Please Don’t Order a Black and Tan in Ireland

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, we are inundated with all things Irish, and because Guinness Stout is the quintessential Irish beer, we are also bombarded with all things Guinness.

One thing made with Guinness that is not Irish is the Black and Tan. Unless you have been living under a rock, a Black and Tan is beer cocktail made with half Guinness and half Bass Ale, where the Guinness floats on top of the Bass. This simple drink can be seen as a metaphor for many things Irish and English; they don’t mix. An Irish folksong as case in point:

Come Out Ye Black and Tans

I was born on a Dublin street where the royal drums did beat
And the loving English feet walked all over us,
And every single night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbors outside with this chorus:

(chorus) Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell her how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra.

Although associated with St. Patrick’s Day in the US as one of its two ingredients is Guinness, do not order a Black and Tan in Ireland.

Black and Tans is the nickname given to the British paramilitary force, largely made up of English WWI veterans, formed to suppress the Irish Independence movement in 1920 and 1921. The Black and Tans employed brutal tactics in an attempt suppress the Irish Republican Army’s guerilla war, massacring civilians and burning Irish towns. They were called the “Black and Tans” due their khaki military trousers and darker police uniform shirts.

As a result of their mistreatment of the Irish people, Black and Tan is pejorative term in Ireland and calling someone a Black and Tan is an insult. Ordering a Black and Tan in a pub in Ireland with an American accent might not be taken as insult, but would certainly be considered quite culturally ignorant. To bring it back home, ordering a Black and Tan in today’s Ireland would be like ordering a Red Coat in early 19th century America.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, order a Half and Half instead. Similar to a Black and Tan, it is half Guinness Stout and half Harp Lager, making it all Irish.

[techtags:BLACK AND TAN, HALF AND HALF, BLACK AND TANS, ST. PATRICK’S DAY, DRINK RECIPES, BLACK AND TAN HISTORY]

30 Comments

  • Hannah March 13, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Wow, Pete, I never knew!

    • Tvlee767 June 1, 2017 @ 12:10am

      ANgela’s ashes,by Frank.Mcourt ,really moved my heart. The story was sad and funny to heart breaking, worth reading.

      • Mary August 14, 2017 @ 12:01am

        I see revisionist history is alive and well- especially on the internet- so how will anyone learn the truth??! My Grandpop was a 3 yo in Galway, Ireland when the Black and Tan (England’s insane and prisoners), not the RIC as noted, shot up his one- room school room ( I collected pieces of shot- up blackboard) hence today we are American of Irish Catholic descent!!!

  • Zhang Kun May 17, 2009 @ 11:02am

    This is very helpful information, since I am translating an Irish novel into Chinese and came across the phrase “Black and Tan”.
    Thank you very much.

  • Hannah May 18, 2009 @ 8:20am

    Good luck in your endeavors, Zhang. Glad we could help!

  • Jim February 3, 2011 @ 9:22pm

    Reportedly the brits also pressed their military criminals into the unit.

  • Chris July 4, 2011 @ 10:16am

    I cant believe its Guiness and Harp in the mix..DO NOT ORDER IT IN IRELAND! expect to get a punch if you order it around an Irsh person! and i think if you have any respect dont order it at all! They burned our houses and raped our wives!

    • bobby sands September 26, 2016 @ 4:31pm

      you bog trotters never stop whinging….god save the queen

    • Lord hehaw January 8, 2019 @ 5:38pm

      Utter shite

  • Michael August 2, 2011 @ 7:05pm

    I wish I had read this post before my recent trip to Ireland. It would have avoided an embarrassing moment. For more read on what happened read: http://www.changesinlongitude.com/2011/07/order-black-and-tan-irish-pub-ireland-dublin/

  • Diane February 21, 2016 @ 11:59am

    Unfortunately my grandmother told us a few stories from her youth in Ireland. And it was before 1920, Black & Tans walking down the roads in her village. I am sure there was a lot she left out but the stories were never good. She left in 1920 for America, she was 19

  • Sb April 2, 2016 @ 6:28pm

    We ordered them in Ireland(Killarney) and had no problem, dont believe everything you read on the internet!

  • Scott Munroe June 11, 2016 @ 7:57pm

    Don’t plan any trips to Ireland, anyway. I love black and tans, and I love Guinness. I enjoy the freedom, too.

    • Jen March 31, 2019 @ 5:22am

      People get offended over all sorts. There’s a great cocktail that I love, comes with sparklers and two large straws. Some snowflake Americans cry when you order a Twin Towers though.

