Friday, March 16, 2012

My one, my only, St. Patrick's Day post

I have been inundated with St. Patrick's Day-related press releases. I believe it has become a bigger drinking holiday than New Year's Eve -- at least, from a non-wine writing perspective. All kinds of beer and spirits companies have presented their boozes to me as PERFECT FOR ST. PATRICK'S DAY!

Well, bullshit. Let me give you some drinking advice for the original Green Day.

First off, feel free! If you want to go out and do the rounds tomorrow (or even start tonight), if you're going to be watching or marching in a parade, if you're going to have any kind of Irish dinner tomorrow (we're having champ and soda bread, and some good Irish cheese), if you plan to celebrate tomorrow for reasons sacred or profane...good on you. I don't hold with the hand-wringing about defamation of the Irish, or even the public drunkenness (as if the tailgating at any NFL game is any better), or the way a Catholic feast day venerating the memory of a true saint of the Church has become a whacked-out celebration (mostly for Americans). Big deal; it's what we do. Everyone around the world likes to have a party. If you're a puritan or a bluenose, stay home tomorrow and drink mineral water, and please, don't bother telling the rest of us that's what you're doing. We don't care.

Now, here's the drinking advice part. If you're going to celebrate with booze, do it smart. For instance, the beer we like to call dry Irish stout -- Guinness, O'Hara's, Beamish, Murphy's, O'Reilly's, Donnybrook, Dark Starr, Black Fly, whatever your local is -- often weighs in under 4.5% ABV (check your local faves on this; some are substantially more!), so it IS a session beer, regardless of what your idiot friends tell you about how much Guinness will EFF YOU UP!!! MAN!!!! It's a great beer for pacing yourself through a whole day of drinking, if that's what you're on to, and you can take in plenty of music and parade while doing it (just stay near the bogs, because you're talking a mighty volume of liquid).

Whether it's Irish or not, it's got more flavor than the usual alternative: green-dyed Miller Lite. Do you really want to drink crap like that? Look, if you don't like stout, Smithwick's is a pretty good amber (and still 4.5%), even the newly reformulated Coors-brewed Killian's is 4.9%, and it is, I'm happy to report, much tastier than it had become in its debased days.

If you'll be having whiskey -- and you should, you should -- Irish whiskey is the most friendly stuff you'll find, soft and sweet and very much approachable. You can hardly go wrong here, so it's almost foolish to steer you. The Holy Trinity -- Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore -- is readily available, and with the general improvement in the quality of Irish over the past 20 years, you can't really go wrong.

(And one addition to this, after I originally posted it: I don't generally hold with the precious snob talk about how you must drink your whiskey neat...but in the case of Irish? Since most of it is 80 proof, it's great neat, and that's how most folks do drink it. If you want a hot whiskey, and the place you're in will do one, and it's cold and raw like it is today here in Philly, do it!)

But look...why not up your game a bit, or at least try something different? For instance, my Irish bar go-to is Guinness and a shot of Powers. Can't go wrong, and let me tell you: good whiskey. Or try Black Bush, the sherry-aged Bushmills. Or fergodssake, try something from the "other Irish distillery," Cooley: Kilbeggan, or The Tyrconnell (a fine and delicate single malt).

Walking up the category works, too. For a bit more cash (lads, lasses: take cash tomorrow, don't feck about with credit cards, you'll just hold up other folks who need to get a drink! And don't forget plenty of dollar bills for tips!), you can get Jameson 12 Year Old, Bushmills 10 or the 1608, or Tullamore 10. See what Irish can offer.

If you want one good whiskey to start the afternoon, before you're just tossing stuff past your gums -- and remember, if you do drink whiskey, please pace yourself, you can't drink it like beer! -- take a moment to savor a nip of Redbreast, or Bushmills 16, or some smoky Connemara, or maybe a Midleton Very Rare. More money, but blessed be Jesus, well worth it.

So. That's the primer. Don't get thrashed -- it's unseemly -- but don't be afraid to have fun, and smile, and laugh, and shake hands with strangers, and sing! Have fun. Be a bit safe. And walk, take transit, or get a sober driver. I'll see you Sunday.


Steven said...

"-- take a moment to savor a nip..."

As an Irishman and lover of good Whiskey, I could never fathom those who would shoot down a shot like a bad character in an old western drinking rot-gut whiskey.

Yes, savor -- sip, let the warmth roll over your tongue and spread across your frame. Take the time to understand what the distiller was trying to create -- the flavors, the aromas, the mouth feel -- whether Powers or Midleton, good Irish whiskey is worth more attention than a toss back.

Anonymous said...

'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Bill said...

Tasting Midleton Very Rare was one of the most sublime spirits experiences I've ever had.

There's precious little of it in the States, thankfully, but there is bad Irish whiskey out there. At least to my palate. I waited twelve years to try a certain one that was beloved by a former colleague, was warned away from it by those who knew better, tried it anyway. It had to be what the characters in old Westerns were drinking, Steven!

Steven said...

Bill, I can't begin to guess what whiskey you're suggesting. There are high-end and low-end Irish whiskeys -- just as there are the same Scotch, American, and Canadian whiskeys, but I'll have to say that every Irish I've ever tried has been far from bad.

Sure, my palate can pick from the ones that are less-than stellar to the ones that curl your toes with their astounding greatness, but I'd still reach for an Irish whiskey before any else.

Call me a patriot, call me a republican or Fenian, but I know that when I discovered Irish whiskey I realized that I'd never really tasted whiskey before!

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see a bottle of bushmills behind a bar I can't help but think about the scene from the show "the wire" when McNulty (sp?) asks for a Jameson, neat and the bartender tells him, " all we have is bushmills.". Then McNulty grumbles that it's "Protestant whiskey.". Makes me smile every time, just thought I'd share.

Anonymous said...

a true irishman will only drink jameson, bushmills is fightin' words, are you red or grandfather always told me if you're green its ok, red...well we need to step outside....


Bill said...

Yeah, Steven, i didn't want to slam a whiskey so I didn't give its name -- wasn't trying to get folks to guess it. Just wanted to say that Lew was correct in saying it's hard to go wrong with what was available here. And a little easier to go wrong with what isn't available here!

Steven said...

"a true irishman will only drink jameson, bushmills is fightin' words,"

Maybe true at one time, but I believe both brands are made under the same roof these days.

Loves me a dram of Blackbush or Jameson's 12 year-old.

Lew Bryson said...

Were at one time -- both Jameson/Midleton and Bushmills were owned by Pernod Ricard -- but now Diageo owns Bushmills and Beam owns Cooley. So...Bushmills is owned by the English (who also own Guinness), Jameson is owned by the French, and Cooley is owned by the Americans. In my experience, the Jameson/Bushmills thing only mattered to Irish-Americans...

Steven said...

"Were at one time --"

I'm always so behind the times these days. Things change too quickly anymore.

Lew Bryson said...

Tell me about it. We keep talking about doing a piece on who-owns-who, but we always admit that the piece would likely be out of date within a few months.