"Funnily enough, I got it involved in poitín through drinking poitín," says Dave Mulligan, brand ambassador for the new poitín distiller, Bán Poitín. "I had just opened my first bar in London, and as a sort of congratulations, my father produced a bottle of home brew from the west of Ireland. We cracked into the stuff straight away, and over the next few hours, and the majority of the bottle, he told me stories about the culture behind it and about growing up around it—stuff I'd never heard before."
We wanted to learn more, so we asked Mulligan to tell us a few things about the legendary Irish beverage.
First things first: how do you pronounce poitín?
It's pronounced "potcheen."
What's the story behind poitín?
The first records of poitín production date back over 1500 years. The stuff predates whiskey, and any other spirit you can think of. It was the staple of the community throughout the west of Ireland: every second house had a poitín still, shared amongst family and friends. When the powers that be came to outlaw it in 1661, they were not just outlawing people's right to drink but their culture itself. It's for these reasons that it remained alive all these years. Legal since 1997, this is only the beginning. Expect to see a wave of craft distillers bring back this important piece of Irish culture.
What are its defining characteristics?
Poitín is like a lot of the cultural national spirits: it's all about what you make it from. Bán is a heady mix of potato, malted barley, and sugar beet. The aim is to retain the flavors of those raw ingredients—think mezcal or grappa, both similar in culture and flavor.
What's so special about poitín?
There are more reasons than simply flavor to order poitín. It has more magic than an absinthe and more gusto than a tequila, and since it was outlawed for so long, it's one for the rogue in all of us. Not every Irish man grew up drinking whiskey, for reasons that you'll find out with your first bottle of Bán.
And now, a couple of Mulligan's preferred ways to drink the spirit.
1 ounce Bán
1 ounce sweet vermouth
¾ ounce Aperol
¼ ounce Campari
How to Make It
Add ingredients to cocktail shaker. Stir and serve in a rocks glass, over ice. Garnish with orange wedge.
Bán and Black Shot
"This is the ritual," says Mulligan. "It's a shot of Bán followed by a shot of stout, porter, or, of course, Guinness. It's pickleback-style—this is how we like to drink it!"
To keep up with all Bán Poitín happenings, follow the company on Instagram @banpoitin.