By Diva Jain
Photo: Diva Jain
Perhaps because the sun sets early, or because the weather is unwelcoming, or because the population is spread so sparsely, Irish pubs are the natural endpoint to a long day. Around 5pm, as dusk settles over the antique buildings of Trinity College, Dubliners pose an essential question: What do we do now? The typically Irish answer would be to walk directly to a local pub.
No culture is so sacrosanct that it cannot be reused, refurbished and hawked to millennials. Pubs across the world pride themselves on being a “mini-Ireland”, decorating their walls with tacky, green clovers and leprechauns. Yet the local bars in Dublin skip the ostentatious signaling and feel much homelier. Instead, you are surrounded by friends, family, and your fellow regulars — a reminder of the social aspect that enhances the enjoyment of alcohol.
Another difference from their Western counterparts is that the Irish abide by the “round system” where one person, in the spirit of camaraderie, purchases a round of drinks for the entire table instead of the Dutch system where each person pays for their own drink. This venerated system is not without its flaws. The consumption of as many rounds as there are members at the table, ensuring equal contribution, often results in binge drinking. However, it is common for the average Irish person to blame the rampant alcoholism on an opinion that seems like fact to locals. Namely, “The Irish have the best stout and whisky on the planet!”
An often-underestimated selling point of pub nights is the range of bar food they serve. A succulent beef stew or a creamy Shepherd’s pie is enough to make any Irishman’s mouth water. Lathered in batter and tossed into a deep fryer, potato and haddock are transformed into the sanctified Fish and Chips that, when doused with salt and vinegar, is vital for the pub experience. Its complement is hot chicken wings dripping in spicy sauce, screaming to be consumed alongside your cold beer. Not just any beer will do. A Guinness, the suave and celebrated dark brew, is par for the course. Boasting lavishly thick cream and a bitter aftertaste, this “pint” of lager is a go-to for locals and tourists alike.
Pub music, often live, is Ireland’s biggest anachronism. Backed by the powerful beats of the Bodhrán (drummer), the fiddle, wooden flute, and accordion – each producing unique sounds – the music blends together in a traditional musical resurgence. A bridge between conservatism and modernity that connects the youth and the elderly. It’s a communal soundtrack for the pub’s drunken trance.
Most pubs are open every day of the year with the exception of Good Friday and Christmas. On those days, locals must find another answer to the daily dilemma What do we do now?
An ardent traveler and avid reader, Diva Jain is a writer for the Travel Section of the Sundial Press. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India and is now a part of the Euro-American program at Sciences Po.