by Dale DeGroff
Just because St. Patrick’s Day has passed does not mean you can’t still enjoy great Irish Whiskey cocktails.
Irish whiskey has held a revered place with American drinkers going back to the mid-nineteenth century. Blended Scotch whisky captured a sizable audience just before and after Prohibition, as a result of aggressive marketing by the Whisky Barons of Scotland. Straight American whiskey most likely made serious inroads with the whiskey drinker because of high taxes on imported spirits.
Irish whiskey seems to be the golden spirit of the brown goods category lately; new products in the super premium category are hitting the shelves regularly. I was celebrating at Puckfair when Middleton’s Irish finally arrived on our shores. Luckily, Danny, the owner, was around and sent a couple my way, because Middleton’s doesn’t come cheap!
Irish whiskey holds a special place in the world of whiskey, and not just on St. Patrick’s Day. The soft honey notes mute the muscular whiskey character and give it a silky finish without any sharp corners. Irish whiskey is a good choice for the novice whiskey drinker; there is no smoky flavor or aroma to learn to like and, unlike American Rye with spice and pepper notes, there is a pleasing lack of heat that helps ease into the category. In the American whiskey category, I always recommend the wheated Bourbon Makers Mark to the neophyte.
Two of the classics in the lexicon of Irish whiskey cocktails are Irish Coffee and Irish Tea. I have preached my gospel of the proper Irish Coffee before in these pages, but it has been some time and there are new barmen out there; it is time to share the secret again.
A Proper Irish Coffee
The Irish Coffee was originally prepared by Joe Sheridan at Foynes Field “flying boat” terminal in Dublin, Ireland, which was the gateway to war-torn Europe. Sheridan started making the rich coffee drink laced with Irish whiskey and topped with sweet Irish cream in 1942, and throughout the Second World War. After the war, Sheridan and his Irish Coffee found a home at the end of the Hyde Street cable car line on San Francisco’s waterfront at the Buena Vista Cafe. Upon discovering Sheridan, famous San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Cane reported that he had discovered a barman with a drink that - to quote the sports world - a guy could build a franchise on.
Rule number one: Never use canned cream in an Irish Coffee. Whip your own cream without sugar by placing a stainless steel bowl or pitcher in the fridge until it is very cold. Start with very cold heavy cream and whisk or whip to just under stiff so the cream has no bubbles and will still pour slowly. Though the cream is not sweetened, the coffee must be. Simple syrup mixes quickly if you desire to get fancy. Make syrup from brown sugar, but to stick to tradition, dissolve a sugar cube in the bottom of the glass. Finally, don’t drown the drink in coffee; 4 ounces is about all you need. Try to find the classic medallion-stemmed Irish Coffee glasses; their smaller size will force you to use the right amount of coffee. Those are the tricks we use in the business to make drinks bartender proof.
Irish Whiskey deserves a prominent place at the bar all year long. Here are a few cocktails to keep in mind when visiting your favorite neighborhood bar:
1 1/2 oz. Irish Whiskey
1 oz. brown sugar syrup or simple syrup
rich black coffee
Lightly whipped unsweetened heavy cream. Combine whiskey, coffee and syrup in an Irish coffee glass and stir. Ladle one inch of cream on top.
1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey
1 cup of hot tea
1 tsp. of honey
Brew yourself a cup of your favorite tea. I usually use English breakfast tea for this drink. Pour in the shot of Irish whiskey and stir in the honey.
2 1/2 oz. Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz. French dry vermouth
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Pernod Fils
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Created in the Czech Republic for Molly Malone’s Restaurant
1 oz. Jamesons Irish Whiskey
1 oz. Irish Mist Liqueur
lightly whipped unsweetened cream
Pour spirits into a mixing glass and stir to chill. Strain into a small martini glass and top with one inch of fresh whipped cream.
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