Monday, March 17, 2008

It's St. Patrick's Day...What Should I Drink Besides Guiness??

Although I'm zero percent Irish I've come to celebrate St. Patties Day as one of my own holidays. Historically I've stuck to the green beer or Guinness (as long as it's poured properly from the tap), and in a few moments of desperation I've even ingested green vodka, but I'd never had a go to green liquor drink that was appropriate for the occasion. Well, over the weekend I read an article by Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal and he went on a search looking for the perfect St. Patricks Day cocktail.

"Let's start with the mere misdemeanors. Plymouth gin is promoting a March 17 drink it calls the Plymouth Express made of gin, soda water and "lime cordial" -- that is, the sugared lime juice most commonly sold under the brand name "Rose's." The lime syrup is indeed green, but the problem here is that you have a drink -- a Gimlet with a splash of soda -- that is in no way Irish in taste, heritage, or ingredients. The same goes for all the Margarita permutations being offered. Cabo Wabo tequila recommends a Four-Leaf Cloverita of tequila, orange liqueur and Rose's lime juice. Fresh lime juice makes for a superior Margarita, of course, but fails to impart the desired hue.

Plenty of recipes being promoted for the holiday rely on Midori, a Day-Glo green melon liqueur. Korbel sparkling wine would have you add Midori to its bubbly to create an Irish Kiss. SKYY suggests vodka and Midori and names it a SKYY Shamrock. I'm not much of a fan of Midori to begin with -- the liqueur is responsible for more than its share of the repellent candy-tinis of the past decade -- but I am particularly opposed to the stuff in St. Patrick's Day quaffs because it has nothing to do with the Emerald Isle.

That goes double for the two green liqueurs that have most often been deployed in St. Patrick's cocktails -- crème de menthe and Chartreuse. In the 1950s, New York's Longchamps Restaurants tried to celebrate the day with a drink they called the Blarney Stone, a mix of rum, pineapple juice, lime juice and sugar -- who knew St. Patrick was Cuban? -- with some green Chartreuse for color. A mess, pure and simple.

I have to admit that when it comes to St. Patrick's Day, the most grievous sins have been committed by the old-time mixologists whose craft I normally champion. I'm talking about a cocktail called the Shamrock, a drink that has been around at least from the 1920s and managed to find its way into "The Savoy Cocktail Book," Patrick Gavin Duffy's "Official Mixer's Manual," and just about every other copycat compendium. Made of Irish whiskey, dry vermouth, green crème de menthe and green Chartreuse, the Shamrock isn't just bad -- it is truly vile. The bright mint flavor of the crème de menthe and the complicated, dark herbal tones of the Chartreuse make one of the worst combinations known to cocktail science. Were it not for their motif-handy color, no one in his right mind would think to put them in the same glass.

Along the way there have been a few cocktails suggested for St. Patrick's Day that have been mercifully untinted and untainted by the offending liqueurs. There is a drink called a Paddy, which is a Manhattan made with Irish whiskey. In 1958, Frederick Boland was Irish ambassador to the United Nations (a couple of years later he was the president of the U.N. General Assembly and broke his gavel trying to quiet a shoe-thumping Nikita Khrushchev). Boland's wife recommended a cocktail she called the Murphy's Dream, made of gin, lemon juice, orange bitters and an egg white, sweetened with Irish Mist, a liqueur made from Irish whiskey and honey. Not bad, but, alas, nothing special.

Despairing of finding a worthy cocktail for St. Pat's, I resorted to creating one myself -- a modernistic version of Irish Coffee, one that deconstructs and reassembles the original's constituent parts -- coffee, sugar, whiskey and cream.

Top a tumbler of Irish whiskey on the rocks with a thick head of this coffee foam and you get what I call a Reverse Irish Coffee. I think it's tasty; and though the drink is modern, it has a connection with authentic Irish tradition. And best of all, it isn't green."

Now I agree with some of his sentiments regarding the use of Midori, but I'm not a big coffee fan so I don't think this would be the drink for me. My solution, well its my favorite green shot known as the "Dirty Turtle". In the spirit of St. Patties Day I'll divulge the ingredients, they are 1/3 Rumple Minze, 1/3 Baileys and 1/3 Creme De Menthe. The resulting concoction has a color similar to Ecto Cooler and a taste comparable to an Andes Mint. I assure you that after one "Dirty Turtle" (or ten), you'll be well on your way to a proper St. Patrick's Day celebration.

1 comment:

Atencio said...

The conversation starts and ends with Jameson.