How to Distinguish a Traditional Irish Pub from a Fake

Everyone’s favorite Celtic holiday has arrived—St. Patrick’s Day. But before you get decked out in green and head to any ‘ole average bar to chug some beer, make sure you’re not wasting your time (or sobriety!) at a fake “Irish” pub. Though shocking, not every O’-insert-Irish-sounding-last-name flying Ireland’s flag is an authentic Irish watering hole. So what exactly separates the traditional Irish pubs from the gimmicky, run-of-the-mill bars?

Paste Magazine chatted with the charismatic Irishman Niall Hanley, owner a handful of popular Raleigh dining and drinking spots, including The Hibernian Restaurant and Pub, to find out.

Growing up in County Mayo, Ireland, Hanley—the youngest of five children—began working on his family farm, as well as the pub they owned, as a child. “I began pulling pints at around age 11 and so Irish pubs and the culture that surrounds the importance of Irish pubs in the community, was instilled early on,” said Hanley. “The interaction with patrons, family and friends was the best part.”

After leaving Ireland in the early ‘90s, Hanley landed in Boston where he worked the local bar scene before finally making his way to North Carolina. Once settled in Raleigh, he began building The Hibernian in an area that has grown to house his culinary empire which includes The Raleigh Beer Garden, which holds two Guinness World Records for largest number of operational taps (current count is 367) and Solas Nightlife, along with two new projects on the horizon: Watts & Ward, a speakeasy-style underground bar, and the Morgan Street Food Hall.

Determined to bring the traditional Irish pub experience to Raleigh after seeing the need for an authentic Irish social club and a homey gathering space for locals and visitors alike, The Hibernian was born. “The pub life is in my blood and after moving to North Carolina in the late ‘90s I realized that I wanted to bring a place where I could feel at home in my new home,” explained Hanley in response to why he returned to the pub industry. This year marks the establishment’s 17-year anniversary of, “celebrating the old-world flavor and the new vibrancy of Ireland,” reads its website.

The Hibernian, which originates from the Latin term Hibernia, meaning “one who comes from Ireland” or “cold, wet land,” is a prime example of an authentic Irish social club. How can you tell? Well first off, this welcoming pub fosters a sense of community for the diverse group of patrons that frequent it. “Being central in the life of our neighbors is the true hallmark of an Irish pub,” said Hanley. Whether you’re with family, fellow sports fans or friends, people come and feel “like a local” in the pub.

“An Irish pub is the neighborhood’s community center—everyone meets there to socialize, celebrate holidays and special events such as baptisms, engagements… etc., and to watch sporting events,” said Hanley. “The Hibernian, because it is such a large space, is able to appeal to all different types of Irish pubs,” he continued while on the topic of the Hibernian’s authenticity. “I was able to replicate the feel of a city pub, in a cozier country pub that also has a mercantile feel with lots of shelving, nooks and crannies and Irish knickknacks. But both spaces are filled with comfortable gathering places full of dark wood interiors, cozy nooks and beautifully sculpted bars.”

What are some obvious red flags when it comes to authenticity? “The staff and décor are two dead giveaways. There are the pubs that are trying too hard and drawing off Irish stereotypes, and then there are those that say St. Patty’s Day instead of St. Paddy’s Day. The latter is a dead giveaway.”

And don’t miss one of the most unique aspects of the traditional Irish pub—the Snug, a self-contained tiny bar-within-a-bar. The Hibernian happens to be home to one of only a few in the United States. Dating back to the mid-19th century, the Snug has a long history in Ireland’s pubs as a small private room, seating only one or two patrons, where individuals could drink without being seen. Many times, these were women who wanted a drink while still respecting societal norms, priests who wanted a pint without being seen or lovers sneaking away for clandestine visits.

While the atmosphere of a thriving pub like The Hibernian is undeniably Irish, so too must the food and drink be. Any Irish pub should be able to whip up the classic such as bangers and mash; corned beef and cabbage; fish and chips; and Shepherd’s Pie. An extensive Irish whiskey selection and kegs of Guinness are also must-haves. Moreover, no night at the pub—or more specifically any St. Paddy’s Day celebration—is complete without live music.

