While good food is usually the goal of a night out for us, a decent drink to start is usually an important part of the experience. With prices on the rise you might not be stepping out as much as you used to, so when you do you want it to be worth the extra expenditure. Here's our updated list of where to go for a pre or post-dinner cocktail, when you want to start or end your night off right...
The Curious Mister, Wellington Quay
The Clarence Hotel is host to several restaurants and bars, so it might take you a minute to find The Curious Mister once inside the huge red brick building. Once you do, you'll be greeted by what was once the far less impressive Octagon Bar, and what is now an ultra luxe, quirkily shaped cocktail lounge. With cocktail options including 'Mushroom' with mushroom sweet Vermouth, and 'Guinness/Hibiscus' (their take on a whiskey sour), they're definitely pushing the boat out when it comes to flavour, but you can also request your favourites without too much fuss. Be warned: the mixologists take their job very seriously and aim to please, so may ask you around 14 questions when ordering.
Lucky's, The Liberties
The Liberties can be a tricky spot for a pre-dinner/Vicar Street drink over and above your standard boozer, but Lucky's serve great cocktails from friendly faces, seven days a week. Their VERY local whiskey list also has us excited, with the featured Teelings, Pearse Lyons, Powers, Dublin Liberties Whiskey, and Roe & Co all made within 850m of their front door. It's also nice to see decent non alcoholic cocktail and beer options that aren't just Heineken N/A.
Wigwam, Dublin 1
Wigwam has it all going on, from Tiki Bingo to karaoke to comedy nights, and if it's a party buzz you're after before a meal North of the Liffey, this is where you should go. It might not be the cocktails or wine list in the city, but there are good value options (like two cocktails for €16), and what it lacks in fancy glassware it makes up for in atmosphere.
The Mint Bar, College Green
Located in an underground bank vault, The Mint Bar in The Westin gives off a classy, old world feel, and a drink in here is definitely a more sophisticated start to your evening than some of the other options across the road in Temple Bar. Cocktails include signatures like their pumpkin spiced martini, and classics like the New York Sour, and they have a good N/A selection too. They also have live music from 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays if you're looking for somewhere to curl up after your meal.
Pawn Shop, Dame Street
With so many great food options in reaching distance of Dame Street, it's important to have good options for a drink beforehand. Pawn Shop opened earlier this year after the dramatic exit of Berlin Bar and has proved a hit, partly due to its food offerings with Oralé, but also due to DJ sets and spicy margaritas. Their version of an Espresso Martini comes with Teelings small batch, Stillgarden Coffee Amaro and tonka bean (no messing around here), and they serve Irish craft beers like Whiplash and Trouble Brewing if someone isn't into spirits.
1824 Bar, The Shelbourne Hotel, St. Stephen's Green
If you want to feel like a celebrity in residence, head for The Shelbourne Hotel's 1824 bar, just up a flight of stairs from reception. It's a "top-shelf only" bar, meaning they only serve high end spirits, along with Champagne, wine and premium cocktails using those high end spirits. If by some God-given miracle the sun is out, you can also take your drink next door to The Terrace.
Distilled, Nassau Street
Formerly the Dingle Whiskey Bar, Distilled on Nassau Street celebrates whiskey, rum and tequila, with a selection to make your eyes widen and a price range to make your wallet quake in your pocket. Many people come here to drink the good stuff neat, but the informative and lovely bar staff also do a mean range of cocktails, and are always happy to mix things up, like with a Mezcal Sour.
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 'Bar Of The Year' at the Bar Of The Year Awards in 2022, and with the creativity and innovation they put into their drinks it's pretty obvious why. Their menu is uniquely Irish, using Poitín in some of their cocktails and having an 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.
The Sidecar at The Westbury, Dublin 2
If you’re in the mood for a bit of glamour, head 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 stone's throw away. They have a great cocktail menu including a dizzying array of G&Ts which 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 bistro-style 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 - look out for their seasonal specials.
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.
One of the newer addition to the Dublin cocktail scene, ramen specialists Soup turned the basement of their Smithfield restaurant into a dog-friendly, music-filled bar called Dashi last year. 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 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.
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.