A cocktail bar focusing on Irish poitín is joining the mix in Dublin

The founder of Bar 1661 said Irish people do like poitín but there has been no platform to experience it.

By Laura Roddy Reporter, Fora

BÁN POITÍN FOUNDER Dave Mulligan is launching a new cocktail bar.

Based on Green Street in central Dublin, the new venture is called Bar 1661 – a nod to the year poitín was made illegal in Ireland. 

According to Mulligan, it will be a cocktail-service bar serving as the “global flagship for Irish poitín” and a “destination venue” located around north Dublin’s historic food markets. 

Mulligan founded the poitín brand, which is produced at The Echlinville Distillery in County Down. He previously ran a pop-up bar venue in Dublin in late 2017. 

“We ran the pop-up for six weeks and had amazing feedback from customers. We had far more interest from the press in six weeks than I had in six years as a brand and that was a real eye opener,” he said. 

Despite the fact interest in the white spirit is considerably lower than other Irish spirits, with just 70,000 bottles of it sold in 2017 compared to 6.4 million bottles of whiskey, Mulligan says the pop-up bar illustrated there is a market for poitín here.

The Dún Laoghaire native has raised an undisclosed sum of money to invest in the bar from within the drinks industry.

“Ireland is interested in poitín, but no one has been given a platform where they could go and experience it,” he said.  

His bar aims to do that, with eight cocktails on the menu using the spirit. It won’t be the only drink available, however, with Mulligan adamant that it is a “cocktail bar first” and this will be reflective on the menu.

There will be a hand-selected collection of Irish whiskey, gin, vodka and brandy, sitting alongside international wines and ciders.

“We are trying to show diversity and support producers big and small,” Mulligan said.

He plans to first establish Bar 1661 as a cocktail bar before introducing food over the next three months. 

Previous lessons

With over 20 years’ experience in the drinks industry behind him, Mulligan opened a bar in London in 2012 named Shebeen that focused solely on poitín. 

He tells Fora he entered the project knowing it would be short-term because the building he leased was for sale.

When that happened, in 2015, he started his own brand, Bán Poitín, which is produced at The Echlinville Distillery in County Down. 

“I made the decision that instead of opening a new bar in a new venue to start my brand and put all my time and money into that,” he said. 

Bán Poitín features on the drinks menu of the Savoy Hotel in London, and is stocked around the world in Paris, Japan, New Zealand, Holland and Lebanon. It has also won Best Irish Poitín at the Irish Whiskey Awards the last three years in a row. 

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