For those lucky enough to be in the Raleigh area on March 17—stop by The Hibernian for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration that bring thousands of revelers to the streets in front of the pub for live music, Irish dancers and plenty of Guinness and Irish whiskey.

Unique St. Patty’s Day Celebrations Around the World

Dublin is famous for its St. Patrick’s Day spirit, but between the green clothing, abundance of Guinness and drunken revelers stumbling through Temple Bar, it gets a bit old.

If you’ve been there and done that, try a different leprechaun hat on for size. Here are five unique St. Patty’s Day celebrations held in settings worth traveling to. Which one will you be attending?

1. Dying the River Green, Chicago, Illinois

The 40-year-old tradition continues as the city dyes the Chicago River green in celebration of the holiday. This year’s festivities are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. March 14, followed by the annual parade through downtown.

2. Whiskey Tasting in JFK Airport, New York, New York

Why wait until St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate? Tullamore D.E.W. is providing samples of their whiskey at Terminal 5 in JFK International Airport through March 17. The company is doing their best to bring Dublin to America; there will be traditional Irish music and an opportunity to try your hand at playing the bodhrán, a traditional Irish hand drum, or make music with a xylophone made of partially filled bottles.

3. Three-Legged Charity Race, Copenhagen, Denmark

Each year participants don green clothing and race around the city drinking a half pint of Carlsberg beer at each pub along the route, in three-legged fashion. All proceeds are donated to the Neonatal Department at Rigshospitalet Copenhagen.

4. Irlanda in Festa, Italy and Ireland

This free multiday festival that occurs in various Italian and Irish cities consists of live music, food and drink. This year festivities all begin or end on the 17th. What started in Italy now attracts thousands of visitors who avidly consume Italian interpretations of Irish food and drink, including potato soup, beef in Guinness, smoked salmon and gallons of stout.

5. Parade and Emerald Ball, Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo has an unexpected amount of Irish heritage in its population. This year will mark the 22nd Emerald Ball, hosted by the Irish Network Japan to celebrate the friendship that ties Ireland and Japan together. The event involves a parade featuring Irish dance, an Army band, Japanese cheerleaders and elaborate floats and costumes.

6. Oregon versus Ireland Amateur Boxing, Portland, Oregon

The “Oregon versus Ireland” amateur boxing match, now in its fifth year, is quickly becoming a St. Patrick’s Day staple in Oregon. The live fight occurs March 13, kicking off Irish Pub Kells’ five-day St. Patty’s festival. The goal is to showcase the different fighting styles of each country while entertaining, of course. The Irish team is flown in from Ireland and the American team is made up of boxers from all over the Pacific Northwest.

7. International Band Championship, Limerick, Ireland

On March 15, 22 marching bands will compete for the title of “Overall Parade Champion” in Limerick’s International Band Championship. One of Limerick’s many St. Patty’s Day festival events, the competition attracts approximately 50,000 spectators who wish to see marching bands from all over the world go head to head. Representing the U.S. are groups like the Chicago Police Band and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Thirsty Thursday: Where Bartenders Drink Is The New Bible On Bars

There’s a lot of bars out there, Phaidon’s latest guide joins “Where Chefs Eat” and “Where to Eat Pizza” with a must-have guide on the best bars in the world:

“Where Bartenders Drink is THE insider’s guide. The best 300 expert drink-makers share their secrets – 750 spots spread across 60 countries – revealing where they go for a drink throughout the world when they’re off-duty. Venues range from late-night establishments and legendary hotel bars to cosy neighborhood ‘locals’ – and in some surprising locales. The 750 expert recommendations come with insightful reviews, key information, specially commissioned maps, and an easy-to-navigate geographical organization. It’s the only guide you need to ensure that you get the best drinks in the most memorable global locations.”

Thirsty Thursday: The Latest Holiday Craze… Pop-Up Bars

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

That’s how it is for pop-up stores, which fill a space for a short time and then pack up and close for good or move to another location. This holiday’s biggest pop-up trend is the pop-up cocktail bar, complete with winter themed drinks. Many of them have a charitable component, making doing good as easy as drinking something good.

