For those who enjoy tipping back a few from time to time, St. Patrick’s Day is a very special day. It’s when Americans stock up on Guinness and Irish whiskey. Or they just buy some American lager and a bottle of green food coloring. And outside of the slightly dangerous Irish Car Bomb, that is your basic St. Patrick’s Day drink menu.
Not a single cocktail in the bunch.
In the name of all that sacred in the cocktail kingdom, I was sure there had to be more to Irish cocktail history. Surely there were a number of drinks crafted by the Irish that used Irish whiskey in ways that nobody else had. After a bit of research and tasting (and a bit more tasting), I unfortunately wasn’t able to find a trove of classic Irish recipes, with the notable exception of Irish coffee.
There are scads of Irish versions of other, more established classics, such as the Irish Mule or an Irish Manhattan drink called the Emerald. However, one original I did find was truly complex, intriguing and slightly strange. It also had a very simple and easy to remember name: The Irish Cocktail.
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The earliest mention of this unusual drink is in the first edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). It dubiously includes absinthe, Irish whiskey, orange or Dry Curaçao, bitters and maraschino liqueur. If this combination wasn’t odd enough, its garnish of a lemon twist and an olive surely puts it over the top.
But here’s the thing: It is likely one of the more complex cocktails I have had in a long while. I can’t say it will be going on my classic cocktail menu anytime soon, but it may find a place at your home bar on March 17. The recipes I found call for far too much absinthe, so I have dropped that amount considerably. As well, I suggest going with Dry Curaçao instead of orange. If your palate doesn’t take to it immediately, follow with a good slug of green beer. Sláinte!
Kevin Hopper spreads good cheer each night at State Street cocktail house Capitol Bar in NW Boise.
The Irish Cocktail
2 ounces Sexton Irish whiskey
1 barspoon absinthe or Pernod
1/4 ounce Dry Curaçao
1 barspoon Luxardo
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon twist and olive garnish
Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oil from the lemon garnish. Garnish with lemon peel and olive.