Set The Green Beer Down
We are nearing St. Paddy’s Day, and the merchandise proclaiming “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” and green scarves and hats will be out on store shelves in the blink of an eye. It has long been tradition to don green apparel in honor of the Emerald Isle, enjoy some corned beef hash, and drink to the health of each other. Well, in some places, the “drinking to our health” has lost a pinch of pride, as beer tinted green with food dye became the holiday beverage of choice. A Guinness stout would be more a more fitting way to toast the patron saint of Ireland, or even better—an Irish whiskey.
There is mention of whiskey in Ireland dating back to the early 1400s. The very name “whiskey” comes from the Gaelic phrase “uisce beatha,” which translates to “water of life.” So you see—this is a drink anyone properly toasting an Irish holiday needs to have at least tried. But where to start?
Tyler Foley, a bartender at downtown South Bend’s Tapastrie and personal enjoyer of whiskey himself, bestowed some advice for those looking to mix up their personal palate.
“Do you enjoy brandy or cognac? Do you like the taste of rum?” Foley starts by asking those inquiring about types of whiskey. “If you like brandy or cognac, I may choose an Irish Whiskey or sweeter Scotch. If you like rum, I would probably steer you towards a bourbon, which tends to capture vanilla and caramel notes similar in rum. The easiest way to approach whiskey, in my opinion, is in cocktails.”
Foley suggests trying the classic whiskey cocktails first, such as Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Horse’s Necks, and Mint Juleps. Though, he notes for those ready to be serious purveyors, perhaps “starting out with whiskey on the rocks [whiskey with ice] and gradually making your way to drinking whiskey neat [whiskey alone], as it is intended to be consumed.”
For the beginner, though? “If you want a sweeter, easier drinking whiskey, start out with Irish whiskey or a lower-proofed bourbon. If you want a hotter, spicier whiskey I recommend starting out with a high-proof bourbon or American whiskey, or for a nice spice a Rye whiskey under 100-proof.” (Proof being a distillation term referring to the strength of the spirit).
The drink itself should be a sensual experience. Drinking your whiskey “neat” means that you are enjoying the liquor in its purest state.
“The aroma, or bouquet, is more pronounced in a large glass, just like a fine wine,” Foley says. “I love the larger glasses when drinking whiskey. [They] allow it to breathe and you can swirl the whiskey, especially if it is in a large snifter glass. Again, like a fine wine, it is much better to use a large glass, specifically a snifter or a tulip glass if possible.”
“Similar to a fine, red wine, you should let your whiskey breathe. I recommend that you let it sit for at least five minutes, giving a swirl here and there to allow oxygen to caress the beautiful spirit. If I am drinking a really nice whiskey by myself or with a friend and want to enjoy it in all its glory, I will order a beer or water, and allow the whiskey to set for 15-20 minutes.”
Of course, not everyone is interested in becoming a purveyor of whiskey, and may simply want to try a drink. To them, Foley recommends his favorite whiskey cocktail—an Old Fashioned.
“I am very picky about my Old Fashioned, so I usually ask about the preparation of the cocktail with any bartender I encounter. I like the original recipe, or as close to it as possible: rye whiskey, bitters, sugar, muddled orange peel, and stirred for at least 30 seconds.”
If you find yourself in bar that is well-stocked with a knowledgeable bartender, there are many drinks that may be recommended to you, as it varies from person to person on how they want to enjoy their drink.
“There are some great original drinks I have had in the last couple of years with the newer whiskey movement in mixology,” Foley offers up. Signature drinks can vary from bartender to bartender, and region to region.
So if you’re looking for a new drink to try, to perhaps step away from the green-tinted beer this St. Patrick’s Day and imbibe in something a little more true to the Emerald Isle: try whiskey.
“Jameson [an Irish whiskey] is readily available at any bar you go to. If you are looking to sip on a whiskey and get a lot of character out of the glass, I recommend trying the 18-year Jameson or 12-year RedBreast. GreenSpot and YellowSpot are also great whiskeys made in the same distillery as Jameson, and both superb.”
This writer enjoys an Irish coffee from time to time: Jameson, fresh brewed coffee, topped with heavy cream (it floats). For further questions, grab a curious friend, a Lyft downtown, and find your way into Tapastrie, Fiddler’s Hearth, or The Exchange Whiskey Bar to chat with a bartender and start finding a new favorite drink to toast your friends’ health with!