We're all about the food here at ATF (in case that wasn't obvious from the name), but we're also partial to a pre-dinner stop for a great cocktail. Whenever we’re thinking of where to go for dinner, we're generally checking if there's a decent spot nearby for a pre-dinner tipple, and while Dublin is not short on pubs and bars, we’ve been caught out by places serving mediocre drinks at premium prices more times than we’d care to admit. These days, we're more careful about where we're spending our beer money, so we've curated a list of old reliables and some new kids on the block where you’re certain to get the cocktails, service and ambiance you deserve...
Bar 1661, Smithfield
It’s no secret that we're smitten by Bar 1661, and will think of any excuse to visit this talent-filled spot in the heart of Dublin 7. They won 'Best Cocktail Bar in Ireland' at the Irish Craft Cocktail Awards in 2019, and with the creativity and innovation they put into their drinks it's not hard to see why. Their menu is uniquely Irish, using poitín in some of their cocktails and having a really impressive range of Irish-made gin, whiskey and wines, and because they're not tied in with a big spirits conglomerate their bartenders have carte blanche when it comes to getting creative. For us this is the bar to beat right now.
The Sidecar at The Westbury, Dublin 2
If you’re in the mood for a bit of glamour, head straight for The Sidecar in The Westbury Hotel. The 30’s style, dimly-lit bar feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of Grafton Street, despite being a stones throw away. They have a great cocktail menu including a dizzying array of G&Ts which now includes their very own Sidecar Gin, as well as a martini trolley. They also give you a little glass of bubbles while you wait for your chosen concoction, and between this and the nuts and olives they provide, you get surprisingly good bang for your buck.
The Sitting Room, Camden Street
This very aptly named bar above Delahunt restaurant really does feel like you’re stepping into someone’s ‘good room’ when you first arrive. The high ceilings and well-chosen furniture in The Sitting Room make for a really pleasant setting, and while it’s a small space and walk in only, anytime we’ve visited we’ve been able to get a seat. The cocktails are masterfully made with great service, so make sure to add this to your list for when you’re next in the area.
Note, Fenian Street
One of the newer additions to the city, Note has quickly become one of our regular haunts. The natural focused wine list is the big draw, as are the creative small plates, and you could happily settle in for a full evening but it’s also the perfect place to pop into for a loosener before dinner. While the wine gets much of the coverage, the cocktails are worth a detour too - ours is a 'Cherry Cherry'.
The Blind Pig, Suffolk Street
We remember the manic hype about The Blind Pig speakeasy as if it was yesterday. You had to book a table before getting the address, then descend a set of stairs beside Pacino's Italian on Suffolk Street, pull on a pig's snout, and a bookcase would part in front of you letting you in. It's no less cool now than it was then, and the drinks are still amongst the best in the city.
A new addition to the Dublin cocktail scene, ramen specialists Soup recently turned the basement of their Smithfield restaurant into a dog-friendly, music-filled bar called Dashi. The cocktail list is properly original - try the 'Milkshake Penecillin' with Maker's Mark Bourbon, ginger & rosemary syrup, lemon vermut and milkshake IPA, or cool down with a gin cherry rooibos soda slushee.
Peruke & Periwig, Dawson Street
Once the coolest cocktail spot in town, Peruke & Periwig is still a solid choice for a pre-dinner drink, especially if you like a bit of theatre with service. The cocktail list has a music theme, ranging from pop to jazz to alternative, and they do a clever range of dessert cocktails if you feel like something sweet after dinner.
The Big Romance, Parnell Street
Located on Parnell Street, The Big Romance has become something of a mecca for music lovers in Dublin since opening in 2018 due to their vinyl-only policy, custom sound system and casual vibe. They have an outstanding draught craft beer selection, and their cocktails are also super tasty, so everyone in your party will be taken care of. The perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink, but with the amount of guest DJ’s they host, it might be even better for a post-dinner drink when the music takes over.
9 Below, St. Stephen’s Green
From the team behind House, Xico and 37 Dawson Street, 9 Below is the sophisticated older sister of the group. It’s hidden in a basement off Stephen’s Green so you won’t be short of food options nearby, but give yourself enough time to bunker down and enjoy the space. It's been carefully curated to create a romantic speakeasy vibe, with countless cubbies and corners to get cosy in. The perfect way to start or end your evening.
Glovebox, Trinity Street
If you’re looking for something a little bit out of the ordinary, the folks behind Allta have taken over the top level of a carpark and transformed it into the hottest ticket in Dublin. If you can’t get a spot in the restaurant (or if you can’t justify the prices), you can still get a piece of the action in Glovebox, their art gallery and cocktail bar on the same level. They have a small number of tables kept for walk-ins, but we'd recommend booking if you want to secure a seat.
The Virgin Mary Bar, Capel Street
Whoever thought that a pre-dinner cocktail needed to be laced with alcohol has obviously never visited The Virgin Mary Bar. Dispel any thoughts of the sugary mocktails that you’re used to seeing as an afterthought on a drinks menu, these cocktails are creative, fun and tasty, like your usual favourites, but hold the hangover. If you still feel like a bit of soakage would stand you in good stead, they’re collaborating with their Malaysian neighbour Kopitiam, to offer a small vegetarian street food menu for their guests.
Three Storey, St. Stephen’s Green
If you’re after something a bit lighter, a bit summery, a bit ‘spritzier’ if you will, look no further than Three Storey. The newly opened establishment spans three floors, with a cocktail bar at the top, a restaurant in the basement, and a Spritzeria on the ground floor. The ideal spot for a drink before lunch during the summer, and you can always come back for more and try their cocktail bar for the more hard-hitting stuff.
IdleWild, Fade Street
IdleWild took its inspiration from the infamous airport bar in New York, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to a New York style dive bar, on the ever-buzzy Fade Street. It’s small but perfectly formed, however its compact nature can sometimes make it tricky to nab a seat. If you can, perch yourself on the bar and watch the bartenders work their magic, and if you're looking to have a nibble with your tipple they have a tapas style menu.
The Rooftop at The Marker
Easily the city’s best view, The Marker Hotel's rooftop is a pre-dinner drink worth getting into a lift for. Their G&T menu is robust if expensive, and the cocktail list ranges from classics to seasonal sips to new creations. Major "are we still in Dublin" vibes.