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'When someone walks through the door, they forget where they are': Inside Galway's most innovative cocktail bar

The America Village Apothecary and Tasting Room aims to change the way we think about cocktails.

‘APOTHECARY’ IS ONE of those words you don’t hear very often. When I ask Claire Davey why she chose it, she says it was evocative, a way to get people’s attention.

“While we’re not medicinal herbalists or old style chemists, it was kind of a play on words,” she says. “Because we’re still kind of doing that, connecting people with nature and plant life.”

Davey has been a native of America Village (or Bhaile Mheiriceá) in North Connemara for over a decade. In 2013, she began supplying the Michelin star restaurant Loam with a rotating selection of cocktails made from natural ingredients found in Connemara. It was all part of her mission to improve the quality of the things we drink on a night out.

“I’m very passionate about what people are drinking. Good drink is as important as a good meal,” she says. “While people have become more conscious about the farm-to-fork movement, they’ll go to a pub and not know what they’re drinking. It’s about both environmental footprint and the quality of the ingredients for me. Why import lots of produce when we have quality products here that can be used?”

Gradually, America Village Apothecary’s drinks were being sold in bars and shops around Ireland and London. People began asking Davey if she had her own space where they could purchase the natural bitters and tonics and try some of the cocktails. When she saw a shop on Dominick Street that had been vacant for years, she knew that she had found a home for America Village Apothecary & Tasting Room.

Soon after, Davey began designing the fit-out. The shop was a protected structure, which meant that the front of the shop had to be restored to its former glory. That was fine for Davey, who had fallen in love with the glass façade that recalled storefronts from the 1920s and 1930s.

“I didn’t want a bar, I wanted a tasting room. Something that was intimate, relaxed and not like anything that really exists,” she explains. “I wanted to keep it simple. A long counter with shelves behind it, high stools, a bit like the old welcoming country stores, because we’re also retailing our products here.”

“What I want when someone walks through the door is that they forget where they are” she continues. “They’re suddenly in America Village. The scent of the place is really important to me. We dehydrate the plants in the shop so the people smell all the plants and herbs when they come in.”

Davey sees the America Village Apothecary & Tasting Room as a way for people to reconnect with nature in a gradual, fun way. In addition to serving a gorgeous array of cocktails, Davey also holds workshops to teach people how to incorporate natural ingredients into their own cocktails.

“We’ve removed ourselves from a lot of the natural world in the last 50 years, but we’re starting to seek it out again. There’s a need within people I think,” she says. “The thing is, it can be a bit of an effort for us. We want to go out into nature but we don’t always want to go for a 20 mile hike or a 5 mile walk. So we’re kind of sneaking it in there a bit. I like the idea of doing that.”

It’s only been 14 months since Davey opened, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. All the while, she keeps formulating ways to improve the tasting room; from next month onwards, all alcohol served will be certified organic, and the hope is that within the next two years, all alcohol served in the Tasting Room would be made in-house.

“I’m very passionate about the future of our communities, that we use as much local produce in our drinks as possible,” she says. “It’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible. It’s just about being innovative and making the effort.”

More: ‘Fans started knocking on the door’: How the namesake pub of blues legend Rory Gallagher was reborn>

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