Time to do Away with the Irish Car Bomb

This ‘Irish Car Bomb’ is a ridiculously insensitive and indeliciately named drink that is a staple in North America for the Saint Patrick’s Day season.

Most Europeans would be forgiven for not having a clue what I am talking about, as this is a drink that seldomly gets mentioned on this side of the Atlantic and is even more seldomly served than its mentioned. It is often hailed as the most Irish of drinks available during the Saint Patrick’s Day season, and millions of these concoctions are downed throughout the months of Febuary and March each year, by those wishing to revel in their Irish heritage.

The drink itself was invented in 1979 in Wilson’s Saloon in Connecticut, by dropping what they called an ‘IRA Shot’ (a mixture of Baileys, Kaluha and Whiskey) into a half drank pint of Guinness, when the term ‘bombs away’ was uttered and the drink has been named the ‘Irish Car Bomb’ since.

Today the drink consists of a half pint of Guinness, lined up with a 50/50 mixed shot of Irish Cream Liqueur and Irish Whiskey, with the occassional addition of a coffee liqueur. Very like the original invention, the imbibers then drop the mixed shot glass into the pint and chug the whole concoction. I am lead to believe that this deceptively boozy concontion, is a popular staple due to its tendancy to taste just like alcoholic chocolate milk, which has led many a reveler to finish their nights earlier than expected.

The perceived ‘Irish-ness’ of this bizarre drop shop, has led many acquiatences of mine, during my two year stint in the US, to insist on buying me one as the ‘most Irish thing on the menu’ (to which I politely delcined every single one).

The name of the drink is completely lost on those who order it, the idea that the concoction is indelicately named is usually dismissed out of hand any time people attempt to broach the subject. In-fact, try and order Irish Car Bombs in Ireland and you’ll see the true reaction to the name in Ireland, we don’t find it funny nor are we going to make one for a customer either. If you’re going to order a glass of Guiness and a shot, no problem, you’ll just be served them separately.

Let me be clear, the concoction itself isn’t the issue I, and many others, have with the drink, its the name. ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet..’, we’d have no quarrels with ‘Irish Drop Shots’ or ‘Irish Slammers’ but there’d be hell to pay if we started to name cocktails in Ireland after North American tragedies.

The name ‘Irish Car Bombs’ is making reference to the multitudes of bombs that were concealed in cars and detonated in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain during the Troubles. These were real occurances, that killed real people and ripped real families apart. Real occurances like the ‘Omagh Bombings’ in 1998 that killed 29 people, including two unborn twins.

I mentioned above that bars in Ireland will not serve ‘Irish Car Bombs’, but neither will a number of Irish owned & operated bars across the US and Canada either. In many cases it will be a company policy or simply left to the discretion of the individual bartenders.

In-fact, one Irish owned and operated bar in Philadelphia made headline news by producing an anti-car bomb menu in 2014. This menu was presented to any patron that ordered an Irish Car Bomb in their establishment, in the run up to Saint Patrick’s Day that year. The menu featured a number of ‘(mock)Cocktails’ that were adorned by the names and details of bombings that took place in both Ireland and the US, to drive home the insensitivity of the name of the drink that they were ordering. The menu famously ends the description of one of their mocktails with “Do you still want ‘Bomb’ shots?”

Fergies Bomb Menu

Needless to say, no shots were made in this bar in the runup to Saint Patrick’s Day in 2014.

As I mentioned above, ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…’. I’m not here to ruin anybody’s fun, nor am I delusioned enough to think that an article will end the widespread popularity of Irish Car Bombs in North America. Although, I hope that this will give some people cause to pause and think about what’s in a name, when they’re ordering.

I certainly don’t speak for all Irish people but I hope that I speak for a lot of us when I say, the name sucks… and don’t get me started on ordering pints of Black & Tans….

*Title Image Credits: picasa.
*Car Bomb Menu Credits: Fergie’s Pub Philadelphia.


11 thoughts on “Time to do Away with the Irish Car Bomb

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  1. Matt, I used to bartend for 12 years in many types of bars in the U.S., including an Irish Pub for a year, and always hated when folks would do shots of any kind. This particular shot always bothered me the most, not just because of the name (most shots had rather obnoxious monikers), but the waste of fine drink and the incredible mess it would make. I doubt if many bartenders would hate to see this one go the way of the Dodo Bird.

  2. I agree fully with the point this post makes and with Martins comment, very well put.
    Good riddance to the Irish Car Bomb.

  3. Amen, Matt, amen. Every time I hear it being ordered I have to force myself to not walk the person ordering it through the details of the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen. I don’t always succeed.

  4. Thanks so much for this. I admit to having this particular concoction – mostly because it sounded like a fun thing to do (which it was – my s-i-l ordered one too and only drank a small portion, so after chugging mine I finished hers), while not fully contemplating the deep roots of the name. I’ve been to Derry and spent a great deal of time considering those days with tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart. I won’t ever have that drink again and I’ll do my best to educate others as well. Thanks again – 💚🧡 your insta feed!

  5. I say enough with political correctness and cancel culture. Order a frickin drink and keep your feelings to yourself!

    1. I’m born, bred, through and through Irish. I have a brother called DJ. I REALLY hope you’re not one and the same. There can surely be nothing worse in life than having to refer to a sibling as a “dick”.

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