Irish Car Bomb - an Idiotic Name for a Drink

Irish car bomb? When the name of a drink stops being funny

The victims of an Irish car bomb - Patrick Stanley (16) and Geraldine O'Reilly (15) were killed instantly when a car bomb exploded in Belturbet on December 28th, 1972
© Bernd Biege 2016

The Irish Car Bomb is truly one of the worst drinks you could ever imagine ordering in Ireland - or anywhere else for that matter. However, the drink continues to be popular among young drinkers in the US who don't seem to know why the name is offensive. 

The reason that you should never order the shot-beer combo has a lot to do with Irish history. Car bombs were a horrible reality for people of all ages in Ireland in the not very distant past.

There is no faster way to be labeled as a clueless young American than to enter an Irish pub, sidled up to the bar thinking you know what you are doing, and then order several "Irish Car Bombs". 

First of all, almost nobody in Ireland knows a drink called "Irish Car Bomb" exists anywhere. Then because you will either confuse the bar staff or quickly be told "We don't serve that here," and potentially be asked to leave. 

What is an "Irish Car Bomb"?

An Irish Car Bomb is a drink that has become popularized in the United States of America, though it might be better described as a perfect waste of three good drinks. Officially referred to as an American beer cocktail (though beer is not usually an ingredient in most standard cocktails) the "Irish Car Bomb" is more accurately a "bomb shot", like a boilermaker.

To make an Irish Car Bomb, you first take a glass of Irish stout (most commonly Guinness, though this is not a requirement), and pour it a bit more than half full.

Then, you fill a shot glass with a measure Irish Cream (such as Bailey's), and you float a measure of Irish whiskey on top of the creamy liqueur. To complete the "cocktail", the shot glass is then dropped ("bombed") into the stout. Then the mess begins.

Once the stout, the whiskey and the cream mix, the whole concoction will curdle (which incidentally, does neither diminish nor improve the taste, but might offend your sensibilities in other ways).

So the whole aim of the "Irish Car Bomb" is to chug the beer-liquor combo as fast as possible. This makes the drink very popular with people who do not really care what they drink, but who want to make a big production out of their drinking, and get drunk in as short an amount of time as possible.

And while the drink is fairly popular in the US, it is virtually unknown in Ireland. There were some cases of trendy English bars trying to introduce it receiving serious complaints. Read on to find out why the name of the drink is such a terrible and insensitive idea.

What an Irish Car Bomb Really is ...

Imagine being out and about on a shopping trip, when a "security alert" is announced and you are shepherded past a red car. Which actually blows up while you are still near it. Your hearing is gone, flying glass has cut your back, you have been thrown on the tarmac and the abrasions to prove it. 

This is not a scenario that had to be imagined in Ireland - it was the stark reality of life for decades during a period that was commonly known as The Troubles.

Think of Omagh in 1998, when a car bomb parked in the main shopping street of the town by some "Dissident Republicans" killed more than two dozen people - women, men, children, pensioners, British, Irish, Spanish.

Or think Dublin and Monaghan in 1974, when coordinated car bombs planted by Loyalists killed 33 people (34 if you count an unborn child) – the highest death toll of any day during the “Troubles”. For some US visitors, it might also help to think about Oklahoma City in 1995, when 168 people were killed – what if someone created a cocktail named after a US national tragedy?

Ireland has had its share of car bombs and other IEDs ("improvised explosive devices"), north and south of the border, planted by both sides of the political-sectarian divide, with a death toll still threatening to rise due to some deluded "freedom fighters" trying to make their point by planting another horrible device with the full knowledge of risking innocent lives.

That is why "Irish Car Bomb" is a terrible, offensive and insulting name for a drink in Ireland.

To ask for it in a country that saw dozens killed by real Irish car bombs is to become unwelcome very quickly. 

Just Stop and Think!

Now that you know the history of the name of the drink and why it is an incredibly sensitive topic in Ireland (both Northern Ireland and in the Republic), it is easy to see why you should never ask for the drink as a tourist.

Perhaps they are no longer a daily occurance in Ireland, but global news is still full of violence around the world every day. That all means that what might seem like a fun drink name is anything but - and it certainly isn't clever, either. 

And, all in all, it is a waste of good drinks.

If you want to order a real Irish drink, simply ask for a decent Irish whiskey, neat, no ice, followed by a beer chaser - much more enjoyable, giving you time to savor them as well.