You are not alone if you’ve never heard of poitin. This clear alcohol, also known as poteen and pronounced potcheen has been dubbed the Irish moonshine. It was originally prohibited and has an ABV ranging from 40% to 90%.
This distinctive liqueur is now establishing itself as something a little more upscale, as well as a viable cocktail ingredient. There are many who will sneer at the idea but the Sun Tavern in London’s Bethnal Green has been serving it since 2014.
They believe people are learning to appreciate it as a craft item, rather than just something that gets you drunk. A good poitin should have a kick to it, and it should be hot, but there should be more to it than that. It’s critical that it tastes like the materials it’s composed of.
Because of the differing ingredients depending on how it’s made, the finished spirit has a wide range of flavor profiles. It ranges from earthy, savoury flavours to a fresh peppery flavor, sweetness, and even a hint of smoke.
That’s why it’s so fantastic for blending. It has a strong presence thanks to the alcohol but doesn’t get lost in the drink. It’s a popular ingredient in Tiki drinks. It can work with citrus fruits. You can even use it in place of rum or gin to provide a new perspective to traditional cocktails like the White Negroni. Because each one is created from a different mash and has a variable ABV, the brand you choose will result in a completely distinct drink. Of course, drinking it straight is another option.
While there are a lot of outstanding poitins that are exclusively available locally, here is our pick of the best of those that are more commonly available. These give both a decent kick and a good mix of flavors.
1. Bán Poitin
Bán is made in the Echlinville Distillery in Northern Ireland. It is made from potatoes, malted barley, and sugar beet. It was founded in 2012 by Dave Mulligan, a bartender with a passion for the spirit. What began as a passing interest in the clandestine developed into a whole passion. He resolved to bring this magnificent element of Irish culture out of the shadows and into the modern world. You’ll experience fragrances of toast, a little earthiness, and a touch of peppery spice- Drink it neat, over ice, or as a boilermaker when combined with a pint. It has a little sweetness like marshmallows but is also super complex.
2. Micil Irish Poitin
This spirit is manufactured from Irish grain and gently flavored with the locally sourced, water-dwelling bogbean plant. The name is taken from the distiller’s great, great grandfather. Although the recipe has been passed down the family for 150 years, the brand has only been commercially available since 2016. Pádraic Griallais, a sixth-generation distiller, took over that year. This is an earthy poitin with a sour kick that gives way to almost honey and banana-like aromas. A silky aftertaste lends a touch of softness, yet the pepper sting remains. For a truly outstanding sour, combine egg white, lemon juice, and sugar syrup in a shaker.
3. Glendalough Mountain Strength Poitin
This one is a bit of a monster. Glendalough is another distillery with a goal to preserve Ireland’s artisan distilling history and is renowned for its foraged-ingredient gins as well as Irish whiskey. This one is created with sugar beet and malted barley, and aged in virgin Irish oak. Despite its strength, the Mountain Strength has a very smooth, buttery vanilla scent with very fruity undertones. It’s powerful, but not aggressive. When you first take a drink, you’ll notice the softness, but then you’ll notice the typical “burn” halfway through. The overall flavour is one of almost wine-like fruitiness however.
4. John O’ Connell’s Small Batch Poitín
West Cork Distillers makes a variety of spirits, including its own Two Trees brand. The O’Connell family has been distilling for seven generations, and this specific potin is named after them. The sensory packaging, which includes its own hessian sack, is perhaps the first item you notice. This poitin made from barley and sugar beet has a bready, biscuity fragrance but is incredibly sweet on the palate. It has a chewy, savoury cereal flavour that follows a brief but powerful rush of heat. Another very strong spirit but there’s a lot of flavor here. It’s not as intimidating as you might expect a spirit with this ABV would be.
5. Teeling Spirit of Dublin Irish Poitín
You’ve probably heard of Teeling Irish Whiskey if you like your liquor. The distillery, which began spirit production in early 2015, claims to be Dublin’s first new distillery in almost 125 years. However, the Teeling family began distilling in the city in 1782, and the brand has a considerably longer history. The formula for this triple distilled poitin includes both unmalted and malted Irish barley, making it quite sweet. Although it lacks the complexity of flavor found in some of the other spirits on our list, if you’re new to poitin, this is a good place to start. Even though this is stronger, there’s a delicate, creamy finish and a hint of fruit to offer complexity, but nothing to challenge or intimidate you.