What Is An Irish Car Bomb Cocktail, And Should It Be Retired?

The Irish car bomb is an undeniably controversial cocktail. No, it's not because of the trio of ingredients made in Ireland that comprise it – Irish whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream, and Guinness — or even the way it's made.

It's the name that's controversial. In fact, to many people, it's considered downright offensive. That's because the cocktail's moniker references what is known as "The Troubles" — a three-decade-long period in Northern Ireland characterized by violence over religion and nationalistic issues. This conflict lasted from 1968 to 1998 and resulted in over 3,500 deaths, with about 10 times that number of wounded.

Thus, many in Ireland and the U.K. (of which Northern Ireland is a part) have understandably taken issue with the name Irish car bomb, which seemingly makes light of and trivializes tragic events in their recent past. This alone was reason enough for the drink to be renamed — which has already happened at many bars both in the U.S. and abroad — and there's a case to be made that it should be permanently retired.

The Irish car bomb was Invented and popularized in the USA

The Irish car bomb was invented in the U.S., not Ireland or Great Britain. Charles Burke Cronin Oat, proprietor of Wilson's Saloon in Norwich, Connecticut, reportedly created the drink in 1979 as a depth charge (aka a bomb shot), a type of cocktail in which a shot is dropped into another glass. In this case, it was Irish whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream being added to a shot glass, then dropped into a half-filled pint of Irish stout, specifically Guinness.

Some of Oat's well-traveled patrons, including a few in the Navy, are credited with helping to popularize the cocktail. It became well-known during the 1980s and 1990s, thanks in part to its ubiquity during St. Patrick's Day celebrations, as well as the marketing of the drink by Guinness. By 2013, there were even a couple of bakeries in New York that made cupcakes using the same name, spiked in a similar way.

But as the cocktail's fame spread, so did its infamy. Oat has since apologized for the insensitivity of the name Irish car bomb. "Of course, today I would take that name back. Of course — there's no question about it," he told Irish Central in 2010.

Can you still order an Irish car bomb?

Oat, the cocktail's inventor, has stated that the Irish car bomb evolved from earlier versions called the Grandfather and the IRA, respectively, which included Kahlua. The IRA name is also offensive, of course, as is another name used for the drink: the Belfast Carbomb.

The possible inspiration for the name of the Irish car bomb cocktail was an event called Bloody Friday in Belfast in 1972, an occurrence in which nearly two dozen car bombs were set off in the Northern Ireland capital, killing and wounding well over 100 people. Public figures quoted in Ireland and the U.K. have since drawn parallels between "The Troubles" and 9/11, noting that these horrific events should never be minimized by such trivial use as cocktail names.

It's true, as has been pointed out, that the drink itself is quite tasty. But if you want to order it, don't do so by its offensive original name. Use the names Irish Shot or Irish slammer instead, both of which are now considered acceptable alternatives. Better yet, if you want to drink Irish whiskey and Guinness together, just order a Dublin Redeye and avoid the contentious drink altogether. That way, you won't run the risk of trivializing the deaths of many people.