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What’s in an Irish Car Bomb?

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day—a day full of festivities with scores of shamrock-themed clothing, rivers of green beer, and an overwhelming amount of leprechauns prancing around city corners. It’s a celebration of Irish culture and St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.1

That said, it doesn’t matter if you think you have Irish roots or you actually do. It’s a day that many people look forward to each year. One of the drinks of choice for American get-togethers is the Irish Car Bomb—a perfect complement to the explosive, party-going energy of the day. 

But what exactly is an Irish Car Bomb drink, and what do you need to make your own killer Irish slammer? Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know. 

Essential Ingredients for a Classic Irish Car Bomb

First coined “The Grandfather,” the original Irish Car Bomb mix consisted of Kahlua and Baileys Irish Cream. 

But later, the inventor decided to take it to another level and drop a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey into a pint of Guinness. The dropped shot created a little explosion in the glass, and it quickly became known as the Irish Car Bomb.2 

So what’s in a Car Bomb, you ask? It’s fairly simple, considering all you need are three ingredients. 

Or rather, three Irish delicacies:

  • Guinness Stout
  • Jameson Irish Whiskey 
  • Baileys Irish Cream

The few ingredients needed for the Irish Car Bomb recipe make it simple to create and, depending on who you ask, easier to consume. While there are mixed reviews regarding the overall taste, it’s more about the experience that comes with dropping the bomb shot dramatically into a sea of Guinness. 

If the classic cocktail recipe isn’t a crowdpleaser amongst you and your crew, feel free to make a few slight tweaks. Substitute the Jameson, for example, and replace it with another type of Irish whiskey if you have a personal preference. You can also switch out the Baileys for Carolans Irish Cream if that suits your taste buds. Plus, you may find it gives it a bit more of a caramel taste. 

group of friends celebrationg St. Patric

How to Make the Most Killer Irish Car Bomb

When it comes to Irish Car Bombs, the ingredients are merely half of the equation. The other half? The assembly, of course. 

To make a single Irish Car Bomb, you’ll need:3

  • ½ ounce of Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • ½ ounce of Baileys Irish Cream 
  • ¾ pint Guinness Stout

After you’ve gathered your ingredients, put your mixology skills to the test:

  • Step one – Fill a pint glass about halfway or three-quarters full with Guinness.  
  • Step two – To make the Irish bomb shot, pour the whiskey and the Baileys into the same shot glass. Don’t just neck the bottles and give them a quick pour. Try to slowly pour the Baileys on the bottom to create a little bit of a layered effect between it and the Jameson.
  • Step three – Mentally prepare if you need to. Then, drop the shot into the Guinness to make an explosion and drink immediately. Doing it this way creates the bomb effect and is more in line with tradition. However, you can always just mix all three ingredients together and drink straight away. 
  • Spill if you need to, but get it down as quickly as you can—no judgment here. 

    Sláinte!

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    Is There Anything Important to Keep In Mind When Making an Irish Car Bomb?

    Yes, there is—a couple of things, actually. Speed, refrigeration, and proper pouring techniques all come into play when crafting an Irish Car Bomb. 

    Speed and Refrigeration

    You might be sitting here wondering why immediately was emphasized above. It was done for good reason, and you’ll be happy that you chugged your drink as quickly as possible.

    The reason being? If you wait too long, the acidity of the Guinness beer will react with the Irish cream and may even start to curdle—yuck.4 

    Other than drinking it as fast as you can, you can help avoid the curdling effect by making sure all of the ingredients are chilled before serving—especially the Irish cream. In fact, it should be refrigerated anyway since it’s typically more prone to spoiling than other liqueurs. 

    Trust us—trying to chug a glass of Guinness, Jameson, and Baileys will be much less desirable if you’re trying to navigate curdled bits along the way.

    The Proper Pour

    If you want to get the best aroma and flavor out of the Guinness there are certain steps you’ll need to take. Guinness is, well, Guinness, which means it requires a little more TLC than other beers to get the best experience. 

    But why? 

    Compared to every other beer at your local pub, Guinness has a different nitrogen and carbon dioxide ratio, about 75 percent to 25 percent.5 Since it’s a heavier beer, it requires a longer pour time to allow the nitrogen bubbles to release. 