A Midwinter’s Night Dream, New York City

The regular hotel bar inside NYC’s NYLO hotel on the Upper West Side is popping up as a Shakespearian/holiday themed bar with drinks like Puck’s Shadow and the Nymph’s Nectar made with gin, passionfruit, grapefruit and lime. The dream ends on Jan. 1 and when hotel guests wake up on Jan. 2, the hotel bar will go back to being just a hotel bar.

Miracle on Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh

This little Miracle is part of the franchise of Miracle pop-up cocktail holiday bars with locations in Paris, Athens, New York City, Atlanta, Seattle, and of course Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Some of the proceeds from Miracle go to charity, according to CBS Local. Festive drink’s like this Snowball Old Fashioned made with bourbon, Becherovka, spiced syrup and Angostura bitters are accompanied by simple foods like bologna sandwiches and fries. The pop-up holiday cocktail bar closes New Year’s Eve.

Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, New York City

Warmer weather is what patrons of Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shop in the East Village in New York City want for the holidays. Through Dec. 24, drinks like Hawaiian Milk Punch made with bourbon set a tropical mood. You can even watch beach movies from the ’60s.

Christmas Village, Philadelphia

And some pop-ups go the more traditional route. The pop-up Christmas Village at City Hall in Philadelphia features authentic European food, ornaments and arts & crafts from all over the world. This temporary village also serves mulled wines from the local Chaddsford Winery served in Christmas Village collectors mugs. The Christmas Village runs through Dec. 24.

World of Beer Debuts Summer Seasonal Menu in Conjunction With American Craft Beer Week

With summer on the horizon, World of Beer is celebrating the season in the perfect way — with awesome beer and craveable summer food favorites. For the first time, WOB is introducing a summertime menu that offers elevated twists and enhanced flavors on time-honored American dishes for the season, that were created to pair perfectly with seasonal craft beers. Guests can anticipate a menu that encompasses classics they look forward to enjoying every year, that will surely make them nostalgic for the patio.

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The new menu also highlights a summer partnership with Oskar Blues. The collaboration between Oskar Blues and WOB will give guests a taste of the brewery’s innovative beer and food offerings in WOB taverns nationwide including:

  • Oskar Blues Peel and Eat Shrimp — In a collaboration between WOB’s chef Mark Adair and Oskar Blues chef Jason Rogers, these shrimp are steamed in Oskar Blues American Summer Hoppy Wit broth and served with grilled garlic toast.
  • Oskar Blues American Summer Hoppy Wit – Limited release beer — A spiced Belgian Wit that is hopped with Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe multiple times in the fermenter. Spicy and citrusy with fruit flavors from the yeast and hops alike, with a tart twist at the finish.

On May 21, at the end of American Craft Beer Week, WOB taverns nationwide will host the Oskar Blues Revue, a day to celebrate summer with beer, food and music.

“When developing the World of Beer seasonal menu, I drew upon my own childhood memories to romance and combine classic summer favorites into unique dishes for our guests,” said World of Beer’s Executive Chef Mark Adair. “One of my favorite parts of this seasonal menu design was collaborating with Oskar Blues’ Chef Jason Rogers and their head brewer; as a longtime fan of their beers, I knew their brewing style and focus on key flavors would help enhance our peel and eat shrimp dish in a way only they could.”

World of Beer’s limited-time offerings, available May 16 through July 10, celebrate summer favorites and include:

  • Summer Corn Hush Puppies — Served with warm bacon onion jam, jalapenos and Sriracha lime aioli. Pairs best with a Pale Lager.
  • Pimento Cheese Stuffed Cherry Peppers — Spicy pickled cherry peppers stuffed with World of Beer’s creamy house-made pimento cheese. Pairs best with a Kölsch.
  • Beer-Brined Crispy Chicken Sliders — Beer-brined chicken breast, fried crisp, Southern style, with dill pickles and WOB’s local IPA sauce, served on two toasted brioche buns. Pairs best with a Pilsner.
  • Mac-N-Cheese Dog — Grilled all-beef hot dog smothered with World of Beer’s own pepper jack mac-n-cheese, and topped with crispy applewood smoked bacon bits in a buttery King’s Hawaiian® split-top bun. Pairs best with a Pale Ale.
  • Colorado Chili-Cheese Dog — Grilled all-beef hot dog covered in World of Beer’s hearty Colorado chili, beer cheese sauce and Applewood smoked bacon bits and topped with fresh onions in a buttery King’s Hawaiian® split-top bun. Pairs best with a Dark Lager.

