Seeing that cocktail name on a menu brings feelings of disappointment and disrespect. Having been brought up in Belfast this writers mind goes directly to the victims of violence and how they would feel about this North American favorite.
I am Irish and like the vast waves of migrants before me, I no longer live in Ireland.
Since moving abroad, one recurring talking topic is almost automatically brought into the conversation when Ireland is mentioned and it is not about the impact of Irish emigration around the world. Nor Irish music, dancing, weather, history or politics but alcohol.
Yes, alcohol, which is consumed globally yet is deeply ingrained within popular culture to Ireland and Irish people.
I found it quite strange at first when people would say, for example, “Oh your Irish! I'm sure you love a drink” or “what's your favorite Irish whiskey?” or “I know a place that does a cracking Guinness!” but over time, I got used to it. I mean there are much worse topics to talk about and at least people were welcoming in general, so I would let it slide, even as a nondrinker.
Alcohol, drink, booze or whatever term you prefer to call it, I began to question why there is a deep prejudice around Ireland and alcohol still in existence.
How stereotypical a topic to talk about, you might think, given Ireland and alcohols unbroken bond portrayed within mainstream media and throughout history. We all know the drunken Irish typecasting. Yes, it is true Irish people enjoy a drink and yes, there are various social problems with consumption including high levels of binge or excessive drinking.
However, did you know that 1 in 5 Irish people don't consume alcohol at all?
Additionally, Ireland doesn't even top the polls for alcohol consumption per capita, coming in at number 20 worldwide.
However, I'm not writing about Ireland's multi-complex relationship with alcohol. I am writing to question alcohol's relationship with Ireland and one alcoholic drink, in particular, the Irish Car Bomb also known as the Belfast Car Bomb.
My questioning started quite ironically, in a pub. It was an average day in my newly adopted country of Canada. My partner and I had recently moved city and we were checking out local places to eat and drink. I found a welcoming looking modern pub, full wall to wall with huge televisions and the noise of sporting events. Pub staff were friendly, brought us to our table and we were handed food and drink menus with a smile.
Whilst looking at the menu choices and debating what to order (chicken club sandwich or lasagna), a strange alien-esque item caught my eye and stopped me in mid-conversation.
“Irish what?” I said out loud.
Confused, I reread the menu, “Irish... Car... Bomb.”
Wait a minute, that can't be right. A drink called Irish Car Bomb on a pub menu in 2018.
I thought it was simply a mistake or perhaps a misprint.
However, as we ate our meals and continued our evening, I couldn't settle.
You may think, why does this matter? It's only a drink, they are only words and there are millions of other issues to focus on in the world. I totally agree with you, however, I just couldn't shake the sense of disrespect especially for victims who may not have a voice to express their disappointment, regardless of whether the menu item was called Irish Car Bomb, French Car Bomb or Spanish Car Bomb.
I felt annoyed. Being brought up in the city of Belfast, the words car bomb, set off alarm bells within my mind and I thought about the many victims of bombings (both Irish and globally) and how they would feel reading the menu.
Perhaps they were bomb survivors on holiday in North America, and it brought back terrible memories. Perhaps they had lost family members or friends through bombs and were dealing with the mental health implications of loss and this menu item derails them on their healing journey.
I felt saddened by the use of the word Irish, as it feeds into old stereotypes about Irish people perhaps being trouble and might in the reader's mind recall the days of Irish Nationalism and British Unionist violence, much of this violence involved bombings.
Then I felt motivated. In a strange way, I needed to know what the menu item was and why was it given such a provoking name and what I could do to change it.
Therefore I began searching the internet and soon found out that an Irish Car Bomb is a shot made with mainly Irish manufactured drinks. It has an explosive impact hence the bomb aspect. That made some sort of sense to me, however, the name still didn't seem correct given its promotion of violence and stereotyping.
There were articles online about how to make the drink, best places to buy it and how the name is seen as controversial and interestingly, mostly only named Irish Car Bomb in North America. Some pubs have renamed the drink in recent years to a more generic name and others actually charge a so-called idiot fee if a customer orders one.
Armed with more information, I rang family and friends back in Ireland, telling the pub story and they were in disbelief. Some even said they would never enter a bar with such a drink on its menu.
A few days later, I emailed the management of the original pub, trying my best to explain why the name could be viewed by others as offensive and with an increasing Irish population within Canada (15 percent of entire population have Irish heritage) plus Dublin direct flights to major Canadian cities, it was my view that tourists from Ireland may feel uncomfortable when reviewing their current drinks menu.
Finally, I asked, if possible, the pub revisited the naming of this drink to a more inclusive and general name.
After a few hours (which felt like forever) questioning if the pub would reply, they did.
In their response, they thanked me for informing them and they understood my viewpoint. The manager explained the name came from a general pub drink ideas website and there was no offense meant. Furthermore, the drink was to be renamed.
Reading their response, I felt happier but it was apparent to me there was and still is a lack of education when it comes to naming drinks.
After mentioning this outcome to friends, I found more bars around the city selling Irish Car Bombs. One was an Irish-themed bar very close to my home so I contacted them. Again their response was understanding (they too got the drink straight from the internet) with a promise to change the name accordingly.
Read more: Irish car bombs offend the easily offended
I kept finding more and more outlets selling this drink (or using its other name, Belfast Car Bomb) and in total, I have so far contacted ten businesses, one of which is a nationwide bar chain. I am hopeful of responses and that change occurs or if it doesn't occur, a discussion at least can begin.
So what next? I ask you, readers, to check your local pubs, clubs and restaurants to see what's on their menu.
If it contains provoking and disrespectful named items such as the Irish Car Bomb, ask to speak with management and educate them on why the name could be viewed as offensive.
Many business owners or managers, like the ones I have contacted, are totally unaware and simply get drink ideas online with no knowledge of possible repercussions. Education is key.
If education fails to have any impact, then perhaps a boycott of that establishment will push change a step closer.
Inform others - friends, family members, media - whoever will listen to your concerns.
Together, we can make a difference.
It's about time to drop these gimmicky, provoking, divisional marketing naming methods and move on, with forward-thinking and inclusivity in mind. Just like Ireland in 2018.
What do you think of the Irish Car Bomb? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below.
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