You can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a menu of Irish-American traditional menu items from Corned Beef & Cabbage to Ruebens to Irish Soda Bread.
You can also explore the new Irish cuisine that, not unlike other national cuisines, hews to its re-discovered homegrown roots to arrive at a robust, hallowed locavore tradition. (See this Examiner’s previous Gaelic food news report: Irish food is not what you think: http://www.examiner.com/article/irish-cuisine-is-not-what-you-think)
But let’s face it.
St. Patrick’s Day is really about the adoration of celebrating the party and mainly: the Drink.
And not just beer. Or Baileys.
So, if your Irish drink menu is bookended with these two St. Patrick’s Day stalwarts, read on.
This Examiner researched and tested a few drink recipes to enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day.
Besides, there is an innate respect for the Emerald Isle on the part of this Examiner: a maternal grandparent – couple of “greats” ago, arrived in Boston – prior to the potato famine, so we were more readily able to link to Ida, according to the research genealogists.
In addition, I wrote the speech for the Grand Marshal of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade some years ago – he was from Guinness – and as part of the speech research, learned so much about Irish American history and the fascinating and unsettling connections that bind us…
There’s a wee bit of Irish in all on St. Patrick’s Day – so let’s get to the party ingredients.
“Wort” is Whisky
What’s that? Don’t know your Irish from your Scotch whisky?
According to the Whisky Advocate, whiskey is made from grain, which is what distinguished it from other distilled beverages that are made from fruit, including grapes.
They say, “Whiskey is nothing more than distilled beer.”
The circle of life!
“Like beer, malted barley grains are the source of the sugars necessary for fermentation. The sugars in the grain are released by steeping it in hot water. This sweet liquid, is known as “Wort.”
In short, to make whiskey from beer, it must be distilled…
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” by David A. Embury.
It is aged in oak barrels where it matures and becomes whiskey – spirituous liquor made from grain—primarily from barley. Irish whiskey uses about 40 to 100% barley malt: this barley that has been moistened, allowed to sprout and then kiln-dried.
Irish whiskeys lack the smoky taste of Scotch. The reason is that in Scotland, the barley malt is dried in kilns with a porous floor directly above peat fires. The heavy, aromatic peat smoke swirls around the most grain and “drinks up” the smokey flavor.
Just like bacon does from a smokehouse.
There are two types of Irish whiskey: pot-still made entirely from malted barley and a blend of mallet whiskey with grain whiskey –usually barley but also sometimes wheat, oats, or rye.
Embury believed Irish is infinitely superior to Scotch. According to Embury, “One of the tragedies of our disgraceful prohibition era is the fact that, while our country was deluged Scotch, both genuine and synthetic, and with Canadian, there was practically no Irish. Our citizens therefore, learned to like (or think they liked) Scotch and Canadian but I venture to guess that not one out of a thousand even knows what Irish tastes like.”
The types of grain used, the distillation method and the casks are what make whiskeys taste different.
In contrast to Scotch whisky production, there are only a handful of working Irish distilleries
Further, “When comparing the differences between Irish whiskey to Scotch whisky, people will often say that the difference is that Irish whiskey is distilled three times (producing a lighter flavor), while scotch is only distilled twice. The other argument is that Irish whiskey is not smoky, and Scotch whisky is.
Irish whiskeys, like Jameson, contain “single pot still” whiskey. Single pot still whiskey is unique to Ireland. Unlike single malt scotch that is made from malted barley, single pot still whiskey comes from malted and unmalted barley that gives many Irish whiskeys their distinctive flavor.”
Curiously, in this Examiner’s taste testing, the Jameson flavor was more pronounced despite the increased layers of distillation.
It was almost – daresay – a bit “turpentine-y” or “plastic-y.”
Nevertheless, here are some exciting, fun Irish whiskey-based cocktail recipes to add variety and depth to the St. Patrick’s Day parties – whether entertaining at home or to more fully embrace the celebration at your favorite tavern and bar.
And to challenge the cocktail mixologists…
Cocktail recipes of yore were so much more varied than todays rather monoculture of bar choices.
Most intriguing also is that different cocktails require their own special glass vs. today’s rather one-size-fits-all glassware…
These Irish whiskey-based cocktails were researched from an authentic, rather musty, antique book, published in 1948: “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” by Embury.
The index listed ten Irish cocktails:
· Irish Coffee
· Irish Collins
· Irish Highball
· Irish Milk Punch
· Irish Mist
· Irish Rickey
· Irish Sling
· Irish Toddy
· Irish Puff
· Isle of Pines (End of dinner hot drink – see Irish Coffee. Embury writes, “The Irish Coffee has attainted great popularity in a number of New York restaurants.”
That popularity has only grown – exponentially.
The Irish Sling is very refreshing. The Irish Puff is pretty delicious.
This Food & Drink Examiner uses homemade charged water as part of the home bar set up, so it was rather easy to make many of the cocktails. Get one if you don’t already have it – it will save time and money and is a classy addition to the home bar.
Also, one should have Simple Syrup on hand, as a bar staple.
Simple Syrup/Sugar Syrup
Equal parts sugar and water (a cup is a good metric to start with), bring to boil, cool.
1 teaspoonful Sugar Syrup
2 teaspoonfuls lemon juice
3 ounces of Irish Whiskey
Combine in a goblet or large highball glass. Fill the glass with chilled, charged water for a cold Sling – or with boiling water for a hot Sling. Some recipes omit the lemon juice. Others omit both the lemon juice and sugar and use a few dashes of Angostura. Some recipes also call for dusting the top with nutmeg.
The Puff is a combination milk and soda punch. (And who doesn't love just saying, "Irish Puff?!")
Mix equal parts Irish whiskey and Sweet Milk (can use condensed milk or milk with honey) in a shaker, strain into a glass and top with charged water – preferably from a siphon. Stir quickly and serve.
All true Rickeys are made with limes – never with lemons.
The Rickey is usually served in an 8-ounces or smaller glass.
Juice of 1 small or ½ large lime
2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 Tsp. Sugar Syrup
Stir together in the glass, add 2 large ice cubes, fill the glass with charged water, stir again, and serve with stirring rod.
To be “sipped over a long period of time (such as the bridge table- be sure to use plenty of ice) Nothing more insipid than a lukewarm drink”!
In a six ounce glass mix:
1.5 ounces Irish whiskey
1 large ice cube
Fill glass to brim with charged water/carbonated beverage
Jigger of Irish whiskey blended in the cup or mug with sugar to taste, hot coffee is added to within about a half inch from the top, and then extra-heavy – even clotted cream – or whipped cream is floated gently on top.
From “The Cocktail, 300 Fabulous Drinks,” Jane Rocca: http://www.amazon.com/The-Cocktail-200-Fabulous-Drinks/dp/1585425362
Irish Car Bomb
In a pilsner glass mix:
½ ounce Baileys Irish Cream
½ ounce Irish whiskey
14 ounce Guinness Stout
Pour Baileys into a shot glass and layer whiskey on top. Pour Guinness into a pilsner glass and lest settle. Drop the shot glass into the Guinness and chug. If you don’t drink this quickly it will curdle and taste horrible.
Slainte! -- In Gaelic it means Cheers and Good Health.
Erin Go Braugh – Ireland Forever.
Graim Thu – I love you. (Could come in handy)