What's Irish and stays out all night?
March 9, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I need advice on classy Irish drinks, hosting a whisky tasting and the proper way to make a Black & Tan without making a mess.

My fiancé and I have been nominated to tend bar at our yacht club's St. Patrick's Day dinner. We're a solid team behind the bar, but have no experience with Irish drinks and drinking customs.

What makes a great whisky tasting? Any recommendations on the whisky? Should we have specific accompaniments?

We'd like to include some classy Irish cocktails, but can only find minty bright green crass options online. What should we try?

Is there a fool-proof way of making a good Black and Tan? We've got the Guiness and the Harp's Lager covered, both in kegs.

Thank you!
posted by cior to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Authenticity aside, there's a couple of gadgets for layering beer - the Brutul Lagerhead, and the Bass Brolly. I can't speak to their efficacy.
posted by zamboni at 3:44 PM on March 9, 2009

- Jameson is probably obligatory. It's also decently cheap, which is good.
- Bushmills is... problematic. It's from Northern Ireland, but definitely Irish in style. While the basic bottle isn't very good, Black Bush is alright, and their single malts are excellent, if you can find them.

In general, when people hear "whiskey tasting" they usually think either "bourbon" or "scotch," as there aren't a ton of Irish brands that are that well known. Certainly not all that many that are available in the majority of American liquor stores. So stock up on the Jameson.

- Irish Car Bombs are probably also obligatory, though they don't necessarily fall in the "classy cocktail" category.
- Hot buttered whiskey would fall into that category. You can also do it without the butter.
- Irish Springs are a bit fruitier, for those who like that sort of thing.
- If you're looking for drinks based on Guinness, look no further. Some of those look utterly disgusting, but others look quite tasty.

Sounds like a blast. Have fun!
posted by valkyryn at 3:47 PM on March 9, 2009

Black & Tan - make sure both beers are as cold as possible before pouring them. The lighter one goes in the glass first, the dark one goes on top. Also, chill the glass beforehand.

Did I mention that it's much much easier to pour a B&T with good separation if all the ingredients are as cold as you can get them?


Haha, I disagree with valkryrn wrt Jamesons vs. Bushmills - that'd be a great start to the whiskey tasting; do it blind and ask which one people prefer =)
posted by porpoise at 3:53 PM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: The way to layer drinks without ruining them is to pour in the first beverage, then 'float' the second beverage over it by using the back of a spoon. Hold the spoon in the glass, tilting slightly downward, and slowly pour a thin stream of Guinness over the ale. The spoon breaks up the force of the falling liquid so that it floats on the surface of the slightly denser ale. This is best done off the draught; if you aren't working with a real tap line, then pour the Guinness into a glass measuring cup or something with a spout before adding it to the ale for a gentler pour.

I learned my skillz in the Irish pub that won Guinness' Perfect Pint award for NJ in 1996.

Also, see if you can find some potcheen. The commercial brands obviously aren't real moonshine, but they'll do for a party.
posted by Miko at 4:00 PM on March 9, 2009

I agree with porpoise, start with Jamesons, Bushmills and I'll throw in Tullamore Dew - they are all about the same price and have very different tastes. From there, you start to get into more expensive whiskeys. And throw out this bit of trivia: Bushmills is the only Irish whiskey made in Northern Ireland, so some places will refer to it as "Protestant whiskey".

Also, Jamesons (shot) and then Guinness have a weird root beer taste. At least to my palate. Or maybe its the opposite. Anyway, a fun bar experiment.
posted by elendil71 at 4:02 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's a good demo of floating - stay tuned, she shows a side pour first which you can't do from a tap. The spoon float comes second.
posted by Miko at 4:04 PM on March 9, 2009

I'd skip the Black and Tans.
Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed the drink has image problems in parts of Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland by British Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill during the Lloyd George premiership in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.
Basically the British put a lot of undisciplined thugs into uniform as auxiliary police, and they cracked heads, burned houses, and sacked villages.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:11 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

just to be a little overly sensitive, be careful about tossing around the term black and tan. if you're set on making them, call them half and half. the origin of 'black and tan' comes from the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, which was one of two paramilitary forces employed by the Royal Irish Constabulary to suppress revolution in Ireland. More here. Although it was established to target the Irish Republican Army, it became notorious through its numerous attacks on the Irish civilian population. the black and tan drink is british and was invented there. you can get a little more insight and some other names for different mixes on wikipedia here.

also, best if both beers aren't super cold. your guiness should be about half warm.
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 4:11 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

dang kirkaracha! great minds think, er drink alike!
erin go bragh!
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 4:12 PM on March 9, 2009

I just had this conversation on MeFi about two weeks ago.

