From Ireland, With Love (and Guinness)

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In the fall of 2017, James Walsh, Ray Burns and Jim McCourt opened Prohibition, four years after introducing their first location in Charleston. While its owners are all Irish, Prohibition is a far cry from the average Irish pub. As its name suggests, the space is full of old-world charm: weathered barn wood, filament lighting and ample booths in rich burgundy leather. The menu is equally cozy, featuring dishes like seared foie gras, grilled ribeye and roasted Brussels sprouts in a chile-lime sauce. Here, McCourt, the beverage director, on the food, the drinks and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day.

Jim McCourt inside Prohibition. Photo by Parker Stewart

On Prohibition’s origin story:
James, Ray and I are all from Belfast, but we didn’t meet until we were living in New York and working for the same bar group. In 2013, James moved to Charleston to open Prohibition and invited Ray and me to join. We were all fascinated with the world of cocktails but we wanted this place to be more than a bar. Prohibition is casual, yet with an unexpected selection of food and drink. We knew we wanted a second location and were drawn to Savannah all along. Chef Greg Garrison now oversees the menus at both locations. We made him a partner when we opened Savannah in 2017. He’s from New York, but we adopted him as Irish.

On honoring their Irish roots:
We weren’t interested in doing a cliché Irish pub with shamrocks and leprechauns, but we wanted to give a nod to our heritage, specifically with our whiskey selection. The Charleston location has the largest range of Irish whiskeys in the South—80 or 90 of them, and that’s not including bourbon or scotch. We’ll get to that point here in Savannah, but it might take another six months to build up the collection.

On Savannah versus Charleston:
If they’re sister cities, I think Savannah is the fun sister—a little more gritty, with a little more edge. Savannah has a wild side, and I love that.

On their reputation for cocktails:
We want Prohibition to be a place where someone can go and know they can get a Ramos Gin Fizz done correctly, or an old-fashioned or a margarita. Beginning in March, our drink menu will expand to include about 50 cocktails, along with a seasonal menu of about 10 additional cocktails that will change every month.

On the food menu:
We describe the food as modern, American and Southern. We source fresh ingredients from local farmers and try to be as seasonal as we can. We offer small snacks for when you just want something with your drink, but also do a tremendous five-course tasting menu that’s always changing.

On a proper Irish meal:
I’m partial to a good Ulster fry. It’s like an Irish breakfast on steroids: sausage, bacon, black pudding, white pudding, eggs, beans, fried potato bread, fried soda bread, pancakes, mushrooms. It’s how I always start my St. Patrick’s Day—it holds me right through.

On doing St. Patrick’s Day right:
You have to drink Guinness, obviously. And I’ve got to say, we pour the best pint of Guinness in Savannah. We’ve got a brand-new draft system, and we’ve done a lot of tweaking on the gas mixes. Our lines are kept super clean and our bartenders know how to pour. I’ve been doing it for a really long time. My mother was a bartender and there’s a photo of us when I was one year old—she’s holding me in her arms and I’m helping her pour.