Where can you find the best 'sips in the city' outdoors in Cork?

As she continues her ‘Al fresco’ series, KATE RYAN rounds up some of the best places to grab a drink, outdoors in Cork city and beyond
Where can you find the best 'sips in the city' outdoors in Cork?

Raising a glass outdoors in Cork has never been better, with lots of venues offering rooftop bars, terraces and beer gardens.

AN al fresco summer could be one of the best things to happen to Cork — especially from on high. Outside space is at a premium this year for bars, but maybe it’s time we stopped looking at street level and instead elevated our point of view — literally!

Before Cork’s skyline becomes cluttered with glass and steel monoliths, make the most of our city’s architecture by getting your al fresco fix from one of the reimagined rooftop bars. Or steal away from the hustle and bustle of the city by nestling into an ancient and secluded walled gardens for your post work tipple. Or expand your horizons by settling in oceanside for a glass of something perfectly chilled for sundowners.

Here’s some outdoor watering holes to check out this summer...

ROOFTOP BARS

Sophie’s at The Dean, Horgan’s Quay, Cork City

Perched atop The Dean on the River Lee, and offering panoramic views of the city, Sophie’s offers a comfortable mix of in-door dining, and two covered terraces for days when its just too good to be inside.

As the sun goes down, heaters keep off the chill, or call for a blanket to snuggle into.

The Queen of Rebels, North Main Street, Cork City

Easy to miss, hard to forget once you’ve been, The Queen of Rebels can be found on the deck high above Captain America’s on North Main Street. Cocktails and beats until late, and food you can order in from Captain America’s and WOW Burger below stairs.

The covered roof ensures it’s a reliable spot whatever the weather.

Clancy’s, Princes Street, Cork city

In addition to benefiting from the Eat on the Streets initiative on Princes Street, much loved bar Clancy’s has completely reimagined its rooftop bar — with table service as standard.

The new design benefits from roll-away roof covers to allow the sun to stream in on the best of days or protect from rain on our more typical weather days. No doubt the buzz from the street below will only add to the good rooftop vibes up on high!

SoHo, South Mall, Cork City

SoHo boasts not one, but three options for al fresco sips and nibbles: eminently instagrammable Perch, a first-floor Aperol-themed Garden Terrace overlooking Bishop Lucey Park, and the colourful Rooftop Deck at the very top with views across the city. All spaces have been designed with the unpredictable Irish weather in mind so make for the perfect hangout — whatever the weather!

The panorama terrace at The Montenotte Hotel, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
The panorama terrace at The Montenotte Hotel, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

TERRACES

Panorama Terrace at the Montenotte Hotel, Cork City

From way on high, enjoy uninterrupted views of Cork city and the hotel’s Victorian Gardens below from this botanical themed terrace. Light bites during the day, cocktails by night; no reservations, but seating is on a first come first served basis.

Electric, South Mall, Cork city

Making use of the Leeside boardwalk along South Mall, Electric reopens with riviera-like seating, cocktails, and food.

No reservation required, all seats are on a walk-in basis only, and with only gazebo cover available (for the moment at least), facilitates any change up in capacity should weather take a turn for the worst.

But if it does, simply buy some of the premix Electric Cocktails and continue the fun at home instead!

The Courtyard on Sober Lane, Sullivan’s Quay, Cork City

Proving that having space gifts you with options, it’s walk-ins only for the exposed courtyard and reservations for the Lower Deck thanks to the retractable roof.

But whatever the weather, the vast space in this complex will ensure that, even at reduced capacity, that longed for buzz of being “out-out” is surely guaranteed.

Vista Bistro, Kinsale

Just a stone’s throw from the yacht club, Vista Bistro has one of the best up-high views of Kinsale.

Escape the hustle and bustle from the busy street below, and enjoy uninterrupted views of Kinsale Harbour from a glass-fronted terrace in the sunshine over a seasonal salad and crisp glass of wine.

Lifeboat Inn, Courtmacsherry

The garden terrace at the Lifeboat Inn must be seen to be believed. And if you haven’t experienced a Courtmacsherry sunset, an oceanside seat here tucked under a blanket as festoon lights twinkle above you is about as perfect as it gets.

Expect a well curated wine list chosen with the largely, but not only, seafood-inspired menu in mind.

Dunmore House Hotel, Clonakilty

The recently opened Sea Terrace at Dunmore House Hotel wraps around the hotel, which itself seems to have merged with the curved lines of the coast road on which it sits.

The glass front terrace provides endless ocean views of the Atlantic, and unenclosed from above creates a sense of not knowing where the sky ends, and the ocean begins.

Much of the seasonal produce on the menu is grown on the small organic farm on site and bolstered by rich pickings of land and sea by local artisan producers of the region.

The Franciscan Well Beer Garden.
The Franciscan Well Beer Garden.

BEER GARDENS

Franciscan Well

Hardly needing any introduction, The Well’s beer garden, surrounded by the old Franciscan monastery walls, is well loved by many.

It helps that the beer garden is home to Pompeii Pizza, the perfect sharing food with friends, and if one of the FranWell’s own crafted beer isn’t your thing, the on-site cocktail lounge, MONK, will have you well and truly covered.

Deep South

Don’t let the diminutive entrance fool you — Deep South is a Tardis that opens out into the self-proclaimed ‘Best Beer Garden in Cork’ with a mix of open and semi-covered seating. Beer, cocktails, sports, and BBQ food awaits the peckish of Cork looking for an all-American style bar!

Fionnbarra

It’s a small beer garden with a lot of soul, and you’ll find it tucked away behind Fionnbarra’s in one of the oldest parts of the city, not far from Nano Nagle Place.

Well regarded as the place to go for some mighty craic, the beats and beer taps have long been silent, but the excitement is building in anticipation of reopening. A tight space means booking will be required for the foreseeable, so get in quick.

O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill

It is a pub, but it will probably be the food that draws you inexplicably towards O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill, and rightly so. O’Mahony’s has really accentuated what it means to be a pub at the heart of the community, and in recent times has risen to the challenges of Covid by utilising the clutch of old stone sheds in the walled garden as a weekly Neighbourfood collection hub.

It is also picture perfect ready for summer al fresco drinks and, of course, when restrictions lift, outdoor music gigs are a must here too.

Scannell’s Bar, Clonakilty

One of the most popular bars in the musical town of Clonakilty, when Scannell’s reopens be prepared for things to look differently! The shutdown afforded owners, Kevin and Shane time to reimagine the interior of the pub, but also give their popular beer garden a spruce up too.

Time spent is Scannell’s is always well spent, and the craic will be had once more when it finally throws open its doors to its loyal clientele.

Monk’s Lane, Timoleague

A stunning revamp of the beer garden nestled at the back of this rustic-style gastropub has made a beautiful space even more remarkable. Hang out under the heady perfume of blooms suspended above you, sit out in the sunny and sheltered courtyard, gather with friends under canopy into the night, or reserve the outdoor snug complete with its own set of saloon swing doors.

A brilliantly curated selection of craft beers, many of them brewed in Cork; artisan Irish spirits, an old-world focused wine list and a seasonally inspired cocktail menu is enough to place this at the top of anyone’s must-visit list.

Add to that a menu inspired by the abundant local produce, and hosts Michelle O’Mahony and Gavin Moore, plus the prospect of a return to live music as restrictions allow, and you have all the ingredients for the very best of Irish hospitality.

SIPIS & NIBBLES AT HOME — AND AWAY!

The rush to get back out and socialising in pubs might not be for everyone. Walk-ins may require patience for queuing, and those taking advance bookings only may dull the appetite for spontaneity. But there are options galore for those that still want to socialise — just at home, in the park, or on the beach instead.

Picnics Galore

Expect to see wicker baskets and gingham checked blankets set out lavishly with goodies of all kinds at every local beauty spot this year!

With so many of us taking our summer holidays in Ireland, especially campervanners and those renting self-catering accommodation, knowing where to pick up a taste of local fayre with a few cracking bottles of wine is going to become a national pastime for many of us.

Luckily, Nash19, L’Atittude 51 and Bradleys in the city, Toonsbridge Dairy near Macroom, or Manning’s Emporium in Ballylicky all have excellent reputations for their brilliantly curated wines and those much needed nibbly bits, bread, charcuterie, cheeses and the like that are the building blocks of an amazing picnic. And of course, at the centre of it all is the English Market, where picking up all you could ever need could not be easier!

Top Tip: not sure how to navigate the English Market? Head to Roughty Foodie and ask Margot-Ann — few are as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the market as she is!

A Boulevardier cocktail from Cask.
A Boulevardier cocktail from Cask.

COCKTAIL O’CLOCK

If most of your entertaining will be at home this summer, kick things off with style by buying in some of the best cocktail making kits available in Cork today. Foxglove Cocktails, Electric Cocktails, and MONK Cocktails are all well established in Cork — some include spirits while others suggest the best spirits to pair with the mix.

The latest offering for the expanding cocktails-at-home market is the multi-award winning cocktail bar Cask, and their recently launched ‘Casktails’, a range of ready-to-pour bottled cocktails 350ml (€22) and 750ml sizes (€44), available for takeaway and delivery nationwide. Expect seasonal and foraged ingredients to feature, such orchard fruits from Ballymaloe House, produce from Cork Rooftop Farm, honey from Coolmore Bees in Carrigaline, as well as foraged produce from local woodlands and fields. Mixed with premium spirits, many from Ireland, Casktails are seven original bottled cocktails, including ‘The Bartender’s Choice’ which will rotate as new ingredients come into season and feature guest bars and bartenders from around the world. CHEERS!

Next week: In the final part of her Al fresco series, KATE RYAN asks Cork chefs to share their secrets for cooking over the coals at home.

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