One of my favorite holidays is coming up. St Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate everything Irish.
The Irish have always had a fond spot in my heart. I love their stories of fighting for independence, the famous culture of enjoying life and enjoying friends is a great example for all of us.
Being the home country of whiskey is a whole other matter. Back in the 800s, an enterprising monk discovered ways to distill whiskey. From the humble beginnings in the quaint countrysides of Ireland has evolved a worldwide phenomena of whiskey flavors and tastes. Even the word whiskey comes from the Gaelic term “uisce beatha” translated as “Water of Life.”
Irish whiskey is unique to the world because of its soft flavors and double, if not triple distillations. Irish whiskey is distilled mostly from rye corn, and barley. It is aged in second-run barrels from primarily Spain and the United State. The Spanish barrels are typically sherry barrels that impart a subtle sweetness to most Irish whiskeys.
There are two distinct ways that Irish whiskey is made: column distillation and pot still. Column distillation is a method that allows a large and continuous distillation to ramp up production to meet demand. Pot still distills a little more hand-crafted product, and produces a whiskey that is intense and more flavorful.
Whiskeys like Jameson are blends of both products. This gives it the rich and still smooth flavors we love. There is no peat used in the production of most Irish whiskey — that is one of the main differences between Irish and Scotch whiskeys.
Whereas Scotch has heavy peat and campfire aromas and flavors, Irish whiskey has a soft, delicate aroma that lends itself to great sipping or great cocktails. For a simple Irish cocktail, try Irish whiskey with ginger ale. Or, if you are a little adventurous and want to try a real cocktail, try a green-eyed Ginger: two parts Irish whiskey, one part Midori melon liqueur and ginger ale. Pour in that order in a tall glass and garnish with lemon and lime.
You can’t talk about Irish drinks without bringing up Baileys Irish Cream. A worldwide favorite, Baileys is unique in its rich decadent, creamy mouth feel. The robust flavors of chocolate and cream roll over the taste buds and deliver a smooth satisfaction that is the perfect after-dinner drink.
Baileys is made with real Irish whiskey and real heavy Irish dairy cream. Its unique recipe and excellent ingredients allow Baileys to be one of the few cream liqueurs that won’t curdle when added with other liquor. Try Bailey’s neat or on the rocks for the rich sensation. Or make a martini using Baileys and vodka.
Last March I had the opportunity to visit the famed Guinness Storehouse in downtown Dublin. Dublin is a beautiful city that combines the charm of Old World Europe but is still modern in its sensibility and hospitality. The Guinness brewery is a huge facility that dominates the skyline. Their sky bar is one of the highest points in Dublin, and you can see all directions of the beautiful city while savoring a rich creamy Guinness stout.
Guinness has been brewed since 1759. Arthur Guinness was the proprietor and he signed a 9,000-year lease on the land where the brewery sits. They are a pretty stable company!
Where many of us think that Guinness is a rich, black foreboding drink, it is actually a deep ruby red in color and is silky smooth and flavorful. I love the Nitro Guinness. Treat yourself to eight-pack of Guinness cans, get it ice cold, find a nice pint glass and get to work. The nitro in the cans of Guinness really replicates the smooth flavors you get from the famed nitrogen taps in virtually every Irish pub.
Guinness alone is awesome, but for a real treat make yourself a Half and Half. Some of you may know it as a Black and Tan. I learned never to call it black and tan because that was the slang term for the British expeditionary force that tried to prevent Ireland becoming a free republic in the early 20th century. We all have to be PC sometimes!
A Half and Half is made with lager and Guinness stout. Take a light lager like Harp or Smithwick’s and pour half a pint glass. Then hold a spoon over the glass. Slowly pour your Guinness stout over the spoon, allowing the beer to tantalizingly flow down the side of the glass. Patience is key. If you do it right you will have a beautiful pint that is a lighter hue on the bottom and rich dark colors on the top.
When you finally take the glass to your mouth you fell the silky creaminess of the Guinness, then the slight bracing hops of the lager will hit your taste buds and you have an explosion of flavors. It is awesome!
A final favorite Irish drinking quote: Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold beer and another one.