St Patrick’s Day is on its way and, along with claims on dubious connections to Celtic dynasties and a reminder to chase applications for passports that European custom officers might scowl less at, such an occasion also provides the opportunity to suggest Irish imbibing options.
March 17 falls on a Saturday this year and, as if had been planned by the top brass at Twickenham, it’s the same day that England will host Ireland in this year’s final Six Nations game. We suspect a few fans will embark on ‘end of days’ drinking shenanigans. Less conveniently for any strict Christians, is that St Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, when devoted believers should be abstaining. That said, we read from one unreliable and wildly contradictory source that a day off is permitted. Whatever your plans, drink less, but better, and don’t wear reprehensible hats.
So back to Guinness, an upstanding stout, that deserves its place in the annals of alcohol, and a beverage many of you will turn to on March 17. A wise choice, to be sure. But there are plenty of other St Patrick’s Day potables to enjoy, not least Irish whiskey which continues a relentless upwards surge; crafty artisanal beers; and the new wave of Irish gins. Here are our recommended tipples…
Ahoy landlubbers. If you’re trying to navigate away from your staple Guinness, drift instead towards Galway Bay’s Buried at Sea milk stout (£2.89, Beer Hawk). We could attempt a tenuous connection to St Patrick’s abduction by the Irish pirates who apparently delivered him to the Emerald Isle, but we can’t be sure he even existed. So we’ll turn about and suggest you drink this beer because it’s a tasty beverage. A light, easy drinking milk stout, that sails across the tongue with sweet oatty cereals and chops it up with subtle milk chocolate, anchoring it all with a bitter coffee bite. Plus it’s 4.5%abv, so you can enjoy two or tree.
No St Patrick’s Day would be complete without a glass of Irish whiskey, just ask James Joyce who bigged up Jameson in his books and arguably enjoyed so much his literature became incomprehensible. As the scribe’s sip of choice, Jameson remains a quintessential Irish spirit and its home at the Midleton Distillery in Cork provides a wide range of other wonderful whiskies. Green Spot Léoville Barton (£54.95, Whisky Exchange), is a completely different animal. Single pot still whiskey, finished in ex-Château Léoville Barton Bordeaux wine casks for 12 to 24 months, it has also rested in ex-Oloroso Sherry, fresh American oak and ex-bourbon barrels and works through an incredible range of apple, raspberry, toffee vanilla and ginger. Craic-ing stuff.
Head north to the County Down and you’ll discover Rademon Estate’s Shortcross Gin (£39.95, Master of Malt). Produced ins small batches, complete with locally sourced elderflower and apples, this is a punchy gin with a useful, lengthy finish, that stands out in a gin and tonic. Most impressive though, one of the botanicals is clover. Actual clover. We’re not sure how that comes across in the flavour, but we can taste the juniper and there’s a subtle parma violet, floral note. And with the clover, we’re pretty confident drinking it makes us lucky. We’ve also got to give a ‘ah, go on,’ to Bertha’s Revenge (£37.95, Master of Malt) simply because producers Ballyvolane House Spirits produce it from the whey they source from their dairy cattle. Pull the udder one, we hear you shout, but we’re serious. They also add local sweet woodruff and juniper, essential in all gins. The mouthfeel is rounded, but the juniper is pronounced, so best serve in a Martini – make sure you chill the drink thoroughly, it should be Friesian.
Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland are the Thinking Drinkers and will be celebrating St Patrick in their Sessions drinks tasting in London’s Museum of Comedy on March 15. They will also perform their critically acclaimed comedy theatre show at the Chipping Norton Theatre on March 17 and a London’s Underbelly Festival on the Southbank on April 14. For all details visit www.thinkingdrinkers.com