The entrance to Dublin’s Vintage Cocktail Club looks more insalubrious nightclub than stylish speakeasy; the battered iron door set back on a side street in popular Temple Bar is marked with the skew-whiff letters “VCC”. With a ring of the unnamed bell we are in and ushered upstairs. The walls hark to a seaside psychic’s lair – frou-frou flock and vintage ephemera. My eyes blink to adjust to the flickering candles, the round marble tables, heavy velvet carpet and the upright piano, which looks as though it hasn’t played a tuned note since 1930. I am very much mistaken, I find out later; it is one of the centrepieces of this convivial lair. There are ancient clocks, stuffed animals and old typewriters – a boozy curiosity shop – with waistcoated barmen shaking up drinks and decanting them in vintage coupes.
I am slightly overwhelmed by the menu; it is impressively long and divided into eras, which provides an interesting cocktail history. As ever, I am torn between a sour and a straight to the chase: short and strong. As it’s only 5pm, I opt for an early 1900s Sloeflower Sour (third picture), made with Glendalough Premium Poitin, sloe berry, cranberry, elderflower and egg whites, with an orange coin and a fresh mint sprig. My friend, meanwhile, opts for more modern mixology with a VCC original Pear & Mary (second picture): Glendalough Sherry Cask Poitin, Poire Williams, VCC Orchard syrup, fresh citrus, Boston Bitters and egg whites. Both hit the spot.
The place is warm and cosy and soon starts to fill up, mainly with couples. A mother and daughter drink a twist on a Tiki – a 1935 Apothecary’s Delight, made with Lamb’s Navy Rum, fresh pineapple juice, aged balsamic vinegar and Peychaud’s Bitters – while devouring mini rosemary risotto balls and a substantial-looking antipasti board. The bar serves a full dinner menu, but our sustenance is of the liquid kind.
We stay for another; this time I set up the evening with a Martinez, a punchy concoction of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, VCC Sweet Vermouth, Maraschino cherry liqueur, Angostura Orange Bitters and orange oils. As we depart, feeling very much like Alice leaving Wonderland behind, Temple Bar is hotting up around us. A group of men dressed as Vikings pass us. We take one look at each other and scurry into the night.