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.

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.

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)