Award-winning mixologist Oisin Davis brings a unique gaze to the Irish ingredients that make up his new book of cocktail recipes
Oisín Davis spent his first decade as part of the Irish-American community in New Jersey.
His later years were spent firmly on the bar and club scenes in Ireland, where he became an award-winning mixologist and drinks consultant (Great Irish Beverages).
As he saw Irish foodservice declaring its love for Irish food produce, he began to wonder where the love for Irish drinks was, given that Irish spirits are some of the very best in the world.
His mission – to bring awareness of Irish spirits to the same, rightly earned level of Irish food – was born.
Oisín is releasing his first book, aiming to shake up the at-home cocktail game, with a strong focus on Irish spirits.
Irish Kitchen Cocktails offers 60 stunning recipes.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in October of 2023.
Tell us about Irish Kitchen Cocktails.
It is a 60-recipe cocktail book where Irish spirits and beverages are the main ingredients, and where no professional bartending equipment is used.
Each one requires only everyday kitchen items to mix them with, like blenders, Kilner jars, punchbowls, etc.
There are cocktails for every type of session and season!
Where did the idea come from?
It came from years of developing recipes for clients like Jameson, and for articles I would write for magazines.
Approachable, easy-to-follow cocktail development for public audiences has been a big love of mine, and I have been doing it professionally for a long time.
What are you hoping to achieve with it?
My aim is to show people that they can make great-tasting cocktails very easily with everyday kitchen utensils and top-class Irish drinks.
Some of the biggest spirits on the planet are made here, but we are lacking in basic cocktail skills to mix them up with.
I am hoping the book will help bridge that gap and that people will have tonnes of craic enjoying the fruits of their labour!
What gets you most excited about the Irish drinks industry?
The Irish have been masters of the drinks industry for centuries, and we are currently in a new era for it now.
I love playing my part in crafting what that looks and tastes like, so as to help my clients, both locally and internationally, and to keep the legacy of the Irish drinks industry vibrant and strong.
Tell us about your background – where you grew up, studied, etc.
I am originally from Jersey City, New Jersey, and came to live in my mother’s hometown of Dublin when I was ten.
I studied arts at Trinity and then music management at Ballyfermot.
What first drew you to hospitality?
Irish pubs were a part of our ethnic identity in Jersey City.
My first lounge boy job in Dublin as a teenager ignited the joy of hospitality in me.
I just love seeing people have a good time and being immersed in that energy.
What was your first big role?
In 1999, after a year or so in San Francisco, I set up and ran the Sugar Club, on Leeson Street, where I worked for 13 years. This was my first major role.
It was lying dormant for 13 years before we took it on, collecting nothing but dust.
We had to carve out a new entrance and build two new bars and a kitchen for it. It took six months to get it all ready.
What was that like?
It was an incredible experience.
We somehow created a multimedia arts centre for daytime and evening trade, and a kick-ass night club for late trade – all of this with table service and a full bar with classic cocktails – and it’s still going strong today, but my love for Irish-made drinks and for promoting started merging, and in 2013 I had to go out on my own to set up Great Irish Beverages.
This was the first company in Ireland dedicated solely to the production, promotion and publicity of Irish-made drinks.
What makes a great cocktail?
The best ingredients, the balance of flavours, and the right dilution.
What are the changing trends in the industry – people’s expectations, new elements, etc.?
Irish people are finally expecting a lot more with food and cocktail options.
Back when I set up the Sugar Club, in 1999, I would call drinks companies to tell them I was opening a nightclub on Leeson Street to sell cocktails, and they’d hang up on me!
It was totally alien as a concept, but I had just returned from San Francisco, where cocktails were going through a rebirth, and I knew it would hit Ireland soon after.
Now you can rock up to even a small town and pick up a well-cooked meal and enjoy a fairly decent mixed drink.
What are the major challenges at the moment?
Antiquated licensing laws and the lobbyists who don’t want to change them.
What are the main opportunities?
There is a growing love for premium local Irish foods and drinks.
Opportunities are arising to merge them together, as more and more pubs open up kitchens.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Work is what I do when I am not with my family and friends!
Any other plans on the horizon for the next year or so?
My amazing clients always keep me busy, as does Kristin, my publisher!
Next year I hope to launch the book in the USA, around St Patrick’s Day.
We are both fixated on trying to elevate Irish culinary culture by bringing our foods and drinks together.