A lot of you would probably look at this blog and think St Patrick’s day is one of my favorite holidays. Truth be told, I am not a fan of drunken antics, leprechaun costumes, or the hordes of “Irish for a day” drinkers guzzling pints of green beers. Perhaps it was one too many St. Patrick’s spent working as a waitress trying to scrub the green dye from my hands after seeing one too many over enthusiastic celebrators up-chuck their soda bread.
With yet another St. Patrick’s around the corner, I thought I might bring to light what the holiday originated as and ways to celebrate that you might actually remember the next day. Also a few other options to imbibe that are more Irish than green dyed beers, and far more delicious.
St. Patrick’s day, or the Feast of St. Patrick, began in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick who died March 17th, 461. It was made an official celebration in the 17th century to commemorate the arrival of Saint Patrick and Christianity to Ireland, as well as the heritage and culture of the Irish. On this day, the Lenten fast was suspended and people were allowed to indulge in feasts and imbibe alcohol. As the Irish people migrated around the globe, they brought the celebration of St. Patrick’s day with them. Today it is celebrated around the world in various fashions, but always with parades, shamrocks, and the wearing green. St. Patrick utilized the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity to the Irish, and thus became an iconic image associated with the saint. The method of celebrating through drinking likely developed due to the suspension of the Lenten fast for the day. The holiday is still celebrated as a national and religious holiday in Ireland, but in many other parts of the world it is a celebration of Irish culture and heritage, and to some a day of drinking.
My mother is very proud of our Irish heritage. My ancestors on her side came over ages ago and we have visited Ireland twice, once while I was studying abroad there. There are certain things that she is so particular about for her St. Patricks day that she will riot if they don’t meet her standards. I’ve seen it happen ( we called it the red basket incident and that pub manager will never be the same.) One of those things is her Irish breakfast. By far my favorite way to celebrate prior to and after St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish breakfast is the perfect base to a day of pints or cure to a night of too many pints. It consists of bacon, sausages, black and white pudding, beans, fried egg, potatoes in creamy butter, Irish soda bread or scones with marmalade, and a steaming cup of Barry’s tea. Yes, we really eat all of that. Ever since the Red Basket incident, my mother and I spend time and energy either tracking down the best (most accurate) Irish breakfast in town, or more favorably, ordering the proper ingredients online and making our own. FoodIreland.com is a most excellent source and the things not in the breakfast pack, I make from scratch. The perfect Irish breakfast pairs nicely with a pint of dry Irish stout.
After an enormously huge breakfast, many hit the pubs (those that don’t attend a parade or church) and begin a day of drinking. Unfortunately it may involve those brilliantly green pints. Many question (or should question) the arrival of green beer to the St. Patrick’s day scene and all I can say about it is that it is a gross commercialization. Anything green sells on St. Patrick’s Day here in the States. Dyeing beer green allows for bars to sell lighter domestic brews by the truck load. The best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s day is with a perfect pour pint of Guinness. Many other beers try and edge in on Guinness’s domination of St. Patricks day but to my honest opinion, no one can touch them on March 17th. Now people will argue that they can’t drink a lot of Guinness because it is too filling, or too many calories, or higher gravity than a domestic, but all of these are false. Guinness holds a special place in my heart as it was my first beer ever (had at St. James Gate in Dublin) and that I later had the opportunity to work for them. Guinness is not a filling beer, actually only about 125 calories, and boasts an alcohol of 4.2% ABV. It comes across as a filling beer as it is a Nitro pour which means smaller bubbles than other beers and thus the illusion of thickness. Dark beer does not always mean heavy or high gravity. The color comes from the roast of the grain.
A perfect pour of Guinness is essential to enjoying the draught. This consists of pouring Guinness from the draught in just the right way to ensure the best taste possible. The bartender should hold the glass at a forty five degree angle, nozzle close to the glass but not touching. They should pour while slowly righting the pint until it is just shy of the harp. Then let it rest. A proper Guinness is worth waiting for and this is the number one mistake that newbies make. It takes just shy of two minutes to let the Guinness settle out and then the bartender will top it off. This creates that beautifully ivory cap. Always have your Guinness "Proud of the brim" which means it should almost look like it will spill over the top but it won't. Now you can have a sip.
Other than my pint of Guinness, I have also been known to nurse a bit of Irish whiskey on the day. Either way ther are many other options to the dreaded green beer or (and I really despise these) the beer bomb drink where you drop a shot of baileys into a half filled pint of Guinness and chug it. So for those who would rather a cocktail versus a beer or whiskey, I have included a couple of favorites for the festivities.
* Please note for these cocktails: I use the Guinness Extra Stout or Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. The Guinness draught with the Nitro pour tends to react funny with some of the ingredients used, so for cocktails I don't use it. I do highly encourage having a pint on St. Pats though!
For those who feel classy in their emerald finery: BLACK VELVET
1 part Guinness (1 1/2 oz)
1 part chilled sparkling wine (1 1/2oz)
Pour both into a champagne flute and enjoy! Slainte to your classy side!
For those who take beer with their breakfast: THE BLOODY PATRICK
3oz Bloody Mary mix
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1oz Lime Juice
1/8tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp horseradish
1 oz vodka
3 oz Guinness
Stir all but the Guinness in a tumbler with ice, making sure the spices and horseradish mix in well. Top with the 3 oz of Guinness. Garnish with green olive, pickle, and a salt and vinegar potato chip.
For those who want the sweeter things in life: DEAD MAN’s FLOAT
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
1 oz Irish Whiskey or Irish cream
3 oz Guinness
Sprinkles cause why not
Grab a brandy snifter or other large bowl glass. Put the scoop of Ice cream in first, then top with the 3 oz of Guinness and the 1 oz of Irish Whiskey. Add sprinkles cause you can damnit.
For those who need a bit more in the tank before living it up: IRISH COFFEE
3 oz hot coffee
1 oz Irish Whiskey
1 tsp sugar
1 oz fresh cream, whipped cream, or better yet, Baileys infused cream
Put the sugar in the bottom of a mug. Pour in the hot coffee and Irish Whiskey and stir to dissolve the sugar. Top with the fresh cream and enjoy as you wake up.
For those feeling under the weather: WARM WHISKEY
This St. Pats, my mother, like many others, is struggling with allergies. One or two of these and she forgets she has a stuffy nose.
3oz hot tea or cider
1 oz Irish Whiskey
1 1/2 tsp honey
Lemon Wedge studded with cloves
Put the honey in the mug and top with the hot tea or cider and the Irish Whiskey. Stir well to dissolve the honey. Add in the lemon wedge with cloves and use the spoon to smush the lemon wedge against the side of the mug. Drink up to cure all that ails you.
Finally to my favorite and usually final thought on St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish Toast!
In all this world, why do I drink?
There are five reasons why to drink
Lest we be dry
And any other reason why
Here’s to a long life and a merry one
A quick death and an easy one
A pretty girl and an honest one
A cold pint and another one
May you have all the happiness
And luck life can hold
May all your rainbows
End in a pot of gold!
My friends are the best friends
Loyal, willing, and able
Now lets get to drinking
All the glasses off the table!
Cheers to all your celebrating on St. Patricks day! Be safe, be fun, and be green. Just don’t drink green!
Celebrating all that we raise, sip, guzzle, clink, drinks and most affectionately cheers with!