Saturday, March 17, 2012

Whiskey in the Jar

It's March 17th, and since that's a Saturday this year, there's no doubt in my mind that there will be gallons of Guinness guzzled on this night. It seems to me that each year, the focus of Saint Patrick's Day revelry is increasingly on beer. And that's all well and good. I love beer. But I can't be the only one whose first choice today is whiskey, can I?

Whiskey has been distilled in Ireland for 1400 years. It's okay, you can take a moment to let that sink in.

Maybe I'd better say it again: Whiskey has been distilled in Ireland for 1400 years. Everybody pretty much agrees the Scots learned it from them, but the Irish have kindly agreed to stop talking about in an effort to avoid getting headbutted. I'll almost certainly have some forthcoming posts about Scotch whisky (their preferred spelling), don't fret. Both styles are delicious, just a bit different. Irish whiskey, you see, is triple-distilled, whereas Scotch whisky is usually double-distilled. The resulting sweetness and smoothness of the Irish product made it quite a hit with the Tudors in the 1500s, and therefore the rest of England. By the 18th century the word "whiskey" was in the dictionary, and Irish whiskey was a world-wide institution.

Most Irish whiskeys are a blend of traditional pot still distilled spirits and the smoother column-distilled type, although bottles that consist solely of Irish Pure Pot Still Whiskey can be found labelled as such. Like Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey consists only of 100% barley. Across the pond, things are a bit different. Canadian or American whiskey can be varying combinations of barley, corn, or rye; though American whiskeys labelled as "Kentucky Bourbon" must be at least 51% corn.

Because of its signature, triple-distilled strength, Irish whiskey is delicious just by itself. It is also an astoundingly versatile mixer. The popularity of Irish Coffee (which is coffee and Irish whiskey, not coffee and Bailey's Irish Cream as so many seem to believe. Not that that's not delicious) may have single-handedly rescued a floundering post-Prohibition Irish whiskey industry. I seem to witness Jameson and Coke as the drink of choice of many, many, MANY people. Far more than rum and Coke, surprisingly, at least in my travels. And then there's your multitude of classic whiskey cocktails: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, Hot Toddy, and all manner of punch and hard lemonade.

Well, I hope this post made you as thirsty as it did me. Have a very safe and enjoyable Saint Patrick's Day, everyone.  Sláinte!