World of Beer is also offering seasonal sangrias including:

  • White Peach Sangria — Traditional sangria gets a twist when a bright Moscato meets WOB’s house-made Peach-Lambic syrup and a slice of peach.
  • Red Raspberry Sangria — World of Beer’s take on the Red Sangria features house-made Framboise-Lambic syrup, a splash of ginger beer and an orange slice.

Seasonal menu offerings will vary tavern to tavern so be sure to check with your neighborhood WOB on its summer menu items.

Cinco de Mayo, Explained…

Today, many Americans are celebrating a holiday they likely know almost nothing about.

I’m speaking, of course, of Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for May 5. Although the day is supposed to celebrate Mexican heritage, it has become Americanized — that is, hijacked into another excuse to party, eat, and drink, all while getting sweet discounts at some restaurants. (It is so Americanized, in fact, that it’s actually celebrated more in the US than in Mexico.)

The origins of the holiday go back to, as one would expect, Mexican history. But Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (September 16), as many people believe. It is, instead, a day commemorating an important battle after Mexican independence.

These details might not seem very important. But the origins are an important part of the Mexican heritage many Americans are supposed to be celebrating today — and give some insight into why this uniquely Mexican-American holiday is now celebrated in the US.

Cinco de Mayo’s origins go back to a 19th-century battle

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Let’s be clear: Mexican Independence Day is September 16, 1810, the beginning of Mexico’s revolt against Spain. It is not Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo does, however, have roots in Mexico’s struggle with another European power.

In 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez declared that his country couldn’t afford to pay its debts. This, as one would expect, did not please the countries that had made loans to Mexico — and Britain, Spain, and France sent naval forces to Mexico to secure their debts.

Britain and Spain managed to negotiate the issue peacefully. But the French, ruled by Napoleon III, decided to invade, taking over the country and setting up a monarchy led by an Austrian archduke.

But before the French managed to take over the country for several years, Cinco de Mayo gave Mexicans a glimmer of hope: When the French approached the town of Puebla on May 5, 1862, their army lost to a badly outnumbered and out-armed group of Mexican soldiers.

The Mexican victory was short-lived, and France eventually advanced to the nation’s capital and took over. But the win still turned into a symbol of Mexican resistance, helping sustain an independence movement that would go on for the next few years.

Driven by the spirit of Cinco de Mayo and with American support, Mexicans eventually — in 1867 — toppled the French-installed government and put Juárez back in power.

Over time, Cinco de Mayo became an American holiday

So how did Cinco de Mayo go from celebrating a struggle for Mexican liberation to a US holiday?

It goes back to the US and Mexico’s close ties, linked by proximity, a struggle against European imperialism for independence, trade, and immigration. (There’s also the US’s imperialism in Mexico.)

The close ties were also real in 1862, the year of Cinco de Mayo and second year of the American Civil War. These two events were tied, as Brian Greene reported for US News and World Report:

As the French were making war with Mexico, the American Confederacy was courting Napoleon’s help in its conflict with the United States. At the time of the Battle of Puebla, the Confederacy had strung together impressive victories over the Union forces. According to some historians, the French, who made war with Mexico on the pretext of collecting debt, planned to use Mexico as a “base” from which they could help the Confederacy defeat the North, and the Mexican victory at Puebla made the French pause long enough for the Union army to grow stronger and gain momentum. Had the French won at Puebla, some contend, the outcome of the American Civil War could have been much different, as the French and Confederates together could have taken control of the continent from the Mason Dixon line to Guatemela [sic], installing an oligarchical, slave-holding government.

This link between the victory in Puebla and the Civil War drove Mexican Americans in California to celebrate the holiday as part of the cause to abolish slavery. As David Hayes-Bautista, author of El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition, told the Associated Press, Hispanic Americans in the western US even celebrated Cinco de Mayo in parades while dressed in Civil War uniforms.

