Cocktails and saints mix more than a person might expect. There's the St. Gregory, the St. Vincent and the St. Augustine, to name just three fine drinks - even if they are indirectly named after hotels or resorts.
Then there's the St. Patrick's Day, a fitting tribute to Ireland's most famous son and God's gift to Irish-pub owners. I discovered the saintly drink in a book called the Complete Home Bartender's Guide by my favourite mixologist, Salvatore Calabrese, a British drinks consultant and former barkeep at London's Lanesborough Hotel. A blend of Irish whiskey, crème de menthe, green Chartreuse and Angostura bitters, it tastes better than it sounds, the bitter, herbal flavours elevating its sweet essence.
To some, a St. Paddy's cocktailis synonymous with Guinness, the excellent stout from Ireland, or green-dyed beer. But March 17 can be just as Irish, or just as green, without suds. Mr. Calabrese's recipe is just one of many festive cocktail examples. Most of the green ones get their colour from crème de menthe, Chartreuse or melon liqueur, such as Midori.
To make the St. Patrick's Day, combine one ounce each of the whiskey, crème de menthe and Chartreuse with four drops of bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
For most cocktails involving Irish whiskey, there's no need to break out expensive brands such as those I recommended last Saturday. Widely available big names, such as Tullamore Dew, Jameson or Bushmills, make basic whiskeys that will serve the cause. The delicate flavour of Irish whiskey, less robust than Scotch and not as heavy or sweet as bourbon, gives it versatility in cocktails.
I like Mr. Calabrese's take on the nutty Irishman, too. In its most basic form, the drink combines Irish cream liqueur, such as Baileys, and the hazelnut liqueur from Italy, Frangelico. Some bartenders add fresh cream. But the master forgoes the dairy onslaught in favour of extra Irish whiskey, the base spirit in Baileys, to achieve a more grownup kick. Mix an ounce each of Irish cream liqueur, Irish whiskey and Frangelico in a shaker with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. It's a bit saccharine, but so are a few Van Morrison tunes, and they're irresistible nonetheless.
The "buck" family of highball drinks, which includes the rum-based dark and stormy and vodka-based Moscow mule, has a compelling Emerald Isle variant: the Irish buck. It's my favourite of the aforementioned bucks, combining 1½ ounces Irish whiskey, ginger ale and a squeezed lemon or lime wedge (or slice of rind) in a highball glass with ice. The citrus imparts a certain sophistication and bartending savoir faire that your dad's "rye and ginger" never had.
This is mid-March , mind you - we're not out of the winter woods yet. Depending on your local weather tomorrow, you may be inclined toward something warm. Can you guess the next suggestion? Wrong. It's not Irish coffee, to which I've given props in years past. I'm talking about the Irish breakfast, my own, simple hot toddy. Pour 1½ ounces Irish whiskey into a mug, add a lemon wedge and fill with hot Irish breakfast tea. It's not just for breakfast, either. The strong black tea gets a warm bass note from the spirit and an invigorating tingle from the citrus.
Shooters are not generally my thing, and I imagine they're not yours if you're legally old enough to drink. But tomorrow of all days may be the most legitimate excuse to try a B53. It's a riff on the more famous B52 layered shot, with the Grand Marnier exchanged for vodka. Your explanation, should the Guinness-quaffing Mahoneys and O'Flahertys around you giggle: potato-based vodka! Pour two-thirds of an ounce of coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua, into a shooter glass, then slowly add an equal quantity of Irish cream liqueur over the back of a teaspoon held just above the Kahlua, with the tip of the spoon touching the side of the glass. Repeat step two with a potato-based vodka, such as Chopin or Luksusowa.
The shooter formula also lends itself to an obvious formulation for St. Patrick's Day. To make an Irish Flag, repeat the above steps using crème de menthe, Irish cream liqueur and the orange-hued Grand Marnier. Just make sure white is in the middle - unless you want to pick an argument with an Irishman.