Lonely Planet Writer

Sample Ireland's notorious poitín at this pop-up speakeasy

Once Ireland’s most underground secret, poitín is coming to the fore. Historically, this homemade moonshine was produced from potatoes, barley or crab apples and distilled out from 60 to 95% alcohol by volume (ABV). Unlicensed production of the harsh-tasting, potent spirit was outlawed in 1661 but was approved to be legally produced for export in 1989.

Dublin’s poitin pop-up. Image by Bán Poitín

Two decades ago, in 1997, the Irish Revenue Commissioners allowed poitín to be sold for consumption within Ireland. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the drink’s decriminalisation, Dublin has become home to the world’s first poitin bar. Brought to the public by leading brand Bán Poitín, the aptly-named 16-61 bar will open its doors for a six-week residency in the basement of Berlin Café on Dame Lane.

The once-banned spirit is capturing new fans. Image by Bán Poitín

Irish-born, London-based mixologist Dave Mulligan was inspired to create Bán Poitín, leaning on the notorious reputation and appeal of the legendary brew. Unsurprising for a drink that was banned for over 300 years, interest in 16-61’s pop-up speakeasy format evidently piqued interest. According to Mulligan, the venture’s first weekend was booked out and over forty bottles of poitín were sipped and savoured over the four days.

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“The response has been incredible, more than we anticipated. The concept was to give local people access to their national spirit, a piece of culture that is unique to Ireland,” he said. “The feedback from social media has been crazy. After witnessing multiple speciality gin bars arising in Dublin and London, Mulligan felt the time was right to bring about a revival of the infamous spirit and give it the “pedestal it deserves”.

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16-61 will present a list of ten cocktails incorporating poitín from eighteen different Irish distillers, including Strawboys, Glendalough, and Teeling Spirit of Dublin. Said brands will be mixed and shaken with homegrown ingredients from local foragers, farmers, and producers, adding to the authenticity of this distinctly Irish drinking experience.

While 16-61, open Thursday through Sunday until 26 November, will reserve spaces for walk-ins, although booking is strongly advised due to a limited capacity of seating. For bookings, email here or inquire via social media @banpoitin.