  • Ed Sjolin June 29, 2016 @ 5:43pm

    I have always considered myself an alternative Irishman. After all, my Scandinavian ancestors brought red hair and freckles south. As I was growing up in a horse-training town, I was exposed to quite a few Irish steeplechase jocks and through their good graces, I was warned before my first trip to Ireland. A lovely country and a lovely people.

  • Warren February 19, 2017 @ 1:06pm

    Unfortunately, Guinness and Harp have closely similar specific gravities, and trying to get a good separation is very difficult. They usually blend together, resulting in more of a porter… it is still tasty (Harp is one of my favorites.. they call it an authentic Pilsner Lager)

    • Rick Holmes January 24, 2018 @ 8:16pm

      I do my best to support the Independence of Northern Ireland. I do like my half and halfs. I use Harp when I can get it. Costco sells a mixed case which actually has the “recipe” for the half and half on the box. It can be poured successfully with care. When I don’t have Harp, I use Molsen Canadian and make a half and half eh.

  • Lindsay July 6, 2017 @ 10:00pm

    I was just told off by my Irish colleague for asking if he’d like a Black & Tan. I hit google to find out what was so upsetting about this. I now see the error of my ways!!

    • Brian July 15, 2017 @ 4:55pm

      Lol. Didn’t this end a bit ago? He shouldn’t be so sour anymore.

      • JHelen March 31, 2018 @ 1:16pm

        Have you seen the rage still in Southern states over the ‘war of northern aggression’ aka the Civil War in the US. Ireland has been a free country for only 100 years. The English destroyed their amazing and civilized culture, stole their land and wealth, enslaved their people (including in the US… irish were sold into slavery and treated worse than the negro slaves)… There is still a great deal of anger and pain, and people who’ve heard stories from those who lived them.

      • Danny boy February 26, 2019 @ 4:19pm

        The struggle is still very real. And a new younger generation of the IRA have been gaining numbers and are very well organized.

  • Harry Allen July 23, 2017 @ 9:17pm

    Damn, glad I now know better in case I ever make it over to the Auld Sod.
    Always made mine with Guineas and Harps Lager.
    Now Oirter and whatever brown or amber ale is available.

  • John August 14, 2017 @ 4:29pm

    I was raised in Ireland and bartended there as an adult. I am surprised to see all the comments where Irish people became upset by being asked for/offered a Black & Tan as a drink. I mixed plenty of them in my day! All Irish people are very aware of the atrocities committed by the Black & Tans but I personally never knew anyone to get upset by associating it with the drink. Where I worked, Dublin, Tipperary & Clare a “Black & Tan” drink was Guinness and Smithwicks or Bass. Any brown ale. It differs around the country and I have even heard Guinness and Harp, although that was a “Half & Half” in my stomping grounds.

  • Patricia Hartman September 20, 2017 @ 9:01am

    I unfortunately made this mistake last week and I was in Ireland. I never cared for Guinness in the states so I would always order a black and tan. Our bartender in Galway was very sweet about

  • Patricia Hartman September 20, 2017 @ 9:03am

    About not embarrassing me. I really wish that they Ireland guide books such as Rick Steves would mention this. BTW the Guinness in Ireland is so much better than in the states, I am now a lover of Guinness

  • Michael Broland November 14, 2017 @ 9:39am

    The black and tans I learn to drink we’re Irish on Irish Guinness over harp.
    Might still not be in true Irish concoction but a little more palatable to a patriot.
    Nowadays what is very fashionable at bars is ordering a blacksmith…
    Guinness over smithwick’s, again Irish Over Irish for The Patriot.
    Mini bars not carrying smithwick’s however we’ll make it with whatever red beer they have

  • John Nash March 17, 2018 @ 2:49am

    Sounds similar to the warning never to put your empty beer glass upside down on the table. It is said to mean that you are ready to take on any one in the house in a brue ha ha .

  • patric March 17, 2018 @ 3:01pm

    In Ireland this past summer, every night I ordered a pint of Guinness with black currant juice or creme de cassis. I never said black and tan.
    Some nights I ordered 2, 3 or 4!!!
    Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh or Happy St. Paddy’s Day to all!

  • Ty Neweiner July 5, 2018 @ 4:33pm

    Cant we all just get along. As an American i can look past the british stupidity of coming to America. After the @$$ my ancestors kicked out of our Country. I harbor mo grudge. LoL ,,,,{°¿°},,,,
    ,,,,{°¿°},,,, lmao

  • Isho July 14, 2018 @ 1:01am

    I’m watching a Twilight Zone (the Bard) and the character says “this’ll go down like a Black and Tan at an IRA picnic”. I had to look that up. Thanks for the insight.

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