"Black and Tan" is not very offensive in the US unless you are dealing with people who strongly, strongly identify with their Irish rebel ancestors or recent immigrants. It's common enough in Irish Pubs.

A "half and half" usually means Harp (lager) and Guinness - both Irish brews.

A "black and tan" usually means ale (most often Bass Ale) and Guinness or another stout- made with English ale, an English drink. People who object to "Black and Tan" might also object to Bass Ale 'cause it's English. In that case you can use Smithwick's as the ale, and have an all-Irish beverage.

But people who get into it about the black and tans are exceedingly rare in the US, and they rarely take meaningful offense - even discussing it is usually nothing other than a point of conversation. YMMV, but at a St. Patrick's Day party, I have a feeling the standards will be lax.
posted by Miko at 4:16 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Irish pubs I've been to on St. Patrick's day imprint a four leaf clover in the head on a Guinness (with the beer tap, I'm assuming). That would be a neat trick to do for your customers.
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:28 PM on March 9, 2009

A Baby Guinness is a drink some of my cocktail drinking friends like, which is fairly common in Irish bars.

My tuppence worth: Never heard the Black & Tan term used in a bar, and I would take mild offense to it's use. (I've lived in ireland for 89% of my life)
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 4:46 PM on March 9, 2009

I don't know if it matters for a yacht club whisky tasting in the US, but my dad told me that he once got a really negative reaction when he ordered Bushmills in an Irish pub in Boston. Apparently it's seen as a Protestant/Unionist whisky, since it's made in an overwhelmingly Protestant part of Northern Ireland, and Republicans/Catholics look down on it.

Powers is a really good Irish whisky, very popular in Ireland, but it can be hard to find in the US. You'll probably only be able to find it if you live in a large-ish city, and you should only bother looking at the snootier liquor stores. You definitely won't find it at the corner liquor store next to the convenience store.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:57 PM on March 9, 2009

On reflection that it is a yacht-club type of event, I'd recommend Middleton whiskey if you can get your hands on it. Very expensive unfortunately.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:10 PM on March 9, 2009

Midleton. Not Middleton.
posted by Zambrano at 5:22 PM on March 9, 2009

If there are any real Irish people within a ten mile radius then you'd be best served avoiding terms like Black and Tan, and certainly "Irish Car Bomb." Neither are guaranteed to cause offence, but I'd avoid them in front of people I didn't know well.
posted by fire&wings at 5:23 PM on March 9, 2009

Black velvet might go down pretty well with a yacht club crowd, if it's a stereotypical yacht club. It'll go down a charm even if it's not stereotypical. Don't waste money on expensive champagne if its going into a beer cocktail, though.

Chaucer's Mead can be found at Bev Mo'. No one drinks mead anymore but it's worth a bit of novelty and its very traditional. Just warm it up and use the spices, cuz it smells like pee otherwise.

Bailey's Irish Cream is tasty and goes real well with a lot of deserts. Follow that link for Bailey's related weirdness.

Interestingly, Diageo is the holding company for both Bushmill's, Guinness, Harp and Bailey's.

Irish coffee is a little bit offensive but you can "Irish up" any drink just by adding whiskey if you feel like joking around.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 5:34 PM on March 9, 2009

I'd second Potcheen, and suggest having some little jugs of water for people to add to their whiskey if they so desire.
I think side by side tastings of whiskeys are a great idea, because the differences are made really obvious.

As a pedantic aside, I believe the Irish drinks should be called "whiskey", and the Scottish and others "whisky".
posted by lucidium at 5:35 PM on March 9, 2009

I'm having trouble coming up with authentically Irish cocktails besides the Irish Car Bomb, which is probably not yacht club material. (See also Shitkicker, etc.)

I mean, there's a great cocktail bar here that has 120 drinks on the menu, but it's, you know, cosmos, mojitos and caipiroska. Having said that:

Irish Cream and Irish Cream Granitas come to mind, as do Jameson Manhattans. There's a bottled drink here called Jolie, which you can replicate as a (revolting) cocktail with sparkling white wine and Crème de Cassis. Bailey Boos and Fat Frogs (named for an Irish ice lolly) and Super Dooper Lemon Loopers (2 x vodka 2 x peach schnapps 1 x Bacardi Breezer Lemon) may be uniquely Irish as Twitter says they don't seem to be drunk elsewhere.