Over time, Mexican Americans’ festivities transformed into a broader celebration of their Mexican heritage, particularly as Mexican Americans adopted Cinco de Mayo as a rallying cry in their struggle for civil rights in the 1970s. (The civil rights link has stuck, at times leading to protests and riots. On May 5, 1991, for example, the police shooting of a Salvadoran man led to three days of riots in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC.)

Eventually, the celebrations became so prominent that white Americans began to take part in the holiday as well. With that, major companies began getting involved to make Cinco de Mayo into a profitable venture.

But as the holiday grew broader, so did its focus — and with that, its true origins were mostly lost.

Cinco de Mayo has turned into another reason to booze up

None of this history has any bearing on how most Americans take part in Cinco de Mayo. Insofar as the holiday’s Mexican origins color how most Americans celebrate the day, it mostly just changes the kind of alcohol and food people consume as they party.

This, of course, isn’t exclusive to Cinco de Mayo. It’s happened with St. Patrick’s Day, which went from celebrating the top patron saint of Ireland to essentially celebrating alcohol, America’s second deadliest drug. It’s something we’ve seen with holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, which have over time transformed more into reasons to buy a bunch of stuff — candy, food, booze, gifts, and so on.

Similarly, the food and alcohol industries have transformed Cinco de Mayo into a huge day for advertising and sales. According to CNN, in 2014 the Friday closest to Cinco de Mayo was the biggest non-winter drinking day of the year.

This is just what capitalism does to holidays in America. And, hey, it can be pretty fun. But since booze is so dangerous (linked to 88,000 deaths each year), it’s also a public health and safety hazard — to the point that state agencies warn people to take it easy on the drinking during holidays like Cinco de Mayo. And the corporate takeover of Cinco de Mayo has also by and large diluted the holiday’s origins.

But at the very least, knowing the origins of Cinco de Mayo will give you something to talk about with strangers as you down fajitas and margaritas today.

The 50 Best Bars in the World

It only takes one viewing of Bar Rescue to understand just how awful and sad a bar can be. Sure, it’s fabricated for TV, but everyone knows a bar worthy of being on that show. So when you find a good one near you, cherish it. And if you need help finding a bar that really gets it right, check out “The World’s 50 Best Bars 2015” from Drinks International.

  1. The Artesian (London)
  2. The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog (New York)
  3. Nightjar (London)
  4. Employees Only (New York)
  5. American Bar (London)
  6. The Baxter Inn (Sydney)
  7. 28 Hongkong Street (Singapore)
  8. Happiness Forgets (London)
  9. Connaught Bar (London)
  10. Black Pearl (Melbourne)
  11. Attaboy (New York)
  12. Candelaria (Paris)
  13. High Five (Tokyo)
  14. The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach)
  15. Canon (Seattle)
  16. Buck & Breck (Berlin)
  17. Imperial Craft (Tel Aviv)
  18. Lobster Bar (Hong Kong)
  19. Le Lion Bar de Paris (Hamburg)
  20. Licoreria Limantour (Mexico City)
  21. The Jerry Thomas Project (Rome)
  22. The Clumsies (Athens)
  23. Maison Premiere (New York)
  24. Elephant Bar (New York)
  25. The Everleigh (Melbourne)
  26. White Lyan (London)
  27. Beaufort Bar (London)
  28. Bulletin Place (Sydney)
  29. Aviary (Chicago)
  30. Tales & Spirits (Amsterdam)
  31. Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco)
  32. Delicatessen (Moscow)
  33. Door 74 (Amsterdam)
  34. Ruby (Copenhagen)
  35. Manhattan Bar (Singapore)
  36. Nomad Bar (New York)
  37. PDT (New York)
  38. Mace (New York)
  39. Quinary (Hong Kong)
  40. Trick Dog (San Francisco)
  41. 69 Colebrooke Row (London)
  42. Dry Martini (Barcelona)
  43. Schumann’s (Munich)
  44. Zuma (Dubai)
  45. La Factoria (Puerto Rico)
  46. Nottingham Forest (Milan)
  47. Tommy’s (San Francisco)
  48. Lost + Found (Cyprus)
  49. Little Red Door (Paris)
  50. Dandelyan (London)