A Reflection on St. Patrick's Day Drinks

Darcy O'Neil :: March 19, 2006 9:03 AM

st. patricks day cocktailAnother St. Patrick's day has come and gone. As a bartender it is always interesting to watch how people enjoy this event. The majority of people just want a lot of cold green beer. Others take in an Irish coffee, even though some do confuse a Bailey's and coffee as an Irish coffee. But then you get people asking for an St. Patrick's day cocktail, and not surprisingly they want it to be green. So what is a true Irish cocktail? Probably a pint of Guinness and a shot of Powers Irish whiskey in Ireland, but how about the rest of the world?

Doing a quick search there are a number of cocktails that are suppose to be Irish like. This cocktail called an; Everybody's Irish goes like this:

Everybody's Irish
2 oz Irish whiskey
1 oz creme de menthe, green
1 oz Chartreuse, green
cocktail olive for garnish

Now, this thing looks like it was created to ruin Irish whiskey. At best, this should be an equal part shooter, not a cocktail. Olives in a St. Patrick's day cocktail? Anyway, the next cocktail is called an Emerald Isle. Again, the cocktail is green in colour, but what is Irish about it?

Emerald Isle
1 oz gin
1 tsp creme de menthe, green
2 dashes bitters

Gin is a Dutch spirit adopted by the British, which isn't very Irish. Again, no Irish origin here, except for the colour green. So it looks like we are very limited on what is a true Irish cocktail.

What would St. Patrick have had on the day named in his honour? There is a story that says St. Patrick went to a bar and ordered a measure of whiskey. The inn keeper shorted the shot, and earned the ire of St. Patrick. The good Saint told the inn keeper that a demon resided in the Inn's cellar and it fed on dishonesty and to fix this the inn keeper needed to change his way. A time later, St. Patrick came back and found the inn keep pouring generously to all his guests. St. Patrick then banished the demon from the cellar. So did St. Patrick drink whiskey?

I think St. Patrick's cocktail of choice would have been a glass of water, possibly mead or beer. You see, St. Patrick died in 461 (or possibly 493) and distillation wasn't invented until around the year 800 by a Persian alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan. So there was no whiskey or even Poteen for St. Patrick to drink.

I suppose that St. Patrick's day is just about having a great time and drinking green things. But, I would like someone come to the bar and order pint of Irish beer, not just Guinness, and just toast to the spirit of Ireland. That would be cool. Unfortunately that didn't happen this year, but maybe next year. It was 'give me something green' and there is nothing like standing behind a bar, watching people drink green beer and giving you the big green smile!

In Ireland they say you have to leave the country to become Irish.

Side note: My family heritage, on both sides, goes back to Ireland. My fathers side came to Canada about 165 years ago and came from Cork, while my mothers side came to Canada over 300 years ago from Waterford.


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