No, I don't get out that often. I just have a lot of friends under 25.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:54 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, my understanding is that the cocktail is a largely American invention in the first place, and in the second place, for most of the 20th century Ireland was far too poor to produce widespread trends in mixology. Most irish-named or -themed drinks will turn out to have originated in American Irish-themed pubs. As far as I have heard, in Ireland most people just drank straight whiskey, stout, or ale -- or dare I note, Budweiser -- until the Celtic Tiger days arrived.
posted by Miko at 6:02 PM on March 9, 2009

Sorry, I missed some earlier comments.

Black and Tan is just not kosher. If you want to serve it in an authentic Irish way, call it a Half and Half. (Nobody objects to the drinking of the stuff, just the nomenclature - and that has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with history.)

Irish coffee, however, is not remotely offensive and is served virtually everywhere you can get a meal here.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:30 PM on March 9, 2009

I'm having trouble coming up with authentically Irish cocktails besides the Irish Car Bomb, which is probably not yacht club material.

It's not authentically Irish- it was invented in a bar in Connecticut.

I would definitely have Magner's (Bulmer's) Cider on hand.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:38 PM on March 9, 2009

Black Bush is absolutely the way forward in terms of whiskey. And if you want a proper Irish drinking experience, try and get your hands on some Buckfast. It will cure what ails you. Specifically, sobriety.
posted by Hermione Dies at 7:10 PM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: To the B&T folks -- understood. I think we can put it to rest, as I'm responsible for the menu and can easily call it a Half & Half. Thank you for all the suggestions and pointers.. here's what I've worked out so far:

Half & Half with Harp Lager and a Guinness Float

Mulled Bunratty Meade

Irish Whiskey Tasting
Lineup includes Tullamore Dew, Bushmills, Black Bush, Jameson, Powers and if we can find it, Bunratty Potcheen

Jameson Manhattan or Old Fashioned

Whiskey Sour
Mixing up fresh sour mix in advance, homestyle.

Irish Mule
Play on the Moscow Mule, whiskey with ginger beer, bitters and lime.

Berry Collins
Not exactly Irish at all, but a fruit contender for the menu with raspberries, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, gin and soda.

Irish Coffee
Bringing whipped cream, fresh mint and chocolate shavings for topping.

Hot Buttered Whisky
Making special clove syrup in advance.

Tag me if you guys have any other ideas!
posted by cior at 7:14 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Midleton Very Rare (mentioned above) is very expensive (~$100 a bottle), but it's as good as it is expensive, so depending on your event it might make sense.
posted by madmethods at 8:18 PM on March 9, 2009

Merrys and Millars are two very good Irish Whiskies that I recommend. If you can find them.
posted by sleepytako at 8:32 PM on March 9, 2009

I'm not going to endorse it, but there IS a cocktail called the Lucky Charm . . .
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:47 PM on March 9, 2009

Given your menu, above, you may be interested in a topical, egregious self-link to my Irish Coffee recipe, which also touches upon the relative merits (and pedigrees, and reputations) of some of Ireland's more popular whiskeys.
posted by deCadmus at 9:06 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, good grief.

Buckfast is Irish now? No. It's made by monks in the south west of England and strongly culturally associated with Glasgow winos.

Similarly, should any of you visit Cork and ask for a "Black and Tan" (ffs) don't be surprised if someone obliges by setting you on fire.

Seriously, just go look at this tag for a thoroughly depressing walk through Mefites' image of Ireland as some sort of fucking 19th-century museum.
posted by genghis at 10:38 PM on March 9, 2009

I'll just second the Baby Guinness recommendation. Best shot option ever.

Baileys on its own is pretty nice too, once you remember the ice.
posted by Fence at 3:16 AM on March 10, 2009

It's not authentically Irish- it was invented in a bar in Connecticut.

I was more or less going for drinks: a) made with Irish ingredients, or b) actually consumed in Ireland. You will find Car Bombs; you will not find Lucky Charms.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:46 AM on March 10, 2009

Response by poster: I served the menu above, everyone loved it and the club members were impressed. Our bar program is off to a great start this sailing season. Thank you, everyone!
posted by cior at 3:00 PM on April 18, 2009

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