    Here’s what you need to do to perfect the pour:

    • Tilt the pint glass to 45 degrees and start pouring.
    • Since you won’t be pouring a full pint for this recipe, stop when the glass is about half-full. 
    • Let it rest for at least two minutes in order for the head to build and for the nitrogen bubbles to work their magic.  

    Two minutes might seem like a long time to wait for a drink that’ll be gulped down in ten seconds. But if flavor is more important to you than efficiency, you won’t want to skip this step. 

    Where Was the Irish Car Bomb First Created?

    Now that you’ve polished up your bartending skills, it’s time to pair your creation with a bit of trivia to really impress your at-home bar guests: 

    • To some people’s surprise, the Irish Car Bomb is not a St. Paddy’s Day staple that was born in Ireland. Instead, it was invented by an American man named Charles Oat way back in 1979 in Connecticut.6
    • The concoction was thrown together at a bar called Wilson’s Saloon, simply by mixing Kahlua and Baileys Irish Cream. From here, the obvious next steps were to add Jameson Irish Whiskey and Guinness.

    Because why not, right?

    • Oat now owns the Connecticut School of Bartending, which just so happens to be located within the same building where the saloon was located. 

    The popularity of the newfound Irish shot took U.S. pubs and bars by storm throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. This was in large part because of its curious combination of ingredients and its head-turning, explosive effect. 

    The Irish Car Bomb can be consumed at any point throughout the year. However, it became one of the most popular cocktails to make or order for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations across the U.S. because of its predominantly Irish flavor palette.  

    Is There Controversy Behind the Name?

    The cocktail has seen a few name substitutions over the years because the original Irish Car Bomb moniker links back to a very dark time in Ireland's history.

    You’re not likely to find an Irish Car Bomb or even anyone who knows what’s in one at any pub in the United Kingdom—especially in Ireland. It can sometimes be considered offensive, and trying to order one may leave you looking for another pub to go to. 

    The only likeness the drink has with Ireland or its history is the use of Irish ingredients. 

    Some alternative names for this drink might include:

    • The Irish Slammer 
    • The Dublin Drop
    • The Irish Shot
    • The Irish Bomb

    Is There a Difference Between an Irish Car Bomb and a Boilermaker?

    To be fair, an Irish Car Bomb is a type of boilermaker. 

    Well, sort of. 

    A boilermaker is, hands down, one of the easiest to make cocktails that you can find anywhere in the world. All it is is a shot and a pint of beer.7 

    But, there are a few different ways to enjoy this cocktail: 

    • In Irish Car Bomb fashion, you could drop the shot directly into the beer and chug it all at once. 
    • You can take the shot first and gulp down the beer shortly after.
    • Another option is to simply enjoy each separate element of a boilermaker—slowy and one at a time. 

    There isn’t a specific way that’s better than the other as it all comes down to personal preference. But dramatically dropping the shot into the beer and then chugging it immediately is part of what adds a layer of dramatic effect. 

    So, even though an Irish Car Bomb is similar in style to a boilermaker, it’s unique in its own right. Not because it’s any fancier, but because it combines three important Irish ingredients: Guinness, Jameson Whiskey, and Baileys Irish Cream. 

    You shouldn’t limit St. Patrick’s Day to just Irish Car Bombs. Try out a Pot of Gold or other whiskey drinks that are sure to make the drinking holiday memorable. 

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    Sources:

    1. Time. The True History Behind St. Patrick’s Day. https://time.com/4261456/st-patrick-day-2016-history-real-saint/
    2. Eater. Why the Irish Car Bomb Is St. Patrick’s Day’s Most Controversial Drink. https://www.eater.com/drinks/2015/3/17/8206609/the-story-of-the-irish-car-bomb
    3. Liquor.com. Irish Shot. https://www.liquor.com/recipes/the-irish-car-bomb/
    4. Craft Beering. Irish Car Bomb. https://www.craftbeering.com/irish-car-bomb-cocktail-shot/
    5. Kegerator.com. The Mystery Behind Pouring the Perfect Guinness: Step-by-Step Guide. https://learn.kegerator.com/pouring-guinness/
    6. Eater. Why the Irish Car Bomb Is St. Patrick’s Day’s Most Controversial Drink. https://www.eater.com/drinks/2015/3/17/8206609/the-story-of-the-irish-car-bomb
    7. VinePair. We Asked 12 Bartenders: What’s the Best Boilermaker Combination? https://vinepair.com/articles/wa-12-best-boilermakers/