“You always meet people, you always have fun, and there is just something about an Irish pub,” says Ann Fink-Nelson, one of the many owners of McGinley’s Irish Pub in downtown Anchorage. “There are nine of us, my brother, my sister, myself, Dan and his brother, a construction guy, a Merrill Lynch guy, Dick, Jack, quite the mix. The inspiration was an Irish pub, which is a fun, community, public house.”
It was that sense of community that served as the inspiration for the restaurant pub, inspiration that Fink-Nelson has experienced first-hand when she travels abroad. “If you are looking for someone in Ireland, which I once was, I called the church and the priest told me to call the pub,” she said. “It’s a community place.”
Of course, the pub is a hit on St Patrick’s Day, but the McGinley’s team is also proud to have never charged a cover during other celebrations, either. This tradition goes all the way back to their very first New Year’s Eve party where they were not sure if a new place could have a successful night while not charging the inflated door charges most bars have on December 31st.
McGinley’s opened in early October of 2006 and has remained a favorite place for downtown revelry, not just on holidays, but throughout the year. Outside of the traditional food and drink, Fink-Nelson and the others wanted to make sure that the rest of the experience was true as well. While they offer trivia on Wednesdays and live music every Saturday, the jam sessions on Thursday are the most authentic to the brand. “The Irish sessions were started by John Walsh who is from Dublin originally,” Fink-Nelson said. “He got it going, and there is a website that Irish musicians know about that you can go to and find a session anywhere around the world. It’s acoustic, they gather, they sing and play music. It’s a really important essence of the pub.”
This year, thanks to the ingenuity and collaboration between general manager Audrey Williams and bartender Brendan Hulegaard, the pub will also be taking part in celebrations of an unofficial holiday — April 20th, or 420, the a day celebrated by those who like to participate in cannabis consumption.
There are several stories about why 420 became a thing in weed culture, ranging from a reference to police code, or the number of chemical compounds in pot, but the most likely story is that the code came about in 1971 as a way for a group of high school friends to refer to their pot-related activities. This story was eventually used on a flyer that was passed out at a Grateful Dead concert and the story eventually made its way to High Times magazine, which published an article about it.
Williams came up with the concept of serving cocktails in bong-shaped glassware in celebration of the day.
“A couple weeks ago I pitched it to Brendan, and we just started working with it, and working with cocktails. He started creating names and cocktail creations. I started hitting the pavement to find the glass, and that was the hardest part,” Williams said. “People in town really couldn’t support what we needed as far as quantity and what we were looking for. It all came together just a few days ago.”
Part of that ‘hitting the pavement’ meant that Williams was able to get to know a lot of members of the cannabis trade. “The cannabis community has been super-excited and really involved,” she said. “I have worked with multiple glass places in town that have given me different recommendations for places they had worked with. They are excited about the whole event.”
The connections all led to the pub also being able to work with some other downtown businesses in preparation. “We are working closely with Great Northern Cannabis and their Wheel of Deals,” Williams said. “They have been excited about cross promoting. It really feels like in is bringing the communities together. I was inspired by their professionalism and how much they wanted to help it work.”
Getting to know other businesses in the downtown area is something that Williams thinks is important in the current economy, especially in light of recent political moves that could be devastating to the liquor industry. Williams has been at McGinley’s for about a year and a half and says, “You know that downtown has been struggling with our market, and pulling people in. It’s been tough. It’s been good. As downtown bar people we have all pulled together. It’s not me against Humpy’s, it’s not me against Pio. It has become what can we all do to stimulate the economy and bring people back down here. That is a lot of what inspired this also. What can we do to bring some attention?”
Hulegaard has only been at McGinley’s since November of last year, even though he has been bartending since he was 21. A self-proclaimed “Whiskey Nerd”, he loves the selection that he gets to play with at the pub and feels like he has found the place where he fits. “I have really enjoyed it, and I feel like I have really become part of the team here. Audrey and I work really well together, and I feel like McGinley’s is on its way to do something really special soon.”
The young bartender has used several different styles of mixology and cocktail creation to make the five different offerings that are available, and while they are not marijuana infused, the names alone are obviously very marijuana inspired. Hulegaard happily described each one of the Deep Eddy Vodka sponsored drinks.
The Pineapple Express- Deep Eddy vodka, Pineapple juice, and Prosecco. The simplest and most straightforward of the drinks. Sweet and dry, with some bubbles for fun.
Grandaddy Purp- named after the age-old marijuana strain. We got some Butterfly Tea from local spice shop and we infused Bombay gin with that tea and turn it that vibrant purple color and make it a little more botanical. We did that with a little bit of triple sec, lime juice, and a blueberry simple syrup. We top that with some tonic water and it’s that vibrant color, but also delicious.
Bong Water- A play on a Dark and Stormy. It’s Krakken Spiced Rum, Lemon juice, ginger beer, the blueberry simple syrup, and Guinness. It resembles heavily used bong water but tastes nothing like that.
Wet your Willie Nelson- A play on a classic Stiletto Manhattan we are featuring Bulleit Rye, Disaronno amaretto, angostura bitters with an orange peel. The plan is to smoke that drink to resemble an actual bong!
Liquid Mary Jane- You can’t do Bong-tails without this one! Midori, Captain Morgan, Malibu, with a touch of Blue Curacao and juices.
For the event McGinley’s was able to secure a limited amount of the special glasses that will be used for the five featured cocktails, and while they aren’t necessary to enjoy the Bong-tails, they will make it a more fun experience. There will be measure in place to make sure that nobody “accidentally” leaves with them, but the staff hopes that nobody would. It just wouldn’t be kind, bud.