Serious Tippling? Where to Drink Like the Irish in Manila

The answer: Finnians
IMAGE Carlo Ambrosio T. Lina

As far back as the medieval ages, pubs have played a big role in keeping the spirits high among communities of both rural and urban Ireland, in times of upheavals, famine, and plague. The pub, short for ‘public house’, acted as hubs where villagers gather, tipple some ale, chew the fat, swap neighborhood gossip, and simply forget about the cares of the outside world. 

Lock stocked with hearty meals and a bar full of liquor, pubs provided a safe space where people can display social graces (or the lack thereof) in a place akin to one’s home, only with a few unwanted but likeminded intruders. This centuries-old tradition had certainly made the Irish a notoriously rowdy bunch, that a pub’s presence can’t be lost in other cities south of Dublin.

Celtic Crew: Scotch and Irish whiskeys stand side by side

With its fear of missing out, Manila has played host to a handful of Irish pubs, the newest of which is Finnians, found in the brewing foodie alley of Calderon Street in San Juan. Taking all the good stuff about traditional Irish pubs with it—the warm ambience, the no-frills approach to entertainment, and the supersized servings of booze and chow—Finnians gives us a taste of how it is to cap a dreadful week, jolly Irish style.

The outdoor seating area provides just enough smoky, chatty welcome as one enters from the streets. Judging from the line of empty bottles, it seems like the community spirit is strong in this one. But that is just a sip of the whole pint inside. With walls plastered high with boozy Irish memorabilia, one can already get tipsy thinking about tonight’s lineup. Fact: There is no way you’ll leave Guinness out of the equation.


That’s the easy part. Further back is the bar, filled over the edge with standard hard spirits. But then you’d have to remind yourself, you came all the way here for the classic Irish whiskeys. In the company of Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, and The Pogues, a shortage of social lubricants is next to impossible. 

Spirit of Ireland

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Shepherd's Pie

Honey Bourbon Ribs

And to keep the buzz flowing, on the little menu are some staple Irish favorites, heavy with fat and carbs that guarantee no dull moment ensues. There’s the Shepherd's Pie stacked with a generous heap of mashed potatoes, the Fish and Chips heavy on finger-fat fries, the Bangers and Mash suggesting of nocturnal puns, especially when topped with warm gravy, and the Honey Bourbon Ribs, doused with its smoky-sweet sauce, can’t be left alone by a mother lode of potato wedges. With these, Finnians assures everyone that the Irish potato famine is a thing of the past. 

By now, groups fill in the place, and the pub feels a bit warmer. After a few more pints, the people get stickier, and pretty soon, you find talking to strangers highly encouraged. Before you know it, you start buying them rounds. It doesn’t help that Finnians has a ‘Last Man Standing’ rule, you may actually choose to crawl back home.

Finnians keeps to its clover as a genuine Irish pub—uncolonized by dabbing DJs, strobe lights, and, gasp, craft cocktails. Here, the background music stays in the background of neighborhood chatter, especially if you don’t mind bobbing your head to ‘Riverdance’. What takes the spotlight, however, are the straight-up drinks, the heavy and hearty food, and most importantly, the company you choose. Cheers.


Finnians Irish Pub is at 403 F. Calderon Street, San Juan City; a second outlet, named Limerick Arms Irish Pub, will soon open at Knightsbridge Residences, Century City, Makati City.

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Carlo Ambrosio T. Lina
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