Our Story

GARAVAN'S BAR HAS WON WHISKEY BAR OF THE YEAR CONNACHT
2014, 2015 & 2016

Organised by the Celtic Whiskey Shop, the awards recognise the best whiskey producers, distillers and bars in Ireland

 
 

Nestled in the heart of Galway city’s main shopping thoroughfare, stands the historic building that is Garavan’s Public House.

An architectural treasure, its current physical footprint dates back to the fortified Galway of 1650. While undergoing some renovations in the offices upstairs, original fireplaces were unearthed and traces of the tower (as significant historically as Lynch’s castle) and raw walls from the late Medieval period were also discovered. These precious finds gives one an appreciation why much of it is a protected building. Close your eyes and shut out all ambient noise, and you might even hear a whisper from the ghosts that occupy these walls.

There is a long-standing tradition of excellent whiskey-brewing in Ireland and Irish Whiskey, whose name derives from the Gaelic Uisce Beatha (‘Water of Life’), has been synonymous with Garavan’s Public House since its inception 80 years ago. They offer an extensive collection of delicious (and some rare) whiskeys, one of the largest in Galway. Sourced from all over the world, these can be viewed in the beautifully handmade whiskey cabinets located throughout the bar.

Garavan’s hugely popular Whiskey Platters offer patrons a unique and enjoyable experience: selecting three to taste from a huge range of whiskeys, complete with comprehensive tasting notes, while sitting among the ghosts of the past in this most historical of buildings, must make this one of the most original places in the world to be sampling such delights. You would be ‘stone mad’ to miss out on this experience!!

These are the gorgeous hand-made whiskey cabinets. Incidentally, the original bespoke bar and counter are in exactly the same position as they were 80 years ago! Note the old Guinness bottles. During the 1960s and 1970s, bars used to bottle their own Guinness!

Famous for their Irish coffee the world over, the experience of a Garavans Irish coffee is unique.

Served in its own specially designed glass, it is made using Garavans traditional methods. The combination of coffee and whiskey, strong and slightly sweet, picks you up and puts you down, while the cool cream is sheer indulgence.

Embedded as this building is into the very fabric of Galway city, it is little surprise that it has been home to three generations of Garavans, one of the oldest trading families on William Street. Established by Charles Garavan in 1937, it was originally a Spirit Grocery, which combined a public house with a grocery shop, serving the people of the city.

VIVO was the name of an Irish grocery brand from the 1960s, but, given their thriving wholesale and grocery business, both Garavan’s staff and customers claimed it meant ‘Van In, Van Out’!


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Currently displayed in the window, this Grocery Journal, dating back to the 1950s, is truly a snapshot of times past: customers purchased their groceries and their name and shopping items were recorded in the journal for posterity. Some sweet gentle persuasion of the bar staff might get you a sneaky peek inside to see if your grandmother’s groceries are noted in there!

Charles Garavan played an active role in the campaign to rebuild the Cathedral in Galway after it had burned down. He used his business connections with breweries such as Guinness and Irish Distillers to gain significant donations towards the fund.

The wholesale business was a thriving one for Garavan’s, with the company supplying not only small grocery shops locally but, on a grander scale, national contracts to hospitals and army barracks. This invoice for the supply of cigarettes to the hospital is a ‘humorous homage’ to a time long gone!

As famous for their pints of Guinness, their erudite bar man, and their Irish Coffees, as they are for their tea, Garavans are proud to be one of the few Galway families still trading on the city’s main thoroughfare.


The Infamous Garavan's Tea!

After supplying tea wholesale, Garavans decided to develop their own range of individually packed tea. It was an extremely popular tea at the time and an entire generation of Galwegians began their day with a cup of Garavan’s famous tea and finished it off in Garavan’s pub with a creamy pint of Guinness or accompanied by a few Irish Whiskeys.

The tea recipe as the perfect cuppa required some love and attention, Garavans printed this foolproof recipe on every packet.

Of all the characters that frequented Garavan’s public house over the generations, from peripatetic travelers, visiting artists and literary figures (including one Samuel Beckett), to the wonderful

Tommy Kelly who literally devoted his entire lifetime to the Garavan’s grocery shop, no name stands as tall as that of Nicholas Killoury.

The legendary Bar Man, who possessed ‘unfailing good humour and a lively wit’ and was a lover of Shakespeare, Dickens, The Irish Times and opera, elevated the pub to that of a forum for debate and discourse, and captivated visiting patrons from all over the world. His ‘Superlative’ pint of Guinness and learned pontifications inspired journalist and friend Jeff O’Connell to write a hugely popular weekly column in The Galway Advertiser, and a subsequent bestselling book of the same title, Days and Nights in Garavan’s.