St Patrick’s Day is coming. Which means people all over the world will be repeating that thing they’ve heard about the pints being better in Dublin, claiming that they’ve read Portrait of the Artist, and championing Irish family connections through some obscure branch of the family tree. When it comes to refreshments on the day you could do a lot worse than a few cans of stout or cider. Bushmills Black Bush (£22; Waitrose) and ginger ale - 1:2 ratio, lots of ice, wedge of lime - is one of the all-time great highballs and would also do the job nicely. However, the old classics are by no means the only choices for Patrick’s day merriment.
Whiplash Cream on Chrome DIPA, 8% (£5.95; Craft Metropolis)
There’s a tendency for international drinkers to reduce Irish brewing to one black, shimmering monolith of a pint. And while a well-poured pint of Guinness or Murphy’s is a beautiful thing it’s by no-means Ireland’s only contribution to beer. A thriving craft scene across the country is turning out bags of world class cans that deserve your attention. Case in point is Dublin’s own Whiplash whose stylish, limited-edition brews are winning fans around the world. Their Cream on Chrome is beautiful, citrussy double IPA made with oats for extra roundness and texture. Expect lots of grapefruit, passionfruit, and lemon jelly. It’s a spritely 8% but if you’re looking for something a little more session-able their Body Riddle IPA (4.5%) is a good bet; pleasantly dry with lots of tropical fruits on the nose.
Irish Single Malt #1 14yo (£58.95; Master of Malt)
A classic Irish malt whiskey with a lovely horse on the label. It smells like a whole sweetshop full of wine gums, jelly babies, and gummy bears and tastes like apples, pears, and apricots. Being non-chill-filtered and bottled at a respectable strength it’s also got a great oiliness to it that yields nicely to a drop of water. You’d happily throw a large measure of this over a big chunk of ice and while an evening away. Textbook stuff.
Boatyard Gin 46% (£34; Waitrose)
Top shelf dry gin from Boatyard Distillery in the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen. These relative newcomers make their own spirit from local wheat and pick botanicals from the surrounding countryside. The gin is chunky with lots of lemon zest, liquorice, and earthy spiciness on the palate. It likes a glug of light tonic water and a wedge of orange but the extra body from that 46% bottling strength makes Boatyard a strong Martini option. Stir 60ml over ice with 15ml of Noilly Prat dry vermouth, strain into a frozen cocktail glass, and garnish with a strip of grapefruit peel.
Drumshanbo Single Pot Still 43% (£49.95; The Whisky Exchange)
Single pot still whiskey is made in much the same way as single malt, only with the addition of some un-malted cereals to the mash. What began as a way for distillers to circumvent taxes on malt has become of the world’s great styles of whiskey and one that’s found only in Ireland. The Shed distillery in county Leitrim is part of a new wave of producers enlivening the Irish whiskey category. Their single pot still is a fantastic example of the style, showing the typical pot still spiciness that’s somewhere between ginger bread, hot honey, and white pepper. You can also expect hazelnut, chocolate, rye bread, and crème brûlée in your glass. An excellent introduction to a distillery with a bright future. They also make a first class gin with green tea and Chinese lemon, well worth investigating.
Teeling Whiskey Finished Ginger Beer 5.5% (£20 – box of eight; Direct)
This project began when Matt Armitage, the head brewer at East London ginger beer outfit Umbrella, acquired two American oak casks from Teeling distillery in Dublin. He filled the former whiskey casks with his own ginger beer and rested it for two years before carbonating and canning it. The result is a round and elegant brew with lots of Bourbon-y vanilla and little bit of coconut on the nose. But Armitage didn’t stop there. He shipped the casks back to the ROI where they were filled with Teeling Whiskey to create a ginger beer cask finished whiskey. Which means that if you fancy you can have a shot and a can that tastes like whiskey ginger cubed. A novelty, certainly, but tasty none-the-less.
Waterford Gaia Organic 1.1 50% (£76.95; Royal Mile Whiskies)
In the year 2000 Mark Reynier took on Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, putting the old plant back on the map and earning it a new reputation for innovation. Two decades-or-so later he continues to push the envelope with his new venture on Ireland’s south coast. The focus at Waterford is provenance and the effect of factors like soil and climate on barley from different sources. The distillery works with 40 different farms around the country to supply grain which is distilled in a single run to create spirit with a strong sense of place. Initial releases of Waterford single malt showcased one farm only but with the certified organic Gaia, Reynier and co. explore the potential of blending different single-farm single-malts together. It’s a powerful dram that shows familiar Irish whiskey fruitiness on the nose – banana, kiwi, and pink lady apples – and a weighty palate with golden sultanas, dried pineapple, and a little oak spice. Another future classic distillery. The commitment to provenance and transparency is admirable but whiskey really delivers.
Swift Irish Coffee Kit (From £35; Direct)
The drink that launched 1,000 nights out in Soho, Swift’s Irish coffee has become an icon since it debuted on their menu four years ago. In these socially distanced times they’re packing up kits containing their proprietary coffee blend and a bottle of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition so you can recreate the serve at home.
40ml Jameson Caskmates
75ml strong, demerara-sweetened Robusto filter coffee
Float double cream, chilled & hand-whipped to a silky consistency
'It’s important to heat your glass in advance and make sure the coffee is properly hot,' says Swift co-founder Mia Johannsson. Lightly whip the cream just so it’s very slightly thickened, then set aside. Pour the hot coffee into a mug or heatproof glass, add the whiskey and sugar, and Stir until completely dissolved. Gently float the cream on the top and sprinkle the nutmeg over the cream. 'If it’s possible to chill the cream that makes for a great drinking experience. Don't worry about making it slightly sweeter than you would normally have your coffees the whiskey needs that to remove the kick, it just smooths the whole cocktail out.'