Unusual drinks for St Patrick’s Day

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Will you be clad in green and raising a glass of Irish booze to St Patrick on March 17?

 If so, then we’ll wager it’ll either contain stout, whiskey or an Irish cream liqueur—arguably the three drinks folk most associate with Ireland. But, like much of Europe, Ireland is going through a boozy boom of creativity and the choice for those charging their glasses is rapidly expanding. Here are a few alternative suggestions for some celebratory St Patrick’s Day merriment…

 

Boozy botanicals 

Much like the UK, it would seem that the Irish have developed a taste for gin, with new distilleries scouring the landscape for botanicals with which to give their own creations a uniquely local flavour. Take, for example,  who plunder the Kerry countryside for wild ingredients that include heather, bog myrtle, rowan berries and hawthorn berries. The resulting spirit makes a great G&T, creating a fresh and floral take on a classically punchy juniper-led London dry gin. Or you might like to experience the combination of alexander seeds, sloes, hawthorn berries, ground ivy and more which all make their way into Glendalough’s Wild Botanical Gin.  

For something even more unusual seek out Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin. Besides using a huge array of local botanicals the spirit features Irish milk, with alcohol converted from the whey before being transformed into gin. The name refers to a famous Droimeann cow, Big Bertha, who lived to the ripe old age of 49. 

 

Potato booze 

Several centuries ago, Poitín was among the most popular boozes in Ireland. It’s a spirit that was often crude in its production and invariably contained potatoes as a base for distillation. Having been banned, the drink is now slowly returning to shops and bars with more distilleries dipping into the history books to resurrect this old Irish spirit. Leading the way is Ban Poitín, made from a combination of potatoes, barley and sugar beer, bottled at an eye-watering 48% ABV and capable of adding a punchy twist to vodka-based cocktails. 

If it’s actual vodka you’re after then the Muff Liquor Company can answer your needs. Their vodka is made from Irish potatoes and is distilled no less than six times, creating the smoothest sipping spud-based booze you’re ever likely to encounter. And for even more potato appeal they also produce a multi-award winning gin, distilled from four varieties of Irish potato and nine botanicals. 

 

 

Appley booze 

You may be familiar with a few big brand Irish ciders, boasting about their pressing methods in expensive TV advertisements. But for cider that we think has a bit more character, it’s well worth investigating some of the smaller producers scattered across Ireland. We’re big fans of Craigies Cider, who make their products once a year exclusively from Irish apples, pressed the old fashioned way in County Carlow. Their Ballyhook Flyer has all the crisp, appley goodness you could wish for. 

For an even more unusual (and potent) apple-based alcoholic drink, head over to Killahora Orchards in County Cork. Besides dabbling with pears for a traditional perry, they also submit their apples to freezing temperatures and slowly ferment them into an ice cider. The resulting beverage is akin to a dessert wine that can be enjoyed as an aperitif or a luxurious accompaniment to a plate of Irish cheese. 

 

Ancient booze 

mead and pancakes

Finally, why not consider the most ancient of boozy beverages for this special occasion: mead. This fermented honey drink may not yet be back in fashion, but it’s certainly gaining in popularity, and Kinsale Mead Co. are helping to revive the craft with an array of high quality meads. Among their range they also include meads flavoured with fruits – traditionally known as ‘melomel’ – including a Wild Red Mead that features Wexford-grown blackcurrants and has a vibrant red colour that will certainly stand out among the St Patrick’s Day sea of green. 

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