Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us, but the customary pub crawls will surely be fewer, and the throngs of shamrock-covered partygoers will likely be much smaller. Still, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday properly from the comfort of your own home or a socially-distanced get-together. At least then you don’t have to worry about a stranger pinching you if you aren’t wearing green. Wear whatever color you like! And trade in the food colored beers for these new Irish whiskeys and whiskey-based cocktails. You’ll thank me the next morning. I think.
Saint Patrick wasn’t even Irish (technically British), but he brought Christianity to the island, and the feast day that began in his honor received a crucial Lenten dispensation on food and alcohol consumption that has forever linked the holiday to copious celebratory drinking. At those early celebrations centuries ago, you can bet they consumed plenty of whiskey, or aqua vitae as it was known. After all, the Irish most likely invented the stuff. In more recent times, Irish whiskey has seen something of a renaissance in global popularity, but its producers hadn’t quite kept pace with their American and Scottish competitors when it came to options. Now they’re making up for lost time with a dizzying number of new releases landing on our shores. Read on for a few you should try this Saint Patrick’s Day.
Glendalough Pot Still
Glendalough’s Pot Still whiskey is all about the oak. It is distilled using traditional pot stills at the distillery in Wicklow, just south of Dublin, but after aging in ex-bourbon casks, this whiskey is finished in Virgin Irish oak, considered the rarest of all cask types due to the rarity of forests on the island. The label on the bottle even lists the specific tree used to make the finishing cask. While many Irish whiskeys cut a rather delicate profile, Glendalough Pot Still showcases big, bold notes of toasted oak, baking spice, and vanilla, flavors and aromas largely attributed to the Irish oak. To show their appreciation and dedication to woodland conservation, Glendalough is planting a tree near the distillery for each bottle sold through the end of the month.
Dingle Single Malt Batch No. 5
That other island to the east may be synonymous with single malts, but Irish producers make their fair share. While some of its neighbors have been producing that style of whiskey for centuries, Dingle Distillery, in County Kerry on Ireland’s southwest coast, only just began in 2012. But don’t let their relative youth deceive you. The distillery is already turning out some truly exceptional Irish whiskey like this single malt, their fifth release to date, comprised of whiskeys aged in bourbon, Pedro Ximenez, and Madeira wine casks. That cask combination creates a whiskey bursting with unique flavors of juicy raisin, salted caramel, dried apricot, and whole vanilla bean.
Roe & Co.
This blended Irish whiskey, produced in the heart of Dublin, is named for celebrated Irish whiskey-maker George Roe and was selected from over 100 different prototype blends for its unique ability to work well in cocktails (read on for some of those!). Roe & Co. is a blend of single malt and grain whiskeys matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. It’s an extremely approachable Irish whiskey and surprisingly versatile. On the nose, Roe & Co. is creamy and fragrant with oak and vanilla custard while the palate offers up brighter, candied vanilla notes along with baked pears and a gentle spice.
Powers John’s Lane
If you’re looking to drink like an Irishman, or at least drink what the Irish drink, look no further than Powers. For a long time, Powers has been one of the favored brands of Irish whiskey inside Ireland, and the whole lineup recently received some handsome new packaging. The John’s Lane Release is named for the original John’s Lane Distillery that made Powers back in the late 18th century, and it is a single pot still whiskey, the only style of whiskey exclusive to Ireland and distilled from a mash of both malted and unmalted barley. John’s Lane has that characteristic single pot still spice but with a rounded and silky profile, exceptional balance, and showcases notes of honey, orchard fruits, and a touch of dark berries.
Irish Whiskey Cocktails
We’ve all improved our at-home bartending over the last year. So, what better time than Saint Patrick’s Day to show off your newfound mixology skills to your family pod, newly vaccinated friends, or maybe just the dog. A great cocktail doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when using quality ingredients like an exceptional Irish whiskey. Read on for a few quick and easy Irish whiskey cocktails to try this month.
Irish Old Fashioned
Created by Killian Lee
The Old Fashioned is perhaps the most classic of American cocktails. As such, it may seem blasphemous to use a non-American whiskey as its foundation. Irish whiskey, however, was very popular in America in the late 1800s, not long after the drink was invented, so it’s fair to assume that some of the earliest Old Fashioned cocktails may have been of the Irish variety. This classic recipe, courtesy of Jameson’s, uses their extra-aged Black Barrel whiskey. To amplify the drink’s rich, malty sweetness, replace the simple syrup with Benedictine.
2 oz. Jameson Black Barrel whiskey
.75 oz. Bénédictine liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a glass over ice and garnish with an expressed orange peel.
Iced Irish Coffee
Recipe Courtesy of Tullamore Dew
The Irish Coffee, probably the most well-known Irish whiskey cocktail, is often considered to be exclusively an after-dinner drink. While a classic and tasty tipple, it’s served hot, which tends to limit its versatility in the eyes of the cocktail drinker. The good whiskey-makers at Tullamore Dew may have found a solution to that problem with their Iced Irish Coffee recipe. It is sweeter than the original, but also more complex, with the addition of Bailey’s and simple syrup (you can remove that last one and add more coffee to reign in the sweetness a bit). Plus, the use of espresso instead of brewed coffee makes this take on the classic even more appropriate for happy hour.
1.5 oz. Tullamore Dew
.75 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 shot of espresso
.25 oz. simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake over ice until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with a mint sprig.
Pot Still Highball
Recipe Courtesy of Glendalough
It doesn’t get much simpler than a highball, and, like the Old Fashioned, there’s a good chance plenty of Irish whiskey found its way into this classic cocktail ages ago. With no added sweetening ingredients, save the whiskey itself, this drink tends to be on the drier side compared to most cocktails. While Glendalough’s enjoyable Pot Still Whiskey adds a spicy, vanilla element, the garnishes here contribute significantly to the cocktail, as well, with the mint and grapefruit skin (I recommend a large slice) enhancing the subtler aromatics in the whiskey.
2 oz. Glendalough Pot Still whiskey
4 oz. soda water
Grapefruit skin and mint sprig for garnish
Combine whiskey and soda over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a grapefruit skin and a slapped mint sprig (to release the aromatics).
Recipe by Jacob Grier
If the classics above seem too tried-and-true for this Saint Patrick’s Day, this cocktail should appeal to any adventurous home mixologist. Created by Portland bartender Jacob Grier in honor of his Irish grandmother, The Massey cocktail isn’t complicated, but it does require a well-stocked bar cabinet. The mix of Irish whiskey (Roe & Co. recommended), gin, Chartreuse, and Campari makes this one a real top shelf mash-up, but the flavors work surprisingly well to create a bright and herbal cocktail that you can enjoy during the chilly, festive days of March all the way into summertime. To keep this one appropriately Irish, try using an Irish gin like Glendalough’s Wild Gin.
1 oz. Roe & Co.
1 oz. Glendalough Wild gin
.75 oz. sweet vermouth
.25 oz. Green Chartreuce
Splash of Campari
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass over ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an orange twist.