We’ve probably all been there on one St. Patrick’s Day or another. One of those brisk Saturdays in mid-March, with rain pitter-pattering on the pavement outside. Sitting at a bar that has the distinct odor of stale beer, industrial cleaner, and fried food. Huge green signs with neon-green shamrocks, cheeky leprechauns, and Irish flags covering the walls — all of it enticing us to drink, drink, and, then, drink some more. Feeling buzzed but not wanting to slow down, we rally our friends and a few nearby strangers to order a round.
This is the drink that has come to define St. Patrick’s Day in America. In Ireland and the UK … not so much. They still remember the harrowing, bloody, and devastating war that lasted 30 years that we, as Americans, seem all too ready to make light of. It may be the gold standard of St. Patrick’s Day order stateside, but some Irish run bars around the country are starting to refuse to serve the drink, given that the name just feels … demeaning. And fair warning, you may well get thrown out of a pub in Dublin if you dare to order one.
Let’s dig into where this drink came from, why it’s controversial, and whether it tastes good enough to make it worth bothering with.
WHAT IS A ‘BOMB’ SHOT?
First, let’s get this out of the way: A “bomb” shot is a real thing that exists in the cocktail world. It’s when a shot of something is dropped into a beer (or more recently an energy drink) and then that beer is chugged. So the ‘bomb’ in Irish Car Bomb does have a utility purpose in letting you know what kind of drink you’re ordering.
There are a lot of variations of bomb shots. A Sake Bomb is when an ochoko (sake cup) is balanced on wooden chopsticks over a half pint of lager. A Jägerbomb is a shot of Jägermeister dropped into a beer, or more recently a Red Bull. A Flaming Dr. Pepper is a shot of Amaretto and Bacardi 151 set on fire then dropped into a half pint of beer. A Skittle Bomb is Cointreau dropped into a Red Bull. And, of course, there’s the classic Boilermaker which is a shot of whiskey, bourbon, or rye dropped into a pint of beer and downed.
The point is, a shot dropped into a beer is called a ‘bomb shot’ and it is a legit order.