bottle of Fionntán’s five-year-old Barrel Aged Balsamic Blackberry Vinegar, which he then toted around for the entire weekend, dispensing drops to all and sundry as if it were holy water. They joined The Menu in hymning the praises of this utterly exalted liquid, a deep purple-black syrup, its acidity mellowed by age, allowing exultant floral blackberry notes to sing highest in the choir. An unusually versatile product, The Menu has spooned it on ice cream and granita, used it as the grace note in a venison jus, dribbled it on soft, creamy brie, created Wildwood Cava cocktails and … well, you get the picture, nothing left but for you, dear reader, to procure a bottle and continue this great thread of Wildwood experimentation.


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