Ixnay on the Een-gray Inks-dray

Every March, around the middle of the month, I feel the need to apologize to Ireland. On the day reserved for honoring the land’s patron saint, it’s become an American tradition to pay an outlandish cover charge to stand in an overcrowded bar, holding plastic cups of green-tinted lager and being jostled all night until a Miller Lite-swilling fratboy vomits on your shoes.

Even drinkers who celebrate in more upscale bars sully the holiday with bad, bad drinks. For proof, look no further than the drinks in this week’s Seattle Times “Cocktailing” section: the “Irish for the Day” (vodka & green creme de menthe, with a clover carved out of lime peel as garnish), and the “Leprechaun Mor-jito,” again with the dreaded green liqueur (“We serve it straight up with green crème de menthe, and for a garnish it’s got a mint leaf. It’s kind of like a martini/mojito/leprechaun,” says the bar manager).

I’m sorry, sons of Erin–it never should have come to this.

Fortunately, though, there are options for holiday-appropriate cocktails that don’t require stooping to the mixologically morbid. All of these examples employ Irish whiskey; two are simple variations on an Irish Manhattan, and one is a newer entity which is worth getting to know.


2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth (or less, to taste)
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir with ice & strain into chilled cocktail glass.

There are plenty of drinks called the Emerald, but this one is the most agreeable. From the recipe, it may sound simple and unexceptional, but don’t just write this one off– the orange bitters join in an unusually simpatico relationship with the Irish whiskey, making the Emerald much more than just an alternate Manhattan.

A similar drink, with a much different flavor, is the Tipperary (Gary Regan’s thorough write-up of this drink appears in today’s “Cocktailian” column in the San Francisco Chronicle). Dating back nearly a century, the Tipperary is also related to the Manhattan, but uses green Chartreuse instead of bitters to throw the taste in a more brooding, complex direction. The original recipe used equal parts Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth and Chartreuse; Gary dries it out a bit with this recipe. (And if you feel like you just have to drink something green because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, the touch of Chartreuse adds an emerald sheen to the glass, without making it appear as though you’re imbibing a glassful of Scope.)


2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth

rinse chilled cocktail glass with green Chartreuse and discard excess; stir whiskey & vermouth with ice and strain into Chartreuse-coated glass.

A final Irish whiskey cocktail worth discovering is of a more recent vintage: the Weeski, an original drink from David Wondrich’s Killer Cocktails. Wondrich matches the tempermental flavor of Irish whiskey with the equally difficult-to-mix-with blonde Lillet. Using a bit of Cointreau to bind the flavors together, and a little orange bitters to give it greater depth, Wondrich has created a cocktail that’s worth the price of the book.


2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce blonde Lillet
1 teaspoon Cointreau
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir with ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Leave a reply