Think Jameson is the only Irish whiskey experience awaiting you in Dublin? Think again—and then take a seat at the cafe or cocktail bar at Teeling Whiskey Distillery, which, unlike its bigger-name counterpart, is more than just a visitors’ center. Open for a little more than a year, the first whiskey-making facility in Dublin in a century revives not only the neighborhood once dubbed the Golden Triangle for its many distilleries, but the traditional three copper pot still operation that started the glory days of Irish production. The proof is in the glass, where gently balanced blends with warm vanilla and fruit are more approachable for the novice drinker than smokier, peatier Scottish counterparts.
It’s no accident that the distillery selected a phoenix for its logo. “It’s ironic, but during the last economic downturn, people started embracing new experiences, tastes and ‘affordable luxuries,’ ” says co-founder Stephen Teeling. “So it gave rise to a growing cocktail culture and even focusing on food and how it’s made and where it comes from. Let’s be honest—Ireland’s not exactly known for our cuisine. But that’s changing.”
Start exploring Dublin’s culinary pleasures at Temple Bar—not a pub but a neighborhood along the River Liffey. The cobbled cultural capital teems with boutiques, galleries and cafes, and a Saturday food market in the heart of the city center. January through St. Patrick’s Day will find you in the temperate mid-40s or 50s, but it’s still worth warming up with a visit to Cocobrew, so new that owner Tony Divito doesn’t even have a till yet for his first storefront. Having started his business with a VW van, he recently opened his first brick-and-mortar selling superfoods, smoothies and ethically produced coffee; if you’re wondering what makes the java so earthy and rich, it’s the oils and cacao butter that this CrossFit instructor adds as a health benefit.
Travelers seeking a more traditional indulgence can trade the aroma of roasting beans for a pungently sweet scent at Sheridans Cheesemongers, where the staff are more than happy to tell you about the aging process for farmhouse cheddars and how the grass the cows eat affects flavor. Our friendly chat also elicited recommendations for a local pub crawl of perfectly poured pints, including Kehoe’s, where you can catch a soccer match with locals, and O’Donoghue’s, which will have you happily tapping your own toes to live music any day of the week.
But you can’t sip without supping beforehand, and there’s plenty to be had in Dublin. For those who didn’t get their fill of ooey goodness after a morning of cheese sampling, savory Emmental does just the trick melted over a bari burger smothered in zesty peach-curry relish at Jo’Burger. Here the staggering American-sized portions require a fork and a knife (particularly for the hand-baked Breton buns). But what’s small in scale are the suppliers used by the restaurant, which sources Lough Erne lamb and 28-day dry-aged Charolais beef from locally owned businesses. And vegetarians need not worry: There are veggie burgers, too, along with chicken, fish and salad options.
Looking for something a bit more refined but still budget-friendly? Featherblade hits the right balance of cool and casual inside and on the plate—the micro menu concept features just two to three main dishes, such as hanger steak and the eponymous and lesser-known feather blade cut. “It’s naturally very tender and has a sweet flavor, and it’s lean—the feather blade is what most people want from their steak,” says co-owner Jamie O’Toole as his buddy Paul McVeigh mans the stove. McVeigh marinates this locally produced, less-expensive cut for 24 hours before covering it with a rub to accelerate the searing process and flashing it under the grill. Don’t forget to add a housemade sauce; ubiquitous whiskey paired with peppercorn is a winner here.
Walking it all off is easy to do downtown, where almost everything is centrally located and the bus lines are easy to understand even after a few drinks (grab a value-priced three-day Freedom Pass that also includes airport transfers). Or try getting some air at St. Stephen’s Green, an oasis of calm in the middle of the city with 15 statues and memorials to historical figures and events. You may not recognize one of the most notable from its inscription alone: Lord Ardilaun is better known as Arthur Edward Guinness, who donated the Green to the people of Dublin and whose family gave Ireland its best-selling brew. A tour of the Guinness Storehouse is a quintessential Dublin experience—be sure to drink in the view from the 360-degree Gravity Bar high atop the city and toast a spirited long weekend.
-Want to get a taste of Teeling without crossing the pond? It’s offered at a number of Boston eateries, including Yvonne’s and Moonshine 152.
-Avoid long lines at customs when you return by traveling through Dublin International Airport’s U.S. Pre Clearance Facility—meaning you can skip right through to picking up your bag once landing in Boston.
Cocobrew, facebook.com/www.cocobrew.ie; Featherblade, featherblade.ie; Guinness Storehouse, guinness-storehouse.com; Jo’Burger, joburger.ie; Kehoe’s, louisfitzgerald.com/kehoes; O’Donoghue’s, odonoghues.ie; Sheridans Cheesemongers, sheridanscheesemongers.com; St. Stephen’s Green Park, ststephensgreenpark.ie; Teeling Whiskey Distillery, teelingwhiskey.com