Let’s not forget the time honored Irish-inspired holiday we have upon us: St. Patrick's Day. Though it’s actually not as wildly celebrated on the Emerald Isle, it doesn’t hurt to recognize the great work that old St. Patrick did to bring Christianity to the Gaelic island, as well as ban snakes and share the Holy Trinity through the illustration of the beloved green shamrock.
There are any given number of Irish lovin’ drinks you can raise in your glass for a whole-hearted “sláinte” (cheers). You’ve got your standard Irish beers like Guinness, Kilkenny, Murphy’s, and my personal favorite, Smithwick’s. (You can even add a little local flare in there with the newly crafted Blackened Bucket, which is half Guinness, half Thirsty Planet Bucket Head IPA.)
And for those that like something a little stronger, Jameson whiskey tends to do the trick. But if you really want to branch out in the Irish libation department, consider broadening your palate with whiskey selections such as Redbreast 12-year (a single pot-still style whiskey, which is distilled three times as opposed to twice with Scotch, from County Cork) or Connemara Cask Strength (which is distilled with peat and very similar to traditional Scotch-style whiskies).
And then there's Irish wine. Okay, there isn't really wine produced in Ireland — too much damp and cold — but you can find wine produced by the Irish by a winery whose founder was actually born on St. Patrick's Day. James Concannon founded the widely distributed Concannon Vineyard in the Livermore Valley near Napa in the late 1800s.
Today, it's run by a fourth generation of Concannons and is one of the largest producers in its region with a strength in the Petite Sirah grape. The 2010 Crimson & Clover Conservancy is a nice little example of the great strides Concannon has made as one of the first to introduce Petite Sirah to the world. It's rich with ripe fruit and offers a nutty, silky finish. It may not be from the Emerald Isle, but it will certainly go well with traditional Irish boxty or shepherd's pie. And at around $18 a bottle, it's an affordable way to toast the luck of the Irish.
But if you're looking for a special concoction to whip up among friends, we've got a couple to try. Jason Stevens of Congress Bar offers up his own version of the classic Tipperary cocktail with little extra punch from Italian vermouth.
1 3/4 oz. Jameson's 12 year (or aged Irish whiskey)
3/4 oz. Italian vermouth
1/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all over cubed ice, stir, and strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry.
And if you're looking for something to warm your soul, try this take on an Irish Coffee from Drink.Well.'s Jessica Sanders.
Hot or Iced Irish Coffee
2 oz. Irish Whiskey
2 Bar spoons Demerara Syrup
Casa Brasil Coffee (hot or iced) to fill the rest of a coffee mug
Fresh whipped cream
Nutmeg and mint leaf for garnish
Pour Irish whiskey and Demerara syrup into an Irish coffee mug. Top with either hot or iced coffee (if iced, add cubed iced to the glass). Spoon freshly whipped cream on top of the drink and grate fresh nutmeg over the top of the cream. Garnish with a single mint leaf near the rim of the glass and serve.