No visit to Ireland is complete without a pub crawl. Prepare yourself with our list of the top 10 best Irish drinking songs.
Singing and alcohol go hand in hand in Ireland and the later it gets at the pub (and the more pints are being poured), the more people will join in the sing-alongs.
And as a visitor to the Emerald, there really is no better way to get an authentic Irish experience than by ordering a pint and partying along.
While there’s hundreds of tunes perfectly suited for chanting out loud, a bunch of Irish classics are on repeat at every pub around the world. Listen to our top 10 best Irish drinking songs below and impress your new mates on your next big night out.
10. Beer, Beer, Beer (The Clancy Brothers) – needing no introduction
A song with this title probably doesn’t need a long introduction but just in case you are wondering, it’s a tribute to the fictional inventor of beer, Charlie Mop(p). The name is presumed to rhyme with barley and hops, two of the main ingredients in beer.
Unfortunately, it’s unknown who originally wrote the tune and how long it has been around, but besides being one of the most popular and best Irish drinking songs, it has inspired pubs around the island to name themselves after the mythical character.
9. Finnegan’s Wake (The Dubliners) – a drinking song since 1864
This good-humoured folk song was first published in 1864 but only became a hit in Ireland when the Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers covered it some 100 years later. More recently, American Celtic band Dropkick Murphys reinvented it in punk style.
As the title suggests, the song is about a funeral with the supposedly dead, a whiskey lover called Tim Finnegan, waking up during the reception and joining in the celebrations.
8. All for Me Grog (The Dubliners) – another song made popular by The Dubliners
Another drinking anthem made popular by The Dubliners in the 1960s, “All For Me Grog” was originally a popular sailor’ song. It tells the story of a man willing to sell everything for booze and tobacco, including his own wife.
Even though this song effectively shows someone ruining his life by drinking, it hasn’t stopped pub goers from chanting along when raising their pints.
7. Seven Drunken Nights (The Dubliners) – one of the best Irish drinking songs
The Irish version of the Scottish “Our Goodman” is about a hopeless drunkard who returns home night after night to find all kinds of clues that his wife is having an affair. But because he is too drunk to think straight, he keeps accepting her slightly implausible explanations.
“Seven Drunken Nights” was performed by The Dubliners during their first appearance on “Top of the Pops” in the 1960s. However, due to the dirty jokes throughout the song, some lines had to be cut out.
6. The Irish Rover (Ronnie Drew) – honouring a fallen ship
One of the most popular and best Irish drinking songs, “The Irish Rover” honours a gigantic sailing ship with the same name that sinks at the end of the last verse and leaves all passengers dead.
It has been recorded by countless artists and the lyrics keep changing every time. If you don’t know the lines or are confused which version is being played, just yell “the Irish Rover!” at the end of every verse and your mates will think you are a pro.
5. The Fields of Athenry (Paddy Reilly) – the struggle of the Irish people during the Famine
When listening to the lyrics closely, “The Fields of Athenry” (1979) is a pretty sad song – but the depressing theme didn’t prevent it from turning into a pub anthem. The ballade honours an Irishman that got arrested during the Great Famine for stealing corn so that his family would survive.
The singer calls out to his wife and tells her to stay strong. Thanks to its catchy tune, “The Fields of Athenry” has also turned into a popular hymn among Irish sports fans and ranks in the top 10 most famous Irish songs of all time.
4. Dirty Old Town (The Pogues) – from Ewan MacColl to Mumford & Sons
This song was written in 1949 by Ewan MacColl, but only became a major hit in the 1960s and 1970s when first the Dubliners and later the Pogues recorded it. Since then, there’s been covers by U2, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Logan, Mumford & Sons and many others.
“Dirty Old Town” is dedicated to MacGoll’s hometown Salford in England and was originally planned to be part of a play – before pub lovers discovered its potential to be one of the best Irish drinking songs.
3. I Tell Me Ma (Van Morrison and The Chieftains) – an easy song to sing along to
Originally an English children’s song, this 19th-century-track honours “The Belle of Belfast” but has been adapted to pretty much every city known in Ireland since.
There are versions by Sinead O’Connor, Sham Rock and Ronnie Drew among others but the most popular one is by Van Morrison and The Chieftains. This is an easy song to join in even when you are not familiar with the lyrics. Just tap your drink on the bar or stomp the floor on the count of “one, two, three”.
2. Whiskey in the Jar (The Dubliners) – telling the story of a man betrayed by his wife or lover
The popular drinking song is set in the south-west of Ireland and tells the story of a man who is betrayed by his wife or lover. “Whiskey in the Jar” rose to fame when The Dubliners recorded it in the 1960s and has since been reinvented by the likes of Thin Lizzy and Metallica.
The traditional version involves the whole pub clapping, tapping their feet to the beat and rapping their pints on the bar before singing “Whack for my Daddy, oh, there’s whiskey in the jar.”
1. The Wild Rover (The Pogues) – ironically about a man trying to stay sober
The most popular pub sing-along – and our winner of the best Irish drinking songs – is ironically about a man trying to stay sober after years of binge drinking. This tiny detail, however, doesn’t stop pub goers around the country from chanting “No, nay, never… No, nay, never, no more” every night of the week.
“The Wild Rover” has been around since the late 16th century and has been covered by more performers than any other traditional Irish tune. If you only learn one drinking song, make sure it’s this one!