As much as we love drinking in Ireland, as much as we love the Guinness and the Murphy's and the Beamish and the Smithwick's by the pint; the Power's, Jameson's, Paddy, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Tyrconnell, Connemara and Midleton Very Rare by the glass; it's a bit of a shame that Ireland is not much of a cocktail country.

We had heard that there were good cocktails to be had at the tony Clarence Hotel, one of the nicer hotels in Dublin city, which is now owned by the lads in U2. We ventured to the Octagon Bar (aptly named, as the big room and the bar are octagonal) and had a look at their cocktail menu.

It was pretty impressive, and that night was the very first time, in seven days in Ireland, that we heard the sound of a cocktail being shaken, that we even saw the presence of a cocktail shaker, in any pub or bar. (Actually, we had had an excellent Hurricane and a passable Bloody Mary the previous night at Tante Zoe's, but we didn't see or hear them made.) Not that there's anything wrong with that, as we love pints and drams, but boy, were we jonesing for a cocktail.

They were high-priced cocktails, too; this was unsurprising, given the typical clientele of the Clarence. However, if the value of our currency weren't so low, thanks to the current administration, they'd only be slightly expensive. We saw prices of €10-€15.50, but at the current exchange rates that made a drink run between $13 and $20. Glerp.

Our barman Seán (who'd worked as a barman in New York as well) recommended the Clarence Cosmopolitan (made with both Absolut Mandarin and Citron, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and a flamed orange peel, which was in impressive touch), and we picked the following one from the menu. Unfortunately, we didn't feel we could afford more than just one drink that night, but fortunately they were quite good.

Seán and his very enthusiastic French colleague behind the stick (who was eager to serve us his original creation, a mix of Bailey's and a bunch of sweet liqueurs that left us unexcited at the prospect) were kind enough to teach us how to make a Bramble, and we left them with our recipes for the Footloose and the Hoskins scrawled on the back of a couple of pub mats. Whether or not those drinks end up on the menu at the Clarence is anybody's guess, but wouldn't that be deadly if they did?

1-1/2 ounces gin (they used Gordon's).
1-1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
1 ounce crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur).
Club soda.

In a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, combine the gin,
lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake and strain into an
8-ounce stemmed tulip glass, top with soda and float the
crème de mûre.

Their Cosmo was pretty good too, but I thought he put in too much cranberry. One of these days I'll post the recipe from the New York bartender who claims not to have invented the Cosmopolitan, but to have perfected its modern implementation.


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Chuck Taggart   email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com