There’s myth and legend behind Poitín which has been at the heart of Irish drinking culture long before Irish whiskey.
But it’s only now emerging from the shadows once again having been forced out of the light by the Crown forces back in the 17th Century.
Poitín was made legal once more in 1997 and is again finding favour through the lens of the cocktail culture which possibly offers the key to future sales.
Bar 1661,which opened last April, became Ireland’s first Poitín-centric bar.
Founder Dave Mulligan, who also created Bán Poitín, pointed out that Poitín is once again writing its own chapter in the colourful story of Ireland’s notorious spirit, first banned in 1661.
And the bar would not be beyond pairing Poitín with oysters by way of creating a taste experience to savour, he said.
Dave estimates that some 6,000 cases of Poitín have been sold over the last 12 months.
In Bar 1661 Belfast Coffee is “by far and away” the biggest seller.
“It’s a cold-brewed poitín version of the Irish classic,” he says, “Somewhere between an Espresso Martini and an Irish Coffee.”
It’s been coming a long time but pubs are starting to see it as a regular backbar item in both Ireland and the UK, says Dave, “Listings such as the prestigious Savoy Hotel in London would have to make people stand up and take note that this is a serious category and can only grow from here”.
Traditional Poitín would be closer to a Single Pot Still whiskey, a blend of grains rather than purely malted barley, he says.
“We’ve seen multiple producers using various ingredients but barley is most definitely king as it always was. The main difference is the ageing period being that poitín is a new make spirit and does not come into contact with wood. The important thing to remember is whiskey came from Poitín and not the other way around.”
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland too has committed to preserving the Potín category and growing it into the future, stating, “Poitín will continue to build into a mainstream drinks category in 2019”.
Vincent McGovern, the new Head of the Irish Spirits Association, described the opening of Bar 1661 – first as a pop-up and now as a permanent venue – as a positive development.
“Poitín forms an important part of Ireland’s rich heritage of sprit-making and is a category we want people to reconnect with,” he stated recently, “It has a unique taste profile and is a perfect component for cocktail-making.”
He’d seen increasing evidence that Poitín is becoming more popular among mixologists as a cocktail component internationally in London, Paris and other cities.
Mad March Hare
Mad March Hare Irish Poitín is perhaps the most approachable of the leader brands in the category. A Double Gold medalist in the San Francisco Spirits Competition, it’s undeniably smooth and distilled using locally-sourced malted barley in West Cork giving it a delightfully creamy mouthfeel.
With an ABV of 40% it’s a perfect substitute for rum, whiskey or vodka in any classic cocktail and its versatility really comes into its own in a ‘Mad March Mule’ when mixed with Ginger Beer, Lime juice and bitters. It works equally well in a Cold Irish Coffee.
The brand has been making waves in the US market as part of the LeVecke portfolio and is expanding rapidly throughout Europe and Asia. They have been busy on the trade show circuit too with appearances at the Ploughing Championships, Gin Experience and at the Bord Bia Inn at Bloom this year.
Mad March Hare is owned and distributed by Intrepid Spirits through Celtic Whiskey Shop, Classic Drinks and MCM Spirits and appears on the menus of many of the most exciting cocktail bars in Ireland including Riot and 1661 in Dublin and Cask in Cork.
Check out madmarchharepoitin.com for more info.
Bán Poitín is taking off
Founded in 2012 Bán Poitín has played an integral part in the resurgence of Irish Poitín both at home and internationally. Created by London-based Irish bartender Dave Mulligan the brand set out to break stereotypes and champion the category through the global mixology scene.
Having secured listing’s in some of London’s most prestigious cocktail bars while defining the role as poster boy for the category Dave recently returned to his native Dublin to open Ireland’s only Poitín-focused cocktail bar, Bar 1661.
If early impressions are anything to go by the bar has been an instant success and we can expect to see big things in the future for this independent Irish establishment.
Bán Poitín currently has two expressions available which have both secured title of “Ireland’s Best Poitín” at the Irish Whiskey Awards. The brand’s signature bottling at a punchy 48% is distilled with partners The
Echlinville Distillery using homegrown, floor-malted barley, Irish potatoes and sugar beet molasses. It’s a liquid created for modern cocktail bars that’s done well to shake the stigma surrounding the spirit.
There’s also a peat cask-finished expression though this is getting more and more difficult to find.
Finally rumour tells us the brand is going back to basics with a pure barley spirit made in a Pot Still style; no mention yet of
when it will be released…