St. Patrick’s Day celebrations go far beyond the borders of Ireland. Traditionally, the day — which bridges culture and religion in Ireland — commemorates the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In contemporary convention, through the U.S., Canada, UK, and even Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, it’s a day to pull out the chartreuse sweater, succumb to green and gold leprechaun and shamrock decor, and imbibe in celebratory St. Patrick’s Day drinks.
Obvious choices to sláinte (cheers in Irish) include Guinness, green beer, or shots of Jameson — all reliable choices. But this year, we’re looking at alternative St. Patrick’s Day drinks, ranging from festive cocktails to emerald-inspired wines.
Thanks to a significant marketing push this time of year, the urge to order a shot of Jameson is sometimes overwhelming when idling up the bar. But take a closer look at the alternatives, as the number of Irish whiskey distilleries has exploded in recent years.
Bushmills, Cooley, and Midleton comprised household names in the 90s. But today, over 30 distilleries produce Irish whiskey, with plenty more in the works. While that’s a fraction of what the country’s famous neighbor makes (Scotch whisky boasts over 140 distilleries), Ireland is well on its way to solidifying more shelf space on the back bar.
For a blended version at a comfortable introductory price point, try Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey. Explore single-grain expressions through the Teeling Single Grain portfolio. Or for single-pot distilled Irish whiskeys, look to Spot, with notable mention to Green Spot Quail’s Gate, which matures 16 months in ex-Pinot Noir casks from Quails’ Gate winery in Western Canada’s Okanagan Valley.
A cocktail that also serves as dessert? The sweet and minty Grasshopper is a refreshing after-dinner tipple. Its bright green colour coordinates perfectly with St. Patrick’s Day and consists of crème de menthe, white crème de cacao, and half-and-half. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings to amp up the dessert factor. To create more of an aperitif, replace the half-and-half with vodka.
- 3/4 ounce crème de menthe
- 3/4 ounce white crème de cacao
- 1/4 ounce half-and-half or vodka
- Ice for shaking in a cocktail shaker
- Mint sprigs for garnish
Fill a shaker half-full with ice. Add all ingredients, cover, and shake for 10-15 seconds or until condensation forms on the outside of the shaker — strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
An Apple Martini — or Appletini — might not be the first cocktail that springs to mind for St. Patrick’s Day. But its tart apple flavor is a refreshing contrast to rich and heavy dishes like corned beef and cabbage that sometimes grace our plates on the Irish holiday.
This vibrant green cocktail is an excellent alternative for those with an aversion to Irish whiskey, as it incorporates a vodka base. It’s also easily customizable; options include a splash of sour mix for a tangy twist or using apple juice instead of apple liqueur to tame the level of alcohol.
- 1 1/2 ounces vodka
- 1/2 ounce green apple liqueur
- 1/4 ounce lemon juice
- Ice for shaking in a cocktail shaker
- Green apple slice, for garnish
Fill a shaker half-full with ice. Add all ingredients, cover, and shake for 10-15 seconds or until condensation forms on the outside of the shaker — strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a green apple slice.
Most cocktail connoisseurs recognize a copper mug as the serving vessel for a Moscow Mule. But swap out the vodka for Irish whiskey, and you have the Irish Mule — a perfect simple cocktail that celebrates the rich tradition of Ireland.
Ginger beer provides a spicy kick, while the lime juice adds a bright, citrusy flavor. Like the Moscow Mule, the Irish Mule is highly customizable. Adjust the ingredient amounts to modify sweetness levels, or add different garnishes like mint or cucumber to enhance the flavor profile.
- 2 ounces Irish whiskey
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 5-6 ounces ginger beer
- Lime wedge, for garnish
- Mint sprigs, for garnish
Fill a copper mug (or a highball glass is OK, also) with ice. Pour in Irish whiskey and lime juice, then top with ginger beer. Give it a quick stir, then garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.
Fortunately, we’re not talking about the wine’s actual color in our glass. Although, from orange skin-contract wines to blue versions that temporarily graced store shelves several years ago, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see green vino one day. Nonetheless, with green, we’re talking about some white wine grapes and how their name translations literally mean ‘green’.
In truth, Vinho Verde is not a grape or a blend; it’s a region in Portugal’s far north. The name means ‘green wine’, referring to the resulting white wine’s youthfulness. Vinho Verdes are light-bodied, refreshing, and with high acidity.
Most producers make versions intended for drinking within a year. However, expressions with more complexity and aging potential are increasingly common. Vinho Verde wines comprise the region’s local grape varieties, such as Alvarinho, Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal.
Grüner Veltliner translates to “Green Wine of Veltlin”. Veltlin was an area in the lower Alps during the 1600s, now part of Valtellina, Italy. Today, the grape’s most famous expressions come from Austria, where, according to Austrian Wine, it accounts for 32.5% of the country’s vineyards.
Much like Vinho Verde, most Austrian Grüner Veltliner is made with the intention of drinking within 1-2 years of the vintage. It’s dry with hallmark high acidity. Characteristics often include green bean and lime aromas, sometimes with a light effervescence on the palate.
Hailing from the Marche region of central Italy, the Verdicchio grape’s name derives from verde (green) and refers to the resulting wine’s pale yellow/green hue.
Verdicchio wines have high acidity and good structure. These traits lend to producing sweet (passito) or sparkling (spumante) versions. However, most expressions are dry table wines, including two DOCs where Verdicchio is the principal grape: Verdicchio di Matelica DOC and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC.
The wine’s fruit aromas can range from peach to mandarin to lemon. Its determinant characteristic is bitter almond with a somewhat oily texture.