Irish Pubs & Drink Culture


Saying ‘cheers’ is an important part of sharing a drink with someone. How do you say it in your language?


Here are ten examples of how you say ‘cheers’ from around the world: 


1.Oogy wawa Zulu  2. Sláinte – Irish  3. Prost – German  4. SkålSweden  5. Cin cinItalian  6. I sveikataLithuanian  7. KanpaiJapanese  8. L’ChaimHebrew  9. Fe SahetekArabic 10. Na ZdrowiePolish

Is your country there? How many more do you know?


Some drinks such as Baileys, whiskey or some different types of beer, are typically associated with Ireland. How would you match these typical Irish drinks in the pictures to the occasions people drink them?


  1. Drink it when you’re sick with a cold.
  2. Have a pint of it in the pub.
  3. It’s most popular at Christmas.
  4. It’s more popular in the summer.
  5. Very popular at children’s parties.
  6. Drink it carefully – it has a high alcohol content and it used to be illegal. 

Are there any specific drinks you would associate with different occasions in your culture? 

Here are the answers in an Irish context:

  1. Hot whiskey – Drink it when you’re sick with a cold. Hot whiskey is a traditional ‘cure-all’ in Ireland for all types of winter coughs and colds. It’s also drunk as a digestif or as a ‘night cap’ before going to bed. Ingredients: Irish whiskey (Jameson/Powers etc.), cloves, sugar, a slice of lemon, hot water.
  2. Guinness – Have a pint of it in the pub. Guinness is a black, creamy stout beer that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. It is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide and the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where it sells around €2 billion worth of beverage annually.
  3. Irish coffee – It’s most popular at Christmas. Irish coffee is a cocktail consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar (usually brown), stirred and topped with thick cream, which floats on top of the coffee without mixing. It was invented in the 1940s in County Limerick. Over time it became a Christmas drink, providing two things high in demand at Christmas time, warmth and alcohol.
  4. Cider – It’s more popular in the summer. Cider is made by fermenting the juice of fruit, typically apples, and has an alcohol range of 4-8%. Irish craft ciders use local fruit and have recently been described as the ‘new wine of the country’. With its fruity taste, cider is often popular with ice in the warmer weather in the summer.
  5. Red Lemonade – It’s popular at children’s parties. Red lemonade is a sweet, fizzy, lemon-flavored drink that is popular with children and is generally only available in Ireland. It has a different taste from white lemonade and is frequently quoted in the Top Ten Things that Irish people miss when they live outside Ireland. It is also one of the most popular soft drinks to mix with spirits, particularly whiskey.
  6. Poitín – Drink it carefully – it has a high alcohol content and it used to be illegal. Poitín is a distilled beverage, similar to whiskey, of 40–90% alcohol. The Irish word for a hangover is póit. Poitín can be made from cereals, grain, sugar beet, molasses and potatoes. In the past, it was produced illegally in remote rural areas. The fire used to prepare the poitín was provided by turf. The turf smoke was a giveaway for the guards, so poitín producers waited for broken, windy weather to hide the smoke. In recent years, poitín production has become regulated and legalised.


Have you been to an Irish pub? In Ireland the pub is a national institution. It has been for a long time at the centre of Irish social life. There is a lot more to an Irish pub than just drinking.

What things below do you think Irish people do or don’t do in a pub?

A. Listen to live music B. Have a heart-to-heart talk with a friend C. Do business  D. Go on a first date  E. Have a drink with their boss & workmates  F. Dance  G. Tell stories & gossip  H. Watch sport  I. Play music  J. Have lunch  K. Make life plans  L. Read the paper

The answer is that you can do all of these in an Irish pub really. There are only two that probably wouldn’t typically be done in a pub.
C. Do business. Irish people don’t tend to do business deals in a pub. Often, they will bring clients to the pub after the business discussions have taken place or even the night before the main business discussion. Business may be further discussed in the pub environment or it may not be mentioned at all.
F. Dance. Irish people in a pub will tend to stand drinking and listening to music rather than dancing. Dancing is for discos. The modern idea of a disco/pub, therefore, has been a cause of some confusion to Irish people. What helps is if there is a clear dance area marked out to clarify things – this is where you stand and drink, this is where you dance. 

Talk of every type is an essential ingredient of an Irish pub and this is a direct development of the old traditional rural custom of socialising in a neighbour’s house to tell stories, make music and have a drink.

In the pub, position in society has no meaning, generation gaps are bridged, plans are made, songs sung, stories told and gossip exchanged. It’s a place to escape from whatever is worrying you in your life. Irish people go to the pub for friendship and romance, politics and business, to watch sport, to enjoy themselves.


The ‘rounds system’ in Irish pubs is based on the simple principle that when someone buys you a drink, you buy one back. Read the three statements below and learn more. 


  1. The rounds system may appear to be very casual but it definitely isn’t.
    It is important to understand the rounds system as it is fundamental to pub culture. To an outsider the system may appear to be casual, you might not be told when it’s your round, but your failure to buy one will be noticed. If you are a visitor, you may not be asked to buy anything on your first night in a pub but if you return for a second night, you should definitely offer to buy a round.
  2. Buying someone a round or buying someone a pint is not about money, it’s something deeper with symbolic meaning.
    Buying a round is not fundamentally about money. The rounds system probably won’t cost you any more or less than if you were buying drinks just for yourself. Buying somebody a pint or other drink, particularly the first round on a night out can be an important symbol of welcome or friendship.
  3. It’s impossible for two Irish people to go for one drink.
    If you go for a drink to the pub with a friend, and he or she buys the first round – a drink for you and one for them – you will inevitably return the favour and have one more drink each, or more.

Do you have a similar system in your country?

Drink Culture

Have you had any experience socialising in Ireland? Here are two statements about social life in Ireland. 

The social scene is one of the best things about Ireland. ‘Ireland’s nightlife is world-famous, from cosy country pubs to lively city nightclubs. There is something happening every night and there’s a great variety of entertainment. There is always live music somewhere, from traditional to rock to jazz etc. There are great music and art festivals, comedy nights, theatres and lots of cinemas. Entertaining and being entertained are a big part of the social fabric that connects and defines Irish communities. Irish people love to chat. When you go out at night, you’ll have conversations you don’t expect, with people who are interesting and interested in you. When the Irish go out, they know how to have a good time or ‘have the craic’ – a term for fun or a good time. There’s an informality about how Irish socialise based on an idea that life is a struggle that all of us have to negotiate and we might as well go through it together. On a night out in Ireland, everyone is equal regardless of status or profession. It is the spirit of the people that makes a night out in Ireland special.’



Ireland’s drinking culture is a problem. ‘Ireland is often said to have what is called a ‘drink culture’. Alcohol has played a major part in the development of the Irish national psyche. It has been a Muse to some of the country’s greatest writers (Flan O’Brien/Patrick Kavanagh/Brendan Behan) and actors (Richard Harris/Peter O’Toole). There are negatives to this because it romanticises drunkenness. Drinking is so closely linked with talking and friendliness that Irish are too tolerant of excessive drinking. The Irish are amongst Europe’s heaviest drinkers, drinking on average 20% more than some of their European neighbours. According to Alcohol Action Ireland, more than half of the population have harmful drinking patterns (40% of women and 70% of men). Binge-drinking, especially amongst the 18–25 age group, is a significant problem. On a night out you will see many drunk people on the streets and it is messy and ugly. Drink consumption has gradually fallen, partly due to greater awareness of the need to change behaviours, but much more needs to be done.’

Which one do you think you would agree with more? 


If you haven’t been on a night out in a pub in Ireland, or even if you have, you should experience it yourself (again) and make up your own mind!

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