As the city sprawls and restaurants - decent restaurants that is - open in the suburbs and outside of the vacuum that is town, we’ve rounded up our favourite places for pre-dinner cocktails throughout the city. Some of the list is made up of bars that we’re sending you to because of cocktail mastery, others because their views of the city are unparalleled and quite a few happen to be disguised by the restaurant out front or downstairs. You might never have realised they were even there.
9 Below, Stephen's Green
There are only a handful of bars in the city where we would recommend sitting down for a martini, and this is one of them. If like so many others, ordering a martini looks to be a discernibly difficult task - vodka/gin, dry/dirty, olive/twist etc. - the guys at 9 Below will help you out. From the same people behind 37, House and The Oak, this bar is their (ultra) plush outlet, and with hidden library rooms and caved ceilings, it’s a pretty cool way to start, or end, an evening. Every minute detail has been poured over to create as sophisticated a bar experience as you’ll get in the city, right down to the glassware and the spikes on which your olives are presented (should you choose them). A must-visit, if you can get in.
The VCC, Temple Bar
Search for a hidden doorbell in Temple Bar and you’ll find the Vintage Cocktail Club. In the middle of the mania, the VCC has become a haven from which to drink and delight in some of the city’s most creative cocktail creations. If you can, book ahead. Inside, there’s a menu that would confound most given its density, but for us, the unpronounceable “Phyotica” is a great way to start your evening. Light, smooth but packing a punch for your first drink of the night, you can head to dinner with the perfect Chartreuse-induced buzz.
The Gold Bar at Hang Dai, Camden St
It’s no secret we’re pretty big fans of Hang Dai, with the disco chinese restaurant seeming to get a new lease of life recently. Last year it launched the Gold Bar upstairs, a cool, compact space that fits about 25 people between the terrace and the bar itself, and is staffed by some decidedly cool bartenders. Get a “Men with broken hearts” for an interesting aperitif and digestif liqueur mix that produces an unusual result.
The Sitting Room at Delahunt, Camden Street
Another quaint bar sits above Camden Street mainstay Delahunt. Removed from the noise of the street below, this is a quiet spot for a really, really good pre-dinner drink (and you don’t have to be eating downstairs in order to grab a table). You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but we’d recommend the simple “Cognac and Orange” to cleanse the palette for whatever deliciousness is to come after. And yes, that is “Delahunt” imprinted on the ice cube. Details, folks.
Bar 1661, Smithfield
Poitin, which is making a comeback if you haven’t heard, is the toast of Dave Mulligan's Bar 1661 off Capel street, and with Gillian Boyle at the helm, who was also behind the launch of Hang Dai’s Gold Bar, they’ve carved out a creative cocktail menu and brand with a niche spirit. International Poitin Day was last week, and they celebrated by launching eight new cocktails, of which we think the “Brother Hubbard” with vanilla butter, Irish apple brandy, regal rose vermouth and rose hip sounds particularly appealing.
The Baths, Clontarf
A pretty slick addition to the Clontarf food and drink scene, and Dublin’s answer to the Sydney Icebergs club, The Baths has had an interesting go of it since reopening last year, and while it seems it's yet to find its feet food wise, we’d definitely recommend stopping by for a drink, if only for the €2.4m refurb surroundings. Ambient and with views for days, we’d recommend getting the “Baths Basil” as you watch the world go by outside. Even if you’re not sticking around for food, it’s a must visit if you find yourself in the vicinity.
Upstairs Bar at Kinara Kitchen, Ranelagh
Where the food scene in Ranelagh is sprawling and it boasts some great bars, cocktail-wise it’s a little short on offerings. The award winning “secret” bar upstairs in Kinara Kitchen has been around for a number of years, mastering the classics with a singular Pakistani flair, and if it were up to us, everyone would have to try the “Maharini” or the “Rested El Presidente” at least once. Whether you’re heading downstairs for some of the best Eastern food in the city, to Thai Nightmarket or critics’ favourite Host, it's definitely worth a pre-dinner visit.
The Rooftop at The Marker
Easily the city’s best view, if only for how cool Grand Canal Dock looks lit up at night-time, The Marker Hotel's rooftop is a pre-dinner drink worth getting into a lift for. If you’re heading to Charlotte Quay across the dock or down to Osteria Lucio, you would be seriously remiss to skip a drink here beforehand. Their G&T menu is nice and robust - if expensive - so while you’re there, you might as well indulge in a Monkey 47. Not stocked in every bar in the city but something to be tried at least once, if only to enquire if it tastes any different to those gins with less than 47 botanicals in them. Just to note: during the winter season, the rooftop opens only for Friday and Saturday evening service.
The Sidecar at The Westbury
Given the abundance of busy restaurants in The Westbury’s vicinity, it’s nice to visit a place removed from the bustle of Grafton Street before you venture out into the thick of it. The Sidecar is idyllic in this sense, a serene step away from it all, with a great cocktail list to boot. One of the hotel’s most recent renovations, the 1920's style bar is probably our favourite place in the city for a cocktail, with a smokey "Mezcal Smash” that's as yet unbeatable.
Before Circa arrived, you would have been hard-pressed to find a decent cocktail anywhere in Terenure, but amongst a few things the guys have gotten right here is their cocktail offering. IF you can nab a seat at the bar for some pre-dinner sipping, you’d do well to order the Circa Rebujito, because basil and bergamot make everything that comes after tastier. While you’re there, you may as well eat, but if they're fully booked you've also got Green Man Wines down the road and Craft is a 15 minute walk away.