One night a few years ago, more than I actually care to admit, my brother and I walked into a crusty old pub somewhere upstate. The kind of place that’s full of old men in wool caps quietly nursing warm beer. The kind of place where you can actually feel yourself being sized up by a hundred doubting eyes. Musty. Dark. Totally TV-free. Basically, my kind of place.
Being, well, young idiots, we walked up to the bar, deferential but maybe a bit too eager to fit in. Checking out some neglected vodka bottles and a few macro beer taps, my brother decided to go for an Irish Car Bomb. If the room was already quiet, this shut things up entirely. The bartender’s eyes went dark. He leaned in slowly, and very quietly told my brother “Never, ever order that drink again.”
Up to that point—and these were college years—most of us were referring to Irish Car Bombs like they were Rum and Cokes. Ah, the sweet offensive ignorance of youth. And the good fortune that, despite tossing that name around like fools, we never received our righteous, two-fisted comeuppance.
So why the name? It has a little to do with the basic chemistry of the drink, and the rest is just cultural ignorance. It’s a simple concoction: about half a glass of Guinness stout and a small shot glass of Baileys Irish Cream, mixed with a bit of Irish whiskey. The shot glass is dropped into the Guinness and some serious foaming commences. This, theoretically, is the “explosion.”
Cool, right? Nah, far from it. Car bombs had a violent and bloody role in Irish history, the weapon of choice for the IRA in the Irish sectarian conflict known as “The Troubles.” Easily the worst of the bombings took place on July 21, 1972. Starting at 2:40pm, the Provisional IRA exploded 19 bombs in just over an hour (they had originally planned 23, but 4 were either discovered or failed to detonate). Nine people were killed, including a 14 year-old boy.
Despite this being a very real, and very known fact of history, some people—amateurs and professionals alike—actually persist in calling it an Irish Car Bomb. It really doesn’t take a hell of a lot of searching to find articles or ridiculously chipper instructional videos.
Fine, the rest of the world can be ignorant. But we’re not anymore. At least not about this. One other thing—despite the name, or plethora of marquee Irish ingredients, the drink is actually an American creation (at a bar in Connecticut in the late 1970s to be precise). Any suggestions for renaming it are welcome. If my brother and I had gone up to that old bartender and asked for, say, some Dark Liquid Love or a Warm n’ Fuzzy (spitballin’ here) we might have gotten some weird looks. But probably a lot less stony indignation. Which, if we’re being honest, can